After handing over the items to me, the shop assistant turned to his colleague and in a low voice said:
— Dangerous Khiladi. That is the title. Watch it.
I was startled, and looking at him, asked –
— Have you seen it?
The boy replied shyly:
— Yes. Three times.
I knew what he was talking about, as I myself had watched that movie three times. And the same holds for most of the students and employees of our institute. It is a thriller movie, the Hindi-dubbed version of the Telugu movie Julayi, starring Allu Arjun, Ileana and Sonu Sood. It has remained our favourite for its comedy, background score, and dialogues.
With advancement in technology, dubbing has become very sophisticated, and also owing to new boys and girls investing their talent, the movie audience has expanded many fold. These days, I am getting more and more interested in dubbing artists, specially after watching the movie Arundhati. It is a fantasy thriller Telugu movie, which has been remade in several other regional languages. The role of the antagonist in this movie was played by Sonu Sood, but the voice was of P. Ravishankar. Ravishankar is a very senior actor himself, specially known for his negative roles. In addition, he has lent his voice to several actors from the north who may not have working knowledge of south Indian languages.
Dubbing could be required for several reasons. Firstly, the actor bowed to the grand design of nature, and the film makers had to compromise and adjust for the loss. Secondly, the film makers may not be happy with the actor’s voice, and may like to use a professional artist to improve the audio appeal. It is similar to using playback singer for an actor. Thirdly, the artist might not be fluent with the language of the film. With movie industry growing at a fast pace, actors are not bound to the limited audience of their native language community and are exploring other industries. Examples could be given of Ashish Vidyarthi, Sonu Sood and now Ram Charan. Finally, entire movie could be dubbed into another language in order to bring it to the audience in non-native states or countries. This is the way Indian movies have gained popularity in other countries, and also Hollywood movies have reached to larger masses in India, who are not very comfortable with English, that too with peculiar American accent. They don’t want to simply sit and watch the action and special effects; they also want to understand what is happening on the screen, and that is possible only by listening and understanding the dialogues.
Exchange of movies was already there, but with subtitles. However, subtitles distract attention from the character’s face expressions and body language. They could also be stressful if the dialogues are fast and subtitles appear at a very fast pace. Also, any embarrassing mistakes become more glaring in the written word. The translation in general, and of idioms in particular, may not be very accurate.
All said, the dubbed version of Indian movies are more successful in the sense that an Indian speaking an Indian language, which is not the native language of the artist, is nothing extraordinary. However, the sight of a westerner speaking Hindi does not seem to be natural. In the latter case, cultural differences creep in, with conspicuous differences in body language, gestures and customs of people.
Today I will tell you about my favourite heroes and heroine who have helped me to tunnel through the language barrier.
Most of us would agree that Smita Patil was one of those performing artists that the country would always be proud of. Unfortunately, she passed away while working on the film Waaris. At that time another veteran actress Rekha came to the rescue of the film makers by dubbing for Smita Patil’s role. And you can easily imagine how difficult it must have been given that the artists of the like of Smita Patil put their whole personality into the roles they play. According to reports, Rekha spent more than 20 days working on the voice over task to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Besides this, she had dubbed for Sridevi in Akhiree Rasta. I have come to know that Naaz had dubbed for Sridevi in her initial movies. The latter started using her own voice only after Chandani.
If you watch TV regularly, especially the commercials, then you already know Viraj Adhav very well. About four years back, a remake of old Hindi movie Zanjeer was made, with Ram Charan, Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and Prakash Raj in the lead roles. The movie introduced Ram Charan to Bollywood. His dialogues were spoken by Viraj Adhav. Never mind if you have missed that movie because anyhow you hear his voice on screen nearly everyday. For example, he has lent his voice to Mahendra Singh Dhoni in this advertisement and several other advertisements shot on the cricketer. If you take time to listen to his voice in the movie Zanjeer and compare it with his voice over for Dhoni, you would appreciate the range of sounds that this artist commands. You may also watch his interview for ETV. He has played a crucial role in John Abraham’s venture into Bollywood in the latter’s initial years (2003-2004) by given voice to his character in the movies Jism, Saaya, Aetbaar, and Paap.
You yourself don’t know how big a fan of Sanket Mhatre you are, and how much you owe to him! He is the man who ‘introduced’ Ram Charan (Chirutha, Magadheera, Racha), Allu Arjun (Julayi), NTR Jr (Oosaravelli) and Mahesh Babu (Businessman) among several others to the Hindi speaking states. In fact, he is considered the ‘official’ dubbing artist for these actors. Although other artists have also dubbed for Allu Arjun, I have always liked the voice of Sanket Mhatre for the simple reason that he very accurately synchronizes his voice with the gestures and expressions of Allu Arjun. I mean, if Allu Arjun spoke in Hindi, he would have done it exactly like Sanket Mhatre. He is the artist who dubbed for Allu Arjun in the movie Julayi that I mentioned earlier.
If you love Ravi Teja for his superfluid dialogue delivery and comic sense, then perhaps you mean to say that you love Amar Babaria. I think I can safely say that all the fan following that Ravi Teja commands in Hindi speaking states can be attributed to a great extent to Amar Babaria’s vocal skills. But there is more to him. If you happen to watch any of Ravi Teja movies in Hindi, you would easily appreciate why Amar Babaria is unique and special. He commands mastery over Gujarati, Marathi, and Hindi languages, and does not hesitate in putting his multilingual skills to his advantage, especially in comedy scenes. Even if you are not a Ravi Teja fan, you would simply enjoy watching his movies in Hindi for Amar Babaria’s vocal skills. It is not the dialogues per se, instead the way of saying those words that make me laugh. Amar Babaria has brought a new dimension to comedy in Indian movies, and is giving his small but significant contribution to building bridges over language barriers.
There are several other talented artists like Yudhvir Dahiya, Rajesh Jolly and Vinod Kulkarni. However, they are mostly involved in dubbing for Hollywood movies and animation movies. I watch Hollywood movies in original version, so I do not have anything to say about their skills.
Another reason of my limited knowledge is simply a lack of available information. I had to really dig hard and deep to find reliable information about names of these artists, other than Rekha, who is already famous mainly because of her star status as an actress. Ours is a society which is intoxicated with a desire for name and fame. A rich man constructs a bench or a drinking water tap as a ‘charity’, but does not fail to engrave his and his wife’s name, in whose memory it was constructed. Political parties fight with each other to claim the credit for welfare schemes. Several such examples are common in society. In such a scenario, it is indeed unfortunate that these artists, whose contribution played the pivotal role in the enormous expansion of viewership, are rarely acknowledged and almost never named in film credits. In the rarest of rare cases, even if their names are displayed, it is in the end credits at a position where nobody pays any attention. I fail to understand the difficulty and hesitation in acknowledging help and support, and show gratitude where it is due. After all, playback singers are acknowledged in the opening credits itself, aren’t they, and that too just after the actors. On the other hand, the names of dubbing artists are suppressed and hidden as if it were a sinful and shameful act or a crime.
However, dubbing has not changed everything. There is a section of audience, which still prefers the original version with subtitles, however cumbersome it be. Once a French friend gave me a list of Indian movies that she wanted to watch. I suggested that she could watch them in dubbed version on YouTube. She refused, and gave this reason –
— You know Shah Rukh Khan? He has his peculiar accent, a bit light and soft stammering voice. Of course, any artist could dub his voice in French, but that quality would not be there.