Swami’s Sound Studio: The noisy life of a Foley artist

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Abhivyakti in its Edition 2 is before us right in the summer – or in its break for the younger lot of students. While this Edition, as its itinerary of a fortnight indicates, is shorter in duration compared to Edition 1 in 2018 which remained spread over one month, this City Art Project – a ‘Festival’ coming free for the art buff and as an opportunity for the city practitioner – offers all three major disciplines under performing arts as also the visual segment. So you have enticing events in music, dance and theatre coming every day till May 12 at two prominent venues – The Dinesh Hall near Gandhi Bridge and the Auditorium at the Bhavan’s College in Khanpur under the Festival sponsored by UNM foundation. While the visual segment is open only in the side foyer at Dinesh Hall for the entire duration, what’s good about the Fest is all the performances will be repeated alternately at the two venues.

The theatre segment started off with the Gujarati play Gauri e Gaam Gajavyu at Bhavan’s College on Saturday and with the Hindi play Swami’s Sound Studio at Dinesh Hall on Sunday. Written and ably directed by young director (in fact the entire fare on offer would appear as being handled by young directors, actors and performers, barring only a few exceptions in music and dance segments who are comparative veterans in middle age) Harshil Bhatt, an alumnus of the JG Institute of Performing Arts, the play portrays the unique life and travails of a Foley artist named Ira. Interestingly, the play also introduces us to the American actor-technician Jack Donoven Foley (1891 -1967) and his concept of live sound effect techniques for post-production finishing of films.

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Although short on capturing any larger social concerns, the play ‘Swami’s Sound Studio’ lives around its name while portraying the professional service, its linkages and demands on time and man management. After a rather filmy opening sequence to emphasize how sound effects enter into the scheme of a film and can even affect an individual psychologically, the storyline actually starts with the studio owner Swami’s quest for an incumbent having a sharp sense of distinctive sounds, one who can handle the studio’s post-production facility for dubbing the voice, creating and providing the sound effects. Swami’s quest fructifies on a bus stop as it leads him to Ira who’s also looking for an occupation, fits the bill perfectly! And there it goes on a high as both individuals start and run the win-win alliance. But in time our protagonist suffers a mental condition in the process that tends to impinge on his marital and family life. His condition – a variant of misophonia – comprises of all those distinctive sounds ringing in and revisiting his mind involuntarily at all kinds of times, thereby distracting and interrupting his normal life activity, even his intimate moments.

Eventually, the protagonist must overcome his limitation, but is obliged to look for another incumbent for continuing the activity at the studio! While in subtle progression of the story, we don’t get to know what precisely brings about his transformation to normalcy, we assume it was the sheer will to save his personal and marital life! One also infers the man grows in fortunes as ownership interests at the Studio are shared to him in due course even as he started only as an employee. In a sweet subplot that plays out in back and forth format, the protagonist Aira follows his love interest of a chance meeting, also at the same bus-stop that brings him his job; and succeeds in marrying Mira, the Kathak dancer; all of this is revealed while the man suffers from his condition, even has a nervous breakdown and his wife faithfully effects some physical changes in their home to help him overcome the syndrome.

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On the production and craft level, the play comes across as a neat engrossing presentation! The scene compositions of the studio, the bus-stop and the home are very apt. Especially notable is the hullabaloo of the market scene created at the bus stop with the help of a bookstall, a toy vendor, a cobbler, a shabby female beggar, a sweetmeat seller and travellers of the sundry kind who frequent the location and weave an absorbing diversity of action. The play used a mixed approach of mimicking the props in the first sequence and using a lot of detailed props later in its realistic format. The sound effects : and light design by Tathagat Vaidya and Palkesh Agrawal aptly lived up to the theme of the play! The actors were much in control of their speech, emotions, gesticulations and movements, especially the lead actors Gaurang Anand as Swami, Netri Trivedi as Mira and Pratik as Ira; and the actors involved as characters at the market place providing a true feel of the location.

A good watch that we recommend, the play will have two more shows on May 08 at Bhavan’s and on May 09 at Dinesh Hall.

 

Photograph Courtesy : Organiser

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