Creating a sound revolution in cinema

Gifted sound designer Kunal Rajan talks to Shilpi Madan on his ground-breaking works in 'Vishwaroopam' and 'Mercury'

There is something extremely relaxing about the sound of gentle rain. I feel director Mani Ratnam uses rain so well in his movies. I find the sound of chewing very annoying. Not just in movies though,” he says, with a smile.

Kunal Rajan is no stranger to sound. One of India’s most sought-after sound designers, he has made a mark in the industry by shaping rave-worthy acoustics for many high-profile Tamil films, including ‘Vishwaroopam’, ‘Mercury’, ‘Ghajini’, ‘Thoongavanam and ‘Uttama Villain’. His latest work came in the Karthik Subbaraj-directorial action thriller ‘Mahaan’, starring Vikram and his son Dhruv Vikram.  He is currently based in Los Angeles, working on international productions in Hollywood. Kunal equates sound designing with storytelling. “It’s important that I make sure sound is in tandem with the characters,” he says. When did the love affair with atmospherics start? “Growing up in Pondicherry, I used to watch movies in the theatre with my school friends. We used to discuss how the sound effects in the theatre move around the auditorium. The mid 90s is when 5.1 Surround Sound was introduced to the audiences. Only one theatre then had 5.1 DTS and my friends would go there to enjoy Surround Sound.

These are my earliest memories of being interested in sound effects,” he shares. He has worked with leading directors — Jon M Chu (‘Crazy Rich Asians’, ‘Now you See Me 2’), F Gary Gray (‘The Italian Job’, ‘Law Abiding Citizen’), Kamal Haasan (‘Vishwaroopam’), and Oscar winners A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty. “Kamal Haasan is like a university. It was a dream to work with a legend whose movies I have grown up watching. As a director, he knows what he wants from you but also gives you the

Shilpi Madan for Deccan Herald

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