SLUMDOG DREAMS


Is it luck that shapes a person’s destiny or is it hard work, dedication and perseverance that ultimately count? For long this question has been bothering me, even as life keeps throwing new perspectives in this regard at every corner, after every turn. But I’ve now realized that while luck and divine grace all have their roles to play, the fact remains that success comes to only those who believe in themselves and their dreams. And who proves this better than ace sound designer Amrit Pritam of Ghajini and Asociate production mixer of Slumdog Millionaire fame? For a hitherto unknown young man from a small town of Assam who bagged an IIFA (International Indian Films Academy) award for the very first film which carried his full credits, life has been nothing short of a dream run for him. And while it is natural for one to get carried away by the apparent fame and glory that seems to follow him, it is only when you take a closer look at his journey in life that you begin to take cognizance of all the hard work that has gone into making him the person he is today.

The first time I spoke with him, I was literally transported back to my days in the stadium field of Guwahati where the coaches used to instil in us trainees the importance of the four D’s – Dedication, Determination, Devotion and Discipline. While I had somehow failed to understand the real implications of these elements then, a peek into the lives of people like Amrit and their struggles do help us get a deeper insight into them. To dare to chart a hitherto unknown territory and make it one’s profession calls for a lot of courage, determination and faith in one’s abilities; to silence the critics by making it to the top calls for a lot of skill and perseverance – all of which have been displayed by Amrit in ample proportions.

For the unacquainted, this young man from Assam had made the entire country stand up and take notice of his skills in two of Bollywood’s most talked about bestsellers – Ghajini and Slumdog Millionaire – last year. While the Aamir Khan-starrer Ghajini was the first film to carry his full credits as sound designer, he had assisted internationally-acknowledged sound designer and Oscar winner Resul Pookutty in the latter. It was Resul Pookutty who gave him the first chance to work as a Sound Designer in Ghajini and both the films did exceptionally well; Ghajini brought him an IIFA award while Slumdog Millionaire went on to win a Global Globe and eight Oscars, including one for best sound mixing. Success, however, does not come easy and Amrit is a perfect case in point. Though he had been slogging it out in Mumbai for the past many years, even having had to borrow money from friends to sustain himself, it was only after he had worked for more than 40 films that he finally got his due credit in Ghajini.

Born in a cultural family of Jorhat, Amrit’s life is all about daring to dreaming and achieving those dreams. After all, it is these very dreams that landed him in distant and unfamiliar Mumbai, where he had to wade through all the proverbial struggles before finally striking gold last year. “I was born and brought up in a family that had strong cultural leanings. After doing my graduations in Physics from JB college in Jorhat, I joined the sound engineering department of Jyoti Chitraban Film and Television Institute at Guwahati in 1999 for its three-year course.” It was in Jyoti Chitraban that he had his first brush with celluloid, having got the chance to work in a few Assamese films and a number of documentary productions. Amrit, however, insists that his real foundation in the world of Art was laid at home by his family members. As he recollects, “The cultural environment at home helped shape my sensibilities at a very young age. My mother Nalini Bala Dutta is a Sattriya dancer who sings Bargeet and plays the Khol herself. She is also a prolific actor – having participated in the Majuli Garamur Bar Satra Rax in her young days and with my father in various stages in Jorhat after marriage. Besides acting, my freedom fighter father, Deva Prasad Dutta, also writes and directs plays for children. My late sister Sujata Priyam was also an excellent Bihu dancer while my brother Bhagawat Pritam is a well-known film and television actor & a musician of the Assamese film and television industry.” Growing up in such an environment, it is unlikely that the performing arts would fail to affect the young mind. As such, it is not surprising to note that Amrit is also a prolific guitarist who had won the second best guitarist award in the Dibrugarh University youth festival 1995.

During his three-year stint in Jyoti Chitrabon, Amrit got to learn a lot from teachers like Farooq Iqbal, national award winner from Kolkata Anup Mukherjee, and others. Having got a strong base here in Guwahati, he then decided to move out and try his luck in the city of dreams – Mumbai. Accordingly, in the year 2002, he and his friend Debojit Changmai packed their bags and set out to follow their dreams.

“Since I was all of 25, I didn’t want to take financial help from my family,” says Amrit. It was here that his friends Mukut Moni Saikia, Diganta Borah, Rajiv Phukan, Kollol Dutta and Abhijit Duwarah came in to help him financially. “They are the real gems of my life. And I am thankful to God for making them a part of my life,” says Amrit. “Sometimes I feel they have
more confidence in my talent then I myself do,” he adds. Amrit collected Rs 15,000 with the help of his friends. But it was only when he reached Mumbai that the reality of the struggle sunk in. “The scenario was altogether different than what I had presumed,” says Amrit who was jobless for a year in Mumbai. After he exhausted his money, Mukul used to send him money through the postal service. “There were the times when I was totally penniless and Bollywood was also going through a rough phase,” says Amrit who had initially lied to his parents about having procured a job in the city. “At times, I used to become really frustrated and there were times when I wanted to go back to Assam.” It was only when his friend Debajit Changmai got a job in Rajkamal studios that Amrit started regaining his lost confidence. “After Debojit got a job he started taking care of all my needs,” says Amrit, who till today remains immensely grateful to all his friends for their help and support.

