Partha Barman: Nature is the best classroom for sound in cinema

Posted by Kaahon Desk On October 11, 2017

Partha Barman has been quite a familiar name in sound department in Bengali film industry, known for his wide variety of work over the years. He works as location recordist, sound designer, and re-recordist. After pursuing Physics and Astronomical Sciences in his graduation and PG Diploma respectively, he shifted track and got enrolled in Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of India to study Sound Engineering. Ever since passing out, he has worked on a number of projects including short films like Khoj (screened in the competitive section of Cannes Film Festival and also awarded as the Best Short in Mumbai Film Festival), ShohoreThat BoyDeath of JLG, etc. He has also worked on a number of feature films such as Prohor (winner of National Award and Silver Peacock in IFFI), Teen Yaari KathaBishPadokkhep (winner of National Award), Bakita Byaktigato (winner of National award) and Cosmic Sex among others. He also worked on several documentaries including Sita KahiniUnder The Sun (winner of National Award), Vilayat KhanLove In India (winner of National Award), Johar (winner of National Award), etc. His work on Bishar Blues won him the National Award for best audiography in non-feature section for the documentary in 2006.

Looking back at his earliest days in professional sound recording and designing, Partha Barman recalls the coming of digital platform, which had rendered much of his learning inapplicable in practical terms. Thus, he realized the significance of learning on the job. So, while he respectfully talks about his teachers, he is equally indebted to his seniors in the profession and the directors he had worked with. But above and beyond everything else, he credits nature as the greatest teacher of all. It conditions one’s hearing faculties and listening experience. He admits that much of his creative and aesthetic drive found in his work are derived from his affinity towards nature and thereby the documentary form. This brings the conversation to the prevailing practices of opting for sync sound recording and doing a 5.1 mixing in post-production. He talks at length about the nuances of both these tendencies, debating the very choices in relation to the content or subject of the film.

Talking about the advent of digital platform and the simultaneous leaps in technology, Partha Barman feels that the entire filmmaking practice have strayed away from organic narration and turned into a fetishist exercise with gadgets and software. The discrete nature of work doesn’t allow for any relationship to form among the collaborators, which Partha feels to be a detrimental effect. Furthermore, everyone seems to be interesting these new innovations for the sake of its novelty. No one seems to be thinking about its effectiveness in the storytelling. There is a drive towards an experience, which is apparently more realistic, but actually the entire thing is taking us far from it. But above all, he points out the growing dominance of spoken words over all other sounds and the way this idea is completely changing the very approach in various stages of filmmaking.

Pradipta Bhattacharya’s National Award winning film Bakita Byaktigoto has been a high point in Partha Barman’s career in terms of a realistic sound design, which was rather minimalist in approach. According to him, this kind of clarity comes from being involved in documentary and fiction films, working on location as well as within studio. This kind of an experience gives him a distinct perspective while approaching a subject. But at the same time, he feels that an over drive towards specialization, especially in the departments of sound and editing, has ultimately harmed the process of filmmaking. Ideally, both these departments should work together as a team during the post-production. He stresses upon this point by citing the example of a theatre production and how that experience differs from cinema, in terms of sound and sound design.

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