Be it lending credibility to young actors or taking Hollywood stars to the hinterland, dubbing artistes are playing a crucial role but does the industry give them their due?

Have you ever cared to notice who is the voice behind the contorted lips of Nargis Fakhri in “Rockstar”, or who will speak for Mark Wahlberg or for that matter the Autobots in the latest edition of “Transformers”? The secret is out. Meet the dubbing artistes whose voice boxes add to the box office collections every week but forget about their faces even their names remain shrouded in secrecy. Mona Ghosh Shetty leads the pack as the voice which has launched the careers of many heroines.

From Rani Mukerji in “Ghulam” and Bipasha Basu in “Raaz” and “Jism” to Deepika Padukone in “Om Shanti Om”, Mona has helped in building many reputations and images. Imagine the provocative dialogues of “Jism” and the irreverence of “Om Shanti Om”. “In our industry female actors are allowed to learn on the job. Many times when starting out, they could not bring out the drama that is required to come through the dialogues. Some actors take time to get the Hindi diction and pronunciation right. So artistes like me become crucial. Then, Katrina Kaif’s success has led to a trend of exotic models with Indian features,” says Mona, who has dubbed for Kaif in “Sarkar” and “Humko Deewana Kar Gaye” giving Kaif time to learn the language.

“After that she was offered roles which suited her real-life persona. She could carry her accent. In ‘Raajneeti’, where she played a more rooted character, I provided a guide track and then she dubbed over it,” relates Mona, whose mother Leela Ghosh was a prominent dubbing director. Mona now runs a well known dubbing studio in Mumbai.

After a brush with theatre, Shaktee Singh came from Lucknow to Mumbai to become an actor, but when lady luck didn’t shine on him after doing bit roles, he took to dubbing to make ends meet. You might not remember that he was Suresh, the only antagonist in the popular tele-series “Nukkad” but if I tell you that he is the official Hindi voice of any actor playing James Bond, as well as of Hugh Jackman and George Clooney, you will see the seasoned artist in a new light. “I started dubbing with Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Shiva’, where I dubbed for Nagarjuna’s friend. Impressed with my performance, he gave me the chance to dub for the lead actor in ‘Raat’. But the real break came when I dubbed for both Arvind Swamy and Nasser in ‘Roja’. Soon I was travelling to Chennai twice a week. People could rely on me as I could modulate my voice to dub for markedly different characters in the same film. In Prabhu Dheva’s ‘Kadalan’ (dubbed as ‘Hum Se Hai Muqabla’) I dubbed for both Prabhu and Girish Karnad. Now Karnad speaks good Hindi but many times the actors are not available,” recalls Singh.

Mona, who has just dubbed for Deepika in “Kochadiyaan”, agrees. “It is often the case with advertisements because stars don’t have time to dub in different languages,” says Mona who dubs in 10 languages when it comes to advertisements.

Things changed for the better when the craze for dubbed versions of Hollywood films multiplied and cartoon channels abounded on television. “For a long time most Indian producers didn’t want to reveal the names of the voiceover artistes. They felt that the audience will feel cheated if they come to know the lead actress can’t even say her lines. So we are known in the industry circuit but the audience are largely unaware,” notes Mona. As Hollywood films started reaching out to audiences in the hinterland, not only did the remuneration increase, production houses also started the practice of giving the names of dubbing artistes in the end credits.

“Hollywood producers are more organised and unlike Hindi films, the job gets done fast but I don’t think the audience cares,” says Mona, who has dubbed for Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz and Megan Fox among others.

Singh, who has shot for “Being George Clooney”, a documentary on the dubbing artistes who have lent their voice for Clooney in different parts of the world, has a different experience. “It filled me with hope that my efforts are being noticed.” Singh, who is also acting in Zee’s “Sapne Suhane Ladakpan Ke”, says these days if you are good at your job, dubbing can become your full-time profession. “There was a time when actors used to look down upon me but now actors see it as another source of income or to test their range.”

Chaitanya Adib, a known face in television serials, is one of them. He is the voice of Wahlberg in the latest instalment of “Transformers”. “It is difficult to bring out the emotions while talking to machines. Many times the translated script doesn’t match with the lip movement and the pace of actor’s speech. So we have to add new words on the spot to make it sound credible without losing out on the meaning,” says Chaitanya, who was the voice of Paul Walker.

Every actor poses a different challenge. Mona, who also trains voice artistes, says with Katrina and Jacqueline Fernandez you just have to take out the accent, but with the likes of Nargis you have to follow the lip movement as well. “You have to take note of the body language, the pauses and the timing.”

Singh says his effort is make the voice as neutral as possible. “I don’t allow any regional accent to come in and then I try to become the character. Theatre and radio training comes handy. Voicing actors like Anthony Hopkins who have hardly any chink in their craft create added responsibility, but I can provide deep, sharp and light shades according to the demand. Eddie Murphy speaks so fast that it becomes difficult to come up with Hindi words to fit his pace. “I dubbed for him in ‘Dr. Doolittle’ and it really tested me because the way he opens his mouth is difficult to follow.”

Some voice artistes have been patented for certain kindd of voices. Among them, Shailendra Pandey is called for heavyweights like Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. This week he will be heard as the voice of Optimus Prime, the human friendly robot in “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. Shailendra says his deep baritone made him an obvious choice for Diesel in the “Fast & Furious” series. “I am also asked to dub for Prakash Raj for his South Indian films.” Here also artistes want to break the image trap. “My biggest challenge was dubbing for Heath Ledger as Joker. It was very well received.”

Unlike Mona, Shailendra has seen the audience praising his voice during film shows. He says it is not necessary that the voiceover artist should master the language of the source. “He has to be focused on the lip movement. I am not fluent in English but it doesn’t come in the way of my dubbing.”

Pandey says the Hollywood films come to them around 15 days before the release, and everything has to be done within that time frame. “If I have got the translated the script in time and I am dubbing for the lead actor it takes me around eight hours to complete the job.”

Like playback singing, is technology threatening to come in the way of dubbing artistes as well? These days film stars are being used to dub for big Hollywood franchises. Mona says that star value does help in bringing the audience to the theatre but after that the voice has to work its magic. “Star voice is so closely associated with his or her face that people fail to associate it with the character. Shah Rukh Khan failed to do any magic with ‘The Invincibles’ nor did Akshay Kumar in ‘Jumbo’,” holds Shailendra. “There are so many factors involved that I don’t think technology can take over the role of dubbing artistes any time soon,” signs off Mona.