Amrit Pritam’s first break came about in 2003 with Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Naa Ho where he got the chance to work with stars like Shahrukh Khan, Preeti Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, and the like. “KHNH opened my doors to Mumbai,” recollects Amrit, who then joined Firefly’s Post Sound studio where he trained under industry bigwigs and National Award winners like Satheesh PM, Shajith Koyeri and Oscar winner Resul Pookuty, and the like. Amrit says, “Fireflys was just like a rofessional film School where I started learning about ABCD of Sound Editing & Sound Design.” In Firefly’s, he worked as a location sound recordist, Sync Sound editor and sound designer for more than 45 different national and international films. Some of the films which he has been part of include Boom, Nation without woman: Mathrubhumi, Maqbool, Ek hasina thi, Ab tak chappan, Missed call, Tibetean film Dreaming Lasha, Bluffmaster, The rising (Mangal Pandey), Shikhar, Zinda, Gandhi My Father, Black, Sawariya, Omkara, Salaam-e-Ishq, Parzania, 15 Th Park Avenue, amongst many others. He decided to go independent after five years in this studio and Ghajini was officially the first film which carried his credits.

Amrit’s area of choice i.e. sound designing is a very new concept in the Indian film industry with sound technicians depending, till recently, mostly on magnetic stripes to create the desired sound effects. It is only in recent years with the adoption of new technology and sound recording methods that sound designing has become such an integral part of the film world. Now one might ask what sound designing exactly is. Amrit explains, “Sound designing is all about
creating a new Sound environment with the help of different sound elements like Sound FX (like the sound of vehicles, rain, punches, gunfire, accidents etc), ambience (like the sound of birds, traffic, wind, forest, sea waves, night crickets, etc) Dialogue, Foley Sound (like the sound of footsteps, walking, running, hand movement, rustling of cloth, etc) and the like. Besides limiting the use of background scores, proper sound designing also enhances the overall outlook of the final production to a great level.” He further explains, “You can compare sound designing with painting. Just like an artist uses different colours to fill up his canvas, we use different sound elements to create a scene of a film. As a result, each and every scene of the film is like a canvas for us.”

And then came Slumdog Millionaire where he assisted Resul Pookuty in the location Production sound mixing department. The film won as Oscar for its sound designing. Talking about the film, Amrit simply says, “It was an awesome moment for me and my family and for the whole nation. I guess I have succeeded in making my parents proud of me.” He, however, gets real nostalgic while talking about his first red carpet experience in Macau during the IIFA awards last year. “To say that I was just elated would be an understatement. I was walking towards the stage and memories of when I first came to Mumbai and how my friends bailed me out in the initial stages started flashing across my mind,” he adds.

Success notwithstanding, Amrit still honours and takes due cognizance of his roots. A self- proclaimed simple Assamese boy, he is deeply saddened by the state of the film industry back home. “The Assamese film industry needs to adapt to the times if it is to survive. You cannot keep keep making VCD-based love stories with Bihu beats throughout the year.” He further says, “I am proud of my culture, of the State where I come from. But we need to plug our loopholes if we want to move ahead in life. There is no dearth of talent in Assam but what people suffer from are the lack of platforms to showcase their talent and perseverance to carry their dreams all through.”

For Amrit, who also picked up a AMMA (All Malayali Movie Award) for the film Pazhachiraz last year in Dubai and the APSARA Award for the Best Sound Design for the first underwater Indian film Blue along with Resul Pookutty, the dream run continues. Both these awards are special in their own ways. While Amrit had to recreate war sounds of the 1700’s for the film Pazhachiraz, Blue was the first Indian film to be shot underwater. “Except for the sound department, the entire technical crew of Blue had been brought from Hollywood. It was a huge challenge for us because we did not know the intricacies of recording sounds under water.” Amrit, who has now joined Resul Pookutty’s Canaris Post Sound Studio as Chief Sound Editor and Sound Designer, is presently working on a number of films that are up for release in the days ahead. One of these is the Rs. 150-crore Rajni-starrer film Robot, which is being directed by top Tamil director Shankar.

And till then, he continues to dream. For as he says, “Impossible is nothing. Once you know what you want to do in life and you are ready to struggle and learn, then, as they say, only the sky is the limit.”

Feedback: optionaldutta@gmail.com

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Posted on June 27, 2010, in Musicians/ Bands, Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. i am really inspired by the travel you have taken and you are also very lucky to have real friend in life, you may really a wonderful person too.

  2. a complete life story……thz simply gr8!!!! all da best amrit

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