Shyamal Karmakar


“Editing became a spiritual experience”

Shyamal Karmakar, renowned editor and filmmaker, is known for his expert editing skills. He has assisted Saeed Mirza and Kundan Shah. He worked as chief associate editor for Vidhu Vinod Chopra in Parinda and has edited the award winning feature film Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. His directorial debut Ranu won him awards and accolades in various international film festivals. He currently works as a Professor and Head of Editing Department at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Calcutta and makes films.

He visited the Annapurna College recently as Guest Faculty and spent a week with the students, explaining the finer nuances of editing; who greatly benefitted spending time with him and learning from him.

Speaking to Team Annapurna College about whether editing styles have changed, compared to when he started his career to now, he said “Yes, it has changed quite a lot. Break time is 2000, when the non-linear editing system came. Story-telling became different. Random access of material has changed the way of story-telling as well as editing and the equipment for editing.”

Preference of editing techniques and styles, then or now, for a person who has seen the whole gamut of change, he said, “I think, now it is easier. That time, the novelty of a cut was appreciated by everybody. Only editors could edit then, since only they knew the technique. Now everybody knows the technology and can cut. But they don’t know the relationship between sound and picture; how many overlaps of sound will change the aesthetic quality of story-telling.” It has definitely become easier to handle material, with more than one option to see whether the scene is working or not, is better, he added.

“Anybody can cut and join one shot to another. Earlier people didn’t know how to even join shots together. Now they know how to join shots together on a computer, but that doesn’t mean that they know how to tell a story, how to join them in a lucid manner. It is still difficult but people think that they can edit and that’s where it becomes difficult for an editor to convince that just knowing how to cut is not how to tell a story. The worthiness of editing is still there.”

Skill set required for an editor with so many technological advancements are, “the skill is to understand how sound and picture work. What is the relationship between them? Sound means sound effects, dialogue and music. Image means image itself and text. All these five elements together make cinema. So a good editor should know how to put these five elements together and know how a story is told. This is the basic thing to learn for anyone who wants to become a good editor.”

Why editing as a profession? To this, he beautifully summed it up and said that “Initially I had chosen editing because I thought it was the easiest way to get into film-making. But then I realised that editing is the closest you can get to film-making. Because you get everything (five elements) separately in your own hands and you can play around with it. Putting something forward or backward, putting them in perspective; how a story can be changed, it can be more dramatic, it can be accentuated, and it can be punctuated; so I found the fun in it and loved it. Editing became a spiritual experience for me. And then I got into editing full-fledged.”

Speaking about his next directorial film, he revealed that he will be working on a film called Ek Raat Ki Kahaani, a story about one night and how greed destroys man. The moral of this story is that “you have to respect the Indianess you live in.” Films that he is working on as an editor, he said that he is working on a documentary on migration and urbanisation called Maan Yamuna.

Giving his tips and tricks of the trade for the students of Annapurna College, he said that, “cinema without sociology doesn’t exit and cannot survive. We need to know society and smile at them, only then we can make films.”

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