70th National Film Awards slammed for ignoring contributions to sound recording | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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70th National Film Awards: Heavy criticism from industry for ignoring contributions to sound recording and mixing

Feb 25, 2024 11:00 AM IST

Sound craft fraternity slams revamp of National Film Awards with only sound designer eligible for the honour and no place for recording, mixing contributions.

The biggest noise against the recent restructuring of categories in the National Film Awards, including dropping names of Nargis Dutt and Indira Gandhi from some prize nomenclature, has come from the industry's fraternity of sound engineers. Also read: Film fraternity demands 'sound check' of National Awards after recent controversy

Four-time National Award-winning sound designer Bishwadeep Chatterjee advocates two sound prizes, for Best Sound Design and Best Sound Mixing, with cash prize of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>200,000 each.
Four-time National Award-winning sound designer Bishwadeep Chatterjee advocates two sound prizes, for Best Sound Design and Best Sound Mixing, with cash prize of 200,000 each.

The revamping of award categories ahead of the 70th National Film Awards to be presented by President Droupadi Murmu this year has left the sound department with only one prize for Best Sound Design.

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National Film Awards changes

Last year, the National Film Awards had three awards for sound – Location Sound Recordist, Sound Designer and Re-recordist of the Final Mixed Track – in the feature film section. In the non-feature film section, there were two awards – Re-recordist of the Final Mixed Track and Production Sound Recordist (Location/Sync Sound).

Hit by decades of controversies in the sound awards, the film fraternity had been demanding reorganisation of the sound category to honour major contributions in the department that witnessed radical changes after the shift from analogue to digital recording.

Last year, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune alumnus and sound designer Nithin Lukose had approached the Kerala High Court after he was left out of the Re-recordist of the Final Mixed Track award for Ek Tha Gaon (Once Upon a Village) in the non-feature section despite being credited with nearly the whole of the film's sound design.

Two years ago, the National Film Award jury presented a Location Sound Recordist prize to Kannada feature film Dollu. The prize was withdrawn after it emerged that Dollu's sound was dubbed in the studio and never recorded on location.

The sound category in the feature and non-feature sections has one Best Sound Design award in the restructured National Film Awards regulations instead of three and two prizes respectively last year.
The sound category in the feature and non-feature sections has one Best Sound Design award in the restructured National Film Awards regulations instead of three and two prizes respectively last year.

'Will petition the President'

"The sound designer and sound mixer should rightfully get separate awards in the sound category," says Bishwadeep Chatterjee, an FTII, Pune-trained sound designer and winner of four National Awards, about the contributions from the sound designer, considered head of sound department of a film production, and the engineer who does post-production sound mixing.

Various unions of sound engineers and technicians have written to Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur demanding roll back of the decision that will come into effect at the 70th National Film Awards honouring movies made in 2022.

The government has raised the purse for the sound award, with the Best Sound Design now getting Rajat Kamal and cash prize of 200,000, instead of Rajat Kamal and 50,000 last year.

One of the first in the industry to criticise the government's decision was Resul Pookutty, the only Indian to win an Oscar in the sound category. "It is an award given by the President of India. I will petition the President against the government's move," says Pookutty, who won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing for Slumdog Millionaire in 2009.

After the sound awards controversy involving Ek Tha Gaon last year, Pookutty and other leading sound designers had called for two awards in the sound category – Best Sound Design and Best Sound Mixing – to end court cases and error-strewn award entries by producers and directors.

Responding to the demands, the government cut two of the three sound awards, recognising the contribution of only the sound designer while leaving out the location sound recordist and sound mixer. In other major changes, the Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director became Best Debut Film of a Director, and the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Film on National Integration became Best Feature Film Promoting National, Social and Environmental Values.

Film and Television Institute of India, Pune alumnus Nithin Lukose went to court last year for leaving him out of the sound awards in the non-feature film section last year.
Film and Television Institute of India, Pune alumnus Nithin Lukose went to court last year for leaving him out of the sound awards in the non-feature film section last year.

How to end the controversies?

"You can also end the controversies by selecting the best sounding film every year like all major foreign awards like the Oscars and BAFTA and give recognition to all three categories – Location Sound Recordist, Sound Designer and Re-recordist of the Final Mixed Track – in a single Best Sound prize," says Lukose.

The government introduced three sound awards in 2010 following recommendations by a committee headed by filmmaker Shyam Benegal. "A film reaches the National Awards because of collective work," says B N Tiwari, president of Sound Association of India. "More people started watching movies when the sound came to the cinema."

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