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Star voices

With the influx of non-Telugu actors, dubbing artistes are having a field day, writes M.L. NARASIMHAM


WHEN A totally phirang Katrina Kaif mouths sweet nothings in Telugu with Venky in Malleswari, the viewer is impressed, but he's as appreciative of the `voice of the unseen' too. Even as the Telugu film industry was witnessing the influx of actors from other regions, a career opportunity for dubbing artistes was being created, albeit silently. Seen as a parallel profession to acting and singing, today, dubbing is the latest challenging and lucrative option. The government's move to institute the Nandi award for dubbing artistes has been a motivating factor as well.

In the nascent days of cinema, actors not only delivered their own dialogues, but also sang their own songs.

Stars of yesteryear like Kanchanamala, Kannamba, Bhanumati, Savitri as well those for the later generation like Vanisri, Jayasudha, Jayaprada and Sridevi proved their worth combining acting skills with expressive dialogue delivery. With increased commercialisation of films, creative channels multiplied and diversified into various aspects of filmmaking thus making dubbing a significant part of filmmaking. No less than a thorough sugar-coated voice is accepted for the heroine and a baritone for the hero. Sarita, who shot to fame with Marocharitra, was one of the first established stars who shifted to dubbing fulltime in the early Eighties. She became a regular for Vijaya Shanti. Roja Ramani was another actress who was found more to do in dubbing studios as compared to the sets.

A successful television star Shilpa who's been dubbing for the last ten years was the `voice' for the late Soundarya in her initial films. "I have dubbed for her in about 50 to 60 films. Many said that my voice suited hers well. She even complimented me for that," recalls Shilpa.

Receiving compliments from the stars adds up to the satisfaction, agrees Sunitha, popular singer, anchor and dubbing artiste. "Sonali Bendre, Anitha, Shriya and Gazala all called up to thank me. I particularly cherish the dubbing I did for Arthi Chabria in Okariki Okaru. After that film Arthi suggested that I should learn Hindi and enter Bollywood," she says.

With over 1,500 films in his kitty, Ravishankar is a popular dubbing artiste in Telugu as well as Tamil. Like his elder brother Saikumar, he too inherited his actor father P.J. Sarma's rich baritone. After lending his voice to quite a few heroes, Ravishankar today is a specialist voice for the screen villains - Raghuvaran, Amrish Puri, Charan Raju, Mukesh Rishi, Ashish Vidyarthi and Ashuthosh Rana. His most memorable day was when he dubbed for five artistes in one film- for the Telugu dubbed version of Rajkumar Santoshi's China Gate. "I lent voice for Danny, Amrish Puri, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Paresh Rawal. They all come in one scene. No one could find out that one artiste has dubbed for all the five," he says.

In his decade-long career A. Srinivasa Murthy has dubbed for over thousand films from heroes, villains, character artistes to comedians. The list of heroes includes Rajasekhar, Suman, Arjun, Vineeth, Naveen Vadde and Upendra. His father A.V.N. Murthy is a veteran at the game and Murthy junior has imbibed his traits. But Srinvas says that he drew inspiration from Sai Kumar. "When he became busy as an actor he stopped dubbing for Rajasekhar and Suman. Producer Pokuri Babu Rao asked me to step in for him in Ma Aayana Bangaram to dub for Rajasekhar. I was nervous at first. I deliberately imitated Sai's voice as I felt the audience might not receive a change of voice all of a sudden. Srinivas went on to bag a Nandi award for Sivaiah (1998) for his work for Rajasekhar.

The voice that is in demand not just in Telugu films but also in Tamil too belongs to Savitha Reddy. The M.B.A. graduate who majored in advertising from Annamalai University shot to fame when Shankar selected her to dub for Aishwarya Rai in Jeans. In Telugu, her first work was for Simran in Kalisundamraa and later she went on to dub for her in all most all the films. She has dubbed for Arthi Agarwal right from her debut film, Nuvvu Naaku Nachchav. "I got the Nandi award for this film," recalls Savitha. She lent voice for Trisha's first Telugu film, Varsham, Richa's in Nuvve Kaavali, and for Aasin in Amma Nanna O Thamizha Ammayi just to name a few.

He came to the tinsel world with the hope of becoming an actor. Narayana Babu did act in a few television serials but his most rewarding career turned out to be as a dubbing artiste. After lending voice to most Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada heroes and villains when their films were dubbed into Telugu, Narayana Babu is now `ghost' voicing Suman. "Kalyanaramudu is my 500th film. Suman needs a base voice. Saikumar's voice suited him for this reason. I am fortunate to step into his shoes," says Narayana Babu. He cherishes the moments when he dubbed for the ace dubbing artiste turned hero. "When Saikumar's Kannada films - Jagadeeswari, Raja Durbar and Rowdy Sheeter were dubbed into Telugu, I was asked to dub for him. It is not easy to convincingly follow his rich voice that is quite popular among the audience. When Sai himself congratulated me after watching the movies, I was elated."

Despite good money and job satisfaction, the dubbing artistes feel that their profession is still not being taken seriously by many in the industry. "Compared to other technicians, dubbing artistes are looked down upon. Most films do not carry our names in the title cards," says Srinivas Murthy.

"If the artistes are winning accolades and awards, 50 per cent of the credit belongs to us too. We'd like to see our names in the title card," feels Ravishankar. Agreeing with his colleagues, Narayan Babu says, "barring a few, most others ignore us when it comes to the title cards. The situation must change." Sharing the sentiment is Savitha. "It is nice the government instituted the Nandi award for dubbing artistes. But some more recognition is welcome from the film industry by inviting the dubbing artistes for the 100-day celebrations. Generally, we are left out during such occasions," she laments.

With young starlets from Bollywood thronging the south, the demand for dubbing artistes will continue. Now a part and parcel of the film industry, the dubbing artistes not only have a `voice' but enjoy an indelible identity as well.

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