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Rediff.com  » Movies » 'Actors these days don't have unique voices like Amitabh'

'Actors these days don't have unique voices like Amitabh'

Last updated on: April 23, 2015 13:45 IST

'Dubbing for Rajiv Gandhi was very challenging.'

'Amitabh Bachchan told me, "I don't appreciate other people doing my voice".'

Midway through Rediff.com's interview with Patcy N, Chetan Sashital stopped.

"You don't speak properly," he said. "You don't breathe properly either."

That, he said, was what caused people to gain weight, suffer from sleeplessness and acidity. Suddenly Patcy felt she was sitting in front of a mind-reader or a doctor instead of a voice dubbing artiste. How did he know I had all these problems?

"Touch my back," he said a bit later. As Patcy shrunk back, he went on, "Feel the vibration."

When those who breathe correctly (with their lungs) speak, he said, you will feel a vibration at their back.

Most of us don't do so, which is why, when we speak, we will feel a vibration at the back of our neck.

These, he says, are some of the things a voice dubbing artiste learns over the course of his career.

Chetan, 46, has been a voice dubbing artiste for about 30 years now.

In his long innings, he has been the voice of many actors and cricketers and done more than 1,000 commercials.

Image: Chetan Sashital with Amitabh Bachchan


I am an only child. My father worked with the LIC (Life Insurance Corporation) and my mother was an employee of the BMC (BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation).

They were both good at modulating their voices and were good mimics as well, so maybe my talent is inherited.

With both my parents working, I was often alone at home after school. I had nothing to do -- there were no television sets then -- so I would look at the birds and imitate them.

I would copy a crow or a pigeon and try and make it sound as original as possible.

After exploring the sounds of the animal kingdom, I slowly moved to the human kingdom. Sitting in a room, I would hold a conversation between five imaginary people. That's how I developed my imitation skills.

Then, I started imitating school friends and class teachers.

When we got a television at home, I would imitate all the characters from Fireball XL5 (a show about a space station that was created in 1962 and aired in India in the 1980s; each character in the show had an unusual voice).

In Class 10 we had an inter-class competition. I imitated our class teachers and our class won the prize.

I did my bachelor's degree in engineering from Father Agnel's College of Engineering, Bandra (north-west Mumbai).

When other colleges have youth festivals, engineering colleges have their exams. I would give the exams during the day and participate in the competitions in the evening.

In 1986, I won a trophy for mimicry and singing. I imitated all the characters of He-Man And The Masters of the Universe (a popular animated television show) and Star Wars.

Usually, after the function is over, the judges would perform. But that year, the students did not allow the judges to perform. I was called to perform once again.

Later, I was invited to be a judge for the programme. That's when I realised I was good at voices. I wanted to take it further, but I was not sure how to go about it.

'Sunny Deol had fallen off a horse and was out of action, so I was called to dub for him'

Sashital mimics Amitabh Bachchan, Ashok Kumar, Shakti Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. Video: Afsar Dayatar/Rediff.com

In 1987, the veteran actor Pinchoo Kapoor passed away. A friend of a friend was third or fourth assistant director in one of his films, Afsar, where the late actor played a police commissioner. They were looking for someone to dub his part.

Many professional voice-over artists had tried, but nobody could get it right.

I was just 18 then. The dubbing studio, Pratima, was located at the SeaRock hotel, which was very close to my college in Bandra. The production people and even the director were very rude. They thought, how can an 18 year old dub for a 70-year-old actor?

I had never dubbed for anyone before, but the sound recordist explained the procedure and I soon understood it.

The very first take was perfect. The recordist came out and told everyone, "We've got the matching voice for Pinchoo Kapoor."

I dubbed for eight of Pinchoo Kapoor's films after his death. I was paid Rs 500 per film.

Then, I was called to dub for Sunny Deol who had fallen off a horse and was out of action. Three of his films were stuck so I completed them.

Meanwhile, I graduated in engineering and followed it up with a design course in computers. What I really wanted to do was become a voice artist.

As nothing much was happening on that front, I joined a small company called Virat Co, where I sold computers and taught clients AutoCAD software.

I also cleared the IIT entrance exam for a master's in design as I was very good at drawing.

Then, I began to get the opportunities I was looking for. In 1989-1990, I started performing on stage with Kalyanji-Anandji.

My father was very upset when I told him I had decided to leave my job and dub on a full time basis. He told me he had taken a loan in order to make me an engineer. I told him I would repay the loan in nine months.

Income started coming in from the first month itself as I made Rs 10,000. In six months, I was set. Kalyanji-Anandji spoke to my father and convinced him to let me continue.

'I was Prakash Raj's voice in Dabangg 2'

Image: Prakash Raj in Dabangg 2.

I started learning classical music. I did many serials -- both dubbing and acting -- and participated in Superhit Muqabala.

I wanted to dub for commercials so I went to a voice placement agency and gave them my portfolio. They asked me to read a passage for what seemed like a Films Division documentary.

I read it my way. They rejected me.

A few days later, they called to ask whether I could do machine sounds. It was for Mango Moods, a Ravalgaon sweets product, where the mango does the talking.

Things moved on from there. I became the voice of the Muppets, for a commercial done by Advertising Avenues. That commercial won many awards. Gopi Kukde, the creative director, was very happy with my work. He asked me to help with the CAG (Communication Arts Guild) awards. Though there was no money in it, I was happy to get the opportunity.

I spoke in 22 voices at the CAG awards curtain-raiser ceremony; I did the voices of all the top bosses of the advertising industry -- Govind Sadhnani, Prahlad Kakkar, Piyush Pandey...

The act was a big hit!

Alyque Padamsee said I brought the product closer to the consumer through my voice.

