Behind the taken-for-granted sounds in films

The following is a review, or – since I am never a critic when blown away by brilliance – the philosophies that I harmonized with, through the course of the Bengali film, “Shabdo”.
Sound is what “Shabdo” means. Everyone hears it. Very few people listen to it. One of such exceptional people was Tarak, the protagonist of the film. Bred in a lesser than middle class Bengali family, Tarak had to do two jobs to support himself.
And that brings me to the first truth the film highlighted.
When a film is made, the greatest attention is showered on the cast, after which come selective members of the crew. One such integral part of the crew are the foley artists, those who recreate the whole sound system of the film – footsteps, crackling of fire, clinking of glasses, flapping of birds’ wings, clashing of utensils, rustling of the wind – and what not. Tom Hooper, after adapting the musical, “Les Miserables” on screen, said that the orchestra, who played throughout the sung-through musical film, was a hidden character in the film. Much like that, the foley artists, while lending the essence to the film, become a hidden character of the film. And alas, they stay hidden all throughout.
Tarak was a foley artist, and in every sense of the word, an artist. He had an obsession with the sounds around him, and had a gripping need, every second, to recreate those sounds while working on a film. His obsession was so wholesome that, at most times, he failed to keep up with human conversation, and his mind drifted to the sounds around him.
And this brings me to a philosophy expressed in the film. ‘
They called Tarak’s condition a disease. The most touching lines, spoken by him, were “A poet can be absorbed in his poetry, a musician can be absorbed in his music, and when I am absorbed in my sounds, you call me mad?”
There it was. The truth, that almost no one would be ready to accept.
Who are we to judge who is normal and who is not? A person like Tarak was not one who walked with the crowd. So, what he was, was uncommon, and not, at all, abnormal. Because, honestly, what IS normalcy?
There have been, through the ages, a majority of these “common” people, who have framed the rules of normalcy. And most of the population of the world follow those rules. But they are just rules. When looked deeply into them, they are close to nothing. But the “common” people cannot look deeply into them, and those who can, are mad, diseased, ill and abnormal.
The common people have an advantage; they can outnumber the “others”. Yet, is that the qualifying factor for normalcy? That is as ridiculous as female infanticide, racism and the caste system.In the film, one day, the psychiatrist who was to “cure” (Haha!) Tarak, broke down and brought to light the truth I just elaborated on. She said that Tarak is lucky that he is, by choice, being deaf to the conversations of people. For what do they have to say? Gossip about petty matters, debate on topics that can never close in on a solution, not say anything of importance, display their narrow-mindedness, be cynical? He was better off in his own world of sounds.
Such a film makes people like this – people detached from the world around them, and only aware of what they choose to be aware of – feel like they belong. Such is the beauty of film, literature, music. They are created by similar people – detached artists – and they make the uncommon ones feel belonged, because you can only find one such uncommon person among a hundred of “the normal ones”, and they do their best to ridicule the former. So, such films are blessings to them. They are gospels to them!And now, from an audience’s point of view: such films, though rare in our industry, are Hollywood-worthy. I worship Hollywood, and I know why I do so, and this film filled me with a similar awe. Ritwik Chakraborty, aka Tarak, did the character justice. With his gleaming eyes, his simplicity and the fire of his passion, who else did the film need, to bring it to life?
And all hail Koushik Ganguly, the creator of this story. A big thank you, from the “others” community!
And this whole post would be ironical, if the foley artist remained unmentioned. So, yes, he did an amazing job, because the film had no soundtrack. It was filled with sounds, loud, faint, lingering, powerful, courtesy of the foley artist.
At the end of the film, like every artist’s fate, tragedy struck. Tarak was overpowered by the common people, and ended up in a hell-hole, where they strove to make him more like them, to “cure” him of his “illness”.
Truthfully spoken, they tried to damage the artist.
Although, I realized that they can never ever clear the artist out of an artist’s system, because that would be like killing the person. If they are very strong, they can suppress the art, but never for long, because the artist either breaks out, ferocious and stronger than every other force in the world, to flee or to defy the farcical process of marching to the beat of a cynical drum, never to look back.

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