Did you know that Malayalam cinema has been rewarding sound recordists since the 1970s? Go through the long list of award-winning sound recordists from the beginning till present, we bet, you won’t find a single female name for sure. Let the past remain the past, and starting counting from where we all heard the name Resul Pookutty for the first time, when he got the Academy Award for best sound mixing, to every Malayali’s pride. Have we ever bothered about why there hasn’t been, in Malayalam, a woman sound designer so far? Vishakha Bokil is here to put the eons-long conundrum to an end. A disciple of the celebrated sound recordist, she makes her first independent project in Malayalam with the upcoming film Who.
The Delhi-born has got a little bit of exposure to Malayalam cinema since she arrived here as an assistant to Resul for The Last Vision and later to Kunjananthante Kada. The 2007 FTII graduate with a DFT in Audiography was a handful of works old when she joined Resul to learn the rope tricks of sync sound designing. “A wonderful learning experience was what awaited me. He is really knowledgeable and a great teacher. Sound has a great place in his heart,” Vishakha gushes. The association went on for about three years until she came on her own. In the meantime, Vishakha could prove her skills for a lot many ad-films, corporate films and documentaries. Her entry to the reel world happened in 2009 as the chief assistant audiographer in Phir Kabhi followed by a few good movies like Ra One, English Vinglish, Million Dollar Arm, Hundred Foot Journey, Bandeya, Talwar and Rajesh Pillai’s Hindi version of Traffic. With Apoorva Kasaravalli-directed Niruttara, she debuted in Kannada.
Vishakha, who met many women in the field during her tryst with Bollywood, had hardly seen any woman with a boom down south. “Gender makes no difference in sound recording and I’d say more women should come forward for the job. Perhaps, we can work more comfortably with female actors. We may get closer to them to record sync sound. I feel a female sound recordist must be part of every cinema to make things feel cool,” says Vishakha. By teaming up with Resul, Vishakha stayed connected to Kerala for long. On the sets of The Last Vision, she had she met her husband Ajay Devaloka at the editors’ table. Together, in 2015, they founded Corridor 6 films, a production company based in Mumbai, where she has been for a decade now. Incidentally, her maiden innings in Malayalam is for a movie directed by her husband himself.
“It has been a crew of young and hardworking people. I am sure it’s gonna turn out to be great,” says Vishakha who keeps high hopes. Into the post production stage, she has big things in mind, but don’t expect her to reveal much. Just a couple of days more left for her to start the desk works and all she shares with us is how challenging the entire thing is going to be. “It being a psychological thriller, there’s so much of playing with the sound. First of all, an atmos should very well convey the mood of the story to the audience,” she says. Ajay would say what exactly he expects when his wife is on board as a technician. “The script demands the sound design to play with the audience’s mind. The film talks about a mysterious valley, now sound will bring it to life. Although the option of dubbing was always there, we chose to do sync sound as the emotions of the characters would have been lost in dubbing. We want the audience to feel what the actors were feeling. I have a good team of sound editors and engineers who have done Hollywood and Bollywood movies of similar sensibilities,” he explains. The movie starring Rajeev Pillai, Shine Tom Chacko, Shruthy Menon and Pearle Maaney would be a 2018 release. Upon completing Who, Vishakha would fly to Kathmandu to do sync sound for a US-based filmmaker’s movie.