Subhadeep Sengupta: Reaching beyond clean and beautiful sound in cinema

Posted by Kaahon Desk On July 3, 2017

Subhadeep Sengupta is one of the most acclaimed sound designers based in Kolkata. His professional output has ranged from feature films, documentaries, and Television shows to ads and promotional AVs. He passed out of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in 2000, part of the first batch to come out of the film school. For the next couple of years, he kept himself busy as a freelance professional working mainly on TV shows across all the major Bengali channels.Gradually in the following years’ film projects started coming to him, both fictions and documentaries. Some of his acclaimed works include the National Award winning films such as Dot In For MotionChronicle of an AmnesiacOne Day Ahead of Democracy and Amar Katha as well as Troyodashi directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta. He was also involved in the post-production of films like Chalo Let’s GoThe Bong ConnectionThe Last LearShob Choritro KalponikAntoheenArekta Premer Galpo and Kahaani among several others. He won the National Award for Best Sound Design in a Feature Film and the Kerala State Award for Best Audiography for the feature film Chitasutram. He has also been associated with many academic institutions (including St Xavier’s College, Kolkata and Roopkala Kendro, Kolkata) and also served as a subject expert in the UGC Countrywide Classroom.

As he speaks about his profession, Subhadeep Sengupta raises the point about the basic practice of hearing and how that is imagined in films. Mostly it has to do with the tendency to single out a particular source even in a rich and chaotic acoustic milieu such as the urban exteriors. With the advent of digital format, this practice is both encouraged and enhanced, something, which he calls “cleaning”. The platform itself nullifies accidents and pushes towards a standardized output and a sense of clarity, which might not always be a preferable thing. For him, it is very important to comprehend cinema as a collaborative medium or art practice. However, this brings in the question of a film industry, per se, and this in turn again raises the aspect of standardization of what are essentially creative practices. As for his personal take on the issue, he tends to believe in instinctive responses while working on a sound design.

Given his vast repertoire of fiction as well as nonfiction and documentaries, he doesn’t spare much thought about the difference when it boils down to his work as a sound designer. For practical purposes, one must, of course, be extra careful while recording on location in case of a nonfiction film since it might not be possible to recreate it later. At the same time, he feels that since a fiction film is scripted and planned ahead, it has a possibility of creative experimentation, which is often lost due to industry standards and market forces, a fact that he regrets. He is also contemplative about the very notion of cinema itself, as it exists now since the digital format and the Internet are radically changing every aspect of production and reception of a film. As for the current fixation with location sound, he writes it off as a passing fad since even on location one is mostly concerned with the dialogue or the voice track, suppressing all the ‘noises’, which doesn’t really amount to anything different in aesthetic terms.

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