Over the years, I dubbed for many actors. I did 10 of Vinod Mehra's films after he passed away. I did Amjad Khan's films after he passed away. I dubbed for five of Rajesh Khanna's films, including his last commercial for Havells Fans. I dubbed for Dharmendra, for the Bagpiper commercial. I was Salman Khan's voice in Biwi No 1 because he was in the US.

In Dabbang 2, I did Prakash Raj's voice as he was playing a UP don and he has a South Indian accent.

Many times, I was called in to dub after the film was shot because the actor would realise he did not have a good role and refuse to dub.

I always check with the producer that the star's money has been paid. I also ask to see the actor's consent for the dubbing, else I don't do it.

It was the president of the Cine and TV Artistes Association who advised me to get a letter of permission from the star before I dubbed for him. For an actor who is dead, a letter from his family is required because it is possible that the producer may not pay the remaining money to the actor's family.

When Sanjay Dutt was in jail, I dubbed six films for him only after his secretary sent me his consent letter.

I was once asked to dub for Anupam Kher for Yash Chopra's Parampara. I refused to do it because I couldn't get in touch with Anupam to find out why he was not doing it. When I finally met him at a Kalyanji-Anandji Nite, he said he had a sore throat and I should dub for him.

'Dubbing for Rajiv Gandhi was very challenging'

Chetan Sashital mimics Baloo the Bear, Goofy and Donald Duck. Video: Afsar Dayatar/Rediff.com

In 1990, the satellite revolution took place and all the channels started broadcasting foreign programmes in Hindi, especially Disney.

Here too, I was the voice for many characters -- Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book, Goofy and Launchpad McQuack in Donald Duck, Gopher in Winnie the Pooh and Chrono Trigger and Colonel Spigot.

I also did Jungli Toofan Tyre Puncture, which is based on Sesame Street.

You would have heard me in the Disney film, Aladdin (1992). The script was written by Prasoon Joshi and Piyush Pandey. I contributed as well.

I played the Genie; this movie was very challenging as Robin Williams voiced the English version.

Another challenging assignment was Simi Garewal's documentary on Rajiv Gandhi -- India's Rajiv -- for which he had done his own dubbing in English. He was assassinated shortly after. I dubbed for the Hindi version, Bharat Ke Rajiv.

There was no voice sample of Rajiv Gandhi in Hindi. All the Hindi voice samples we had came from his speeches, and that is not how a person speaks normally.

I had to imagine how Rajiv Gandhi would speak in Hindi. In order to do that, I thought how he would sing. I realised that he would have sung like Nitin Mukesh, in a nasal voice.

I knew how Nitin Mukesh spoke and I modulated it to get Rajiv Gandhi's Hindi voice. Nobody realised it was dubbed.

(Former Chief Election Commissioner) T N Seshan did ads for Safal Food; I dubbed his voice for that ad.

I have dubbed in all Indian languages. I dubbed in 18 languages for Meena, a UNICEF project on the girl child

'Many ad companies don't sign a contract with the actor; they just use the dubbing artist to imitate the actor's voice'

Image: Sashital with cricketers Zaheer Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Mohamed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh.

I am the voice of many actors and cricketers. I've dubbed for Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli in their first Pepsi commercial.

During the 2014 election, I did the voice for 96-year-old M R Negi from Himachal Pradesh; he was the first person to vote in that election.

In 2000, I started a company called Chatter Box India Pvt Ltd as there was a lot of work available. We specialised in writing, production, videos, music and films. We did creative work for Kingfisher Airline, Borosil and Pepsi.

In 2008, we decided to downsize. Now, we are just three people. I do the main work; they handle the administration.

We come together when there is work and we tie up with other people. At present, it is not viable for us to have an office and keep people on the payroll.

I have sung for films too like Dilwalon Ke Dil Ka Karar Lootne for Shool with Swapna Awasti. I wrote and sang the song Saigal Blues in Delhi Belly.

I sang for Amitabh Bachchan in Kyun! Ho Gaya Na... and dubbed for him in some commercials. But when I was doing the Pepsi commercial's Oye Babli song, he told me, "I don't appreciate other people doing my voice."

He is right when he says that, because many ad companies don't sign a contract with the actor; they just use the dubbing artist to imitate the actor's voice and pay him without the actor's consent.

Now, Amitabh -- like Rajinikanth -- has patented his voice.

I have dubbed Sean Connery's voice in Hindi for The Rock, Bruce Willis's in Die Hard With A Vengeance, John Travolta's in Face/Off and Darth Vader and Master Yoda's voices in Star Wars.

I have imitated Pavarotti (the late great Italian tenor) on live shows.

'I don't dub for many actors and cricketers now'

Image: A scene from Balkadu.

I recently dubbed the voice of Bal Thackeray in the Marathi film Balkadu. I also had a small role in Shamitabh.

Technology has changed the way we work.

Today, they use live sound and paste that on the commercial, so I don't dub for many actors and cricketers now. I only do it in an emergency, if there is a mistake in the dubbing and the actor/cricketer is not available.

Dubbing for films has also reduced. Actors these days don't have unique voices like Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Om Prakash and Ajit did, so there is no need for a dubbing artist.

I do other things these days. I direct commercials. I write, compose and sing songs.

Two years ago, we got an award at Cannes for the Mercedes Benz radio spots we produced for a company in Thailand.

For the last eight years, I have been researching the field of voice. Three years ago, I began giving lectures on voice at the international ENT (ear, nose throat) conference at the Nair and Lilavati hospitals in Mumbai.

Many doctors send their patients to me for voice training. They include teachers, professors and attorneys in the US who are in professions where they constantly use their voice.

Patcy N / Rediff.com in Mumbai