The man who gave Modi a voice
Mohak Ninaad, who dubbed for the PM in the Marathi version of Man vs. Wild, talks about the attention he has suddenly drawn
In the last couple of days, voiceover artiste Mohak Ninaad has been bombarded with an unusual request from local mediapersons and people in his Mira Road neighbourhood: "can you talk like Modi?" "Honestly, I don't know how to!" says the 29-year-old, sounding amused and exasperated in equal parts. The deluge of attention, however, is not entirely unexpected. It's the reason why we have reached out to him as well.
On August 12, when Prime Minister Modi made his television appearance with Bear Grylls Discovery India's Man vs. Wild, the channel recorded its highest-ever ratings in the infotainment genre. As the show was aired in different regional languages, the Marathi version stood out, thanks to Ninaad's rich, buttery voice. With his deep baritone and well calculated pauses, he nearly made it impossible for viewers to guess that the person dubbing for the 68-year-old Indian PM, is, in fact, only in his 20s. "I do sound like a middle-aged and with my weight gain, I'm beginning to look like one," he jokes. Interestingly, he landed the opportunity only a week before the show's release. He was dubbing for the Hindi version of television series American Digger at a city studio, when one of the producers of Man vs. Wild, requested him to suggest names for somebody who could dub for PM Modi. "They had auditioned hundreds of people, but weren't convinced with the outcome. They needed somebody who sounded elderly, presidential and refined." Ninaad suggested two names. Neither made the cut. At the producer's insistence, he gave the audition and it clicked.
A far cry from Modi's fiery rhetoric at public rallies, Ninaad had to keep the tone casual, friendly and conversational. He had to observe Modi's speech nuances and etiquettes. "If you've watched the original, you'll realise that he appears confused on what language to speak in. He also tends to cut Grylls short."
Bear Grylls with PM Narendra Modi in a still from Man vs. Wild
But Ninaad says he did not have to research much, given how much we tend to see of Modi on TV and the Internet. Understandably, there was pressure from colleagues to get it right. "I think it helped that I'm not really his biggest fan. The idea did not overwhelm me. I could treat it like just another assignment." He finished the recording in flat two hours. "My only worry was not to sound young and juvenile because that would take away the seriousness of the show," he says.
Although he has received widespread adulation, Ninaad doesn't count this among his best works. "I've done better voiceovers. But the attention is certainly flattering."
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