For years now, many from the film industry have cribbed about the lack of ‘Telugu-speaking’ actresses. The idea of ‘imports’ from other places are frowned upon because of their inability to understand Telugu, leave alone speak it. But things have changed.
Today, most of the leading ladies in T’wood — Anushka Shetty, Kajal Aggarwal, Samantha, Tamannaah, Rakul Preet Singh, Lavanya Tripathi, Raashi Khanna and Regina Cassandra among others — not only understand Telugu, but speak it too.
However, none of them (barring a few exceptions) voice themselves in their films. In fact, so unfamiliar are people with their real voices that when they speak in public, they are left baffled!
Why don’t actresses dub?
“When an actress starts off her career, she may not know the language and might need help. Eventually, the voice becomes a very important part of her identity and people cannot accept it when she sounds different,” shares Sowmya Sharma, who has been the voice of Anushka Shetty and Kajal Aggarwal for several years now.
But it isn’t just that; while actresses are able to make everyday conversations in Telugu, they do not have a nuanced understanding of the language required for certain characters. “I dubbed for myself in Nannaku Prematho where I played an NRI and it was okay for that character to speak with a few flaws. If we did the same with Raarandoi Veduka Chuddam, where I play a girl from a village, it wouldn’t work,” explains actress Rakul Preet.
Actress Lavanya Tripathi reasons, “Dubbing requires you to understand the language with a nuanced ability. You need to be able to pull it off or you’ll face criticism.” She also stresses on the need for time and patience. “Some characters need the language to be right, and it requires a lot of patience for someone to help us in getting the diction right. In between shooting schedules and the urgency to meet the release dates, it becomes tough to make time for something like that.”
Directors not at ease?
So, why are directors largely unwilling to make time and give the girls a chance? “That’s not the case. Tamannaah dubbed for herself in my film Oopiri. But that decision wasn’t taken instantly. Once we tried it out, we realised it was a perfect fit for the character she played. Time can be an issue, but dubbing requires a lot more energy than acting and is tougher. That’s why we rope in professionals to do it. Ultimately, it’s an audio visual medium and the audio is as important as the visual,” explains director Vamshi Paidipally.
But is there a fear that the voice artiste might not do justice to the scene? “Sometimes, I feel it is very important to be there in the dubbing studio to see how things are shaping up because when a character is close to your heart, you do not want anything to spoil it. Of course, voice artistes are professionals and give their all,” explains Raashi Khanna.
Lavanya echoes Raashi’s thoughts. She says, “There are certain moments in a film where only you know how you felt and are keen that it translates onto the screen. However, it would be unfair for me to tell a voice artiste how I want something because they are professionals.”
The voice artistes
Haritha, who has voiced the likes of Tamannaah, Shruti Haasan and Rakul Preet several times, says, “The good thing is that actresses have the confidence that we will do a good job. Dubbing is not easy. There’s a need for expression and modulation in the voice apart from understanding the character’s body language. I might be dubbing for multiple actresses but I need to sound different each time.”
So do actresses and artistes bond? Sowmya says, “It’s not like we are the best of friends, but we talk. I am cordial with both Anushka and Kajal. I remember, once Hansika and her mother called me to ask what I thought about the character and if it has shaped up well. It was very sweet, actually.”