Ramesh T.C., a leading voiceover artiste, talks about his journey to the top in the field and his plan to implement voice training in schools
There’s this ad film with a voiceover that delivers the now famous tagline, vishwasam, athalley ellam. Long after the faces in the film fade, the voice lingers. This tagline, which has been the butt of jokes, slipped into the lingo. Mammootty used it in one of his films and it is a favourite SMS used by young lovers desperately seeking longer relationships.
Like it usually happens, this tagline and faces are alive in public memory, but the man behind the voice goes unnoticed.
This voice, like that of many leading brands now on television and the radio, is that of Ramesh T. C., a leading voiceover artiste who has been in the industry for more than two decades. Ramesh is much sought-after for his rich Malayalam and English commentaries. His is a voice that has identity, is contemporary and stands out for its power of expression.
Voice of K. J. Yesudas
Ramesh realised the power of his voice quite accidentally. He loved singing, played the tabla and spent hours listening to the wonderful voices on All India Radio. Once in a while he used to be called to make announcements at local events like the “volleyball tournament where I could try out some of my stock English words.” One voice that always fascinated him is that of K. J. Yesudas.
“This study of voices was a sort of passion. I was fascinated by the immense potential and possibilities of the human voice and its applications since voice is the most personal form of expression. There were so many great voices that I have admired like that of T. P. Radhamani, K. G. Devakiamma, P. Gangadharan Nair and others like them who breathed life into numerous characters on radio. But no one amazes me like Yesudas. His voice is so contemporary, his pronunciation so flawless, his intonation perfect. He has been Malayalam’s voice for so many generations and each one relates to him so easily,” says Ramesh, who completed his school and college in Thrissur district.
Meeting philosopher, author and poet Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati was a turning point in Ramesh’s life. “It was Guru who first told me that I had a good voice and that I should make use of it.”
In 1987 Ramesh left for Bombay to “learn Hindustani music and the tabla.” He had a friend working at the famous Anand Recording Studio, owned by the late Dev Anand. “I worked here as an accounts assistant. At the studio I listened to some great voices like that of Amitabh Bachchan, Raza Murad, Harish Bhimani, Pratap Sharma. It was a learning experience. In between I pursued Hindustani vocal training under Neela Bhagwat and the tabla under Pandit Arvind Mulgaonkar.”
Things happened quickly in Ramesh’s life. He began lending his voice in a small way, was selected to the Films Division panel and most importantly, was offered a contract by J. R. Vanmali, veteran voice coordinator and one who had the oldest voice coordination and training agencies in the country.
“He offered me Rs. 2,500 every month for a voiceover. The first one I did was for a toothpaste ad for radio. Soon, I was being called whenever they wanted a voiceover in Malayalam.”
For six years, Ramesh’s was a sought-after voice in Mumbai, the Mecca of Indian advertising. “I returned home, got married and tried to work out of here. I did a few ad films Nalukettu but soon realised there was very little scope here.”
A vacation with family to Mumbai turned out to be Ramesh’s second phase in Mumbai, a fruitful one at that. For the next 12 years, he worked here emerging as one of the leading voiceover artistes in the country. “The best thing to have happened to me was working with Ameen Sayani, the iconic broadcaster and a voice coordinator. This phase was productive.”
Like most voiceover artistes, Ramesh is self-taught. It was a full-time job, his career. Offers began pouring in and Ramesh realised that like in any professional job, he needed to get over the initial hiccups. A good voice alone would not do. “That’s what R. S. Pawar, a reputed voice trainer, taught me. Those sessions with him helped me gain vocal energy, improve voice quality, better my voice modulation, speech clarity, effective articulation, enhance the texture and tone of my voice.”
Returning to Kerala, Ramesh embarked on a mission to train voices. He set up Ramesh’s Voice Company, in Kochi, where he trains professional voice users as well as others who wish to improve their vocal expression. “I don’t find a signature voice in either the television channels or the many radio channels. Most of them have wrong pronunciation and awkward intonation. I wonder why they don’t listen to Yesudas, simply for how true Malayalam sounds.”
For a year, Ramesh was involved with a Malayalam FM channel. “It was to train the radio jockeys. What is strange is that on these channels, and also television, no importance is given to proper and clean Malayalam. It is not that they don’t know about it because all the children who come through auditions for the reality music shows reproduce the language perfectly. But this yardstick does not apply to the anchors of the shows.”
Ramesh, who has dubbed for a couple of films like Red Wine, Casanova, Bangkok Summer and the yet-to-be-released Mumbai Police, says he is not very keen on entering this field and did most of them on request. He has one goal and that is to implement voice training in schools. “I have a customised programme called Mozhi Azhakku. Hopefully it will be part of the next academic session in some select schools in the State. It is aimed at assisting children to speak Malayalam and English properly; on how to create strong bilinguals, which is very often denied to school children,” says Ramesh.