A voice for the faceless

Updated: Nov 14, 2018, 08:43 IST | Shunashir Sen

This weekend sees the debut edition of a conclave that will bring voiceover and dubbing artistes into the limelight, giving them the recognition they deserve

Darrpan Mehta at his studio in Andheri
Darrpan Mehta at his studio in Andheri

Living in the shadows is in the very nature of voice-over artistes. They are consigned to a sense of facelessness that the job demands of them, and from which there is frankly no escape. And this ends up diluting their vital contribution in projects, be it an advertisement where an actor is the face of a product, or a film where a star is expressing a range of emotions with the aid of someone else's vocal abilities.

But an event this weekend aims to give such artistes their moment under the sun. Called India Voice Fest, it's a platform that brings some of the biggest names in the country's voiceover and dubbing industry under one roof with newcomers in the profession. Ameen Sayani, the grandfather of Indian radio, will kick things off with a keynote address. The stage will then be set for multiple panel discussions where veteran and popular voice-over artistes will shed light on what makes them tick behind the scenes.

Ameen Sayani
Ameen Sayani

It's possibly the first time that a conclave of this sort will be held in the country, which is a bit of a surprise given the scale this industry has reached over the years. But how did the idea for it come about, we ask Darrpan Mehta, a veteran voice actor who is the director of the firm organising the fest. He says, "Voiceover artistes are everywhere, and you probably listen to us in one way or the other every day. But we have never had a forum where the entire industry can congregate, ideate, pass on knowledge to the younger guys, and felicitate our seniors. So, an event like this was long overdue. And after living with the idea for the last two years, I got on to it over the past few months, trying to get on board anyone and everyone who's of consequence in the industry."

So, the eventual list of speakers at the event now includes people like Mona Shetty, who's dubbed for stars as big as Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif; Sanket Mathre, who was the voice for the Hindi version of Deadpool; radio host Ashwin Mushran; and Harish Bhimani, a veteran who will conduct a masterclass on cracking the business. This business, incidentally, has witnessed a sea change over the past two decades. "One thing is that the opportunities have multiplied. From ads to TV to dubbing to audio books to podcasts and e-learning to what have you, there are at least 25 available avenues today vis-à-vis five that were around in the 1990s. Two, the requirements of clients has changed dramatically. Twenty years ago, you'd want a perfect baritone for a male artiste and a sweet-sounding voice for a female one.

But people are now more open to character voices. To give you an example, if you have a squeaky voice, you'd have been laughed at earlier. Today, though, you never know - you could be the best person for a cartoon character which needs that voice," Mehta says, pointing out that Mumbai alone has 5,000 voice actors at present.

Nonetheless, he adds, the anonymity that is inherent to the profession continues to pinch the artistes. "We realise that it's become very important to be 'seen' nowadays. But while we are a really critical element of the audio-visual industry, we sometimes feel that we are taken for granted since we are not in view," Mehta confesses, adding that this is precisely the reason why he's organised India Voice Fest, to bring the faceless to the fore.

On: November 18, 10 am
At: The Auditorium, Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle (West).
Log on to: instamojo.com
Cost: Rs 1,000

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