What is common between the female lead roles in the films Iruvar, Guru and Raavanan apart from the fact that they were played by actor Aishwarya Rai? Actor Rohini, who is known for her emotive voice and clear Tamil diction, dubbed for all these characters.
Lending her voice to the Miss World-turned-actor is something Rohini is used to. “In Iruvar, both the roles she plays are very different. One was a convent-educated, bold actor, while the other was a coy and loving wife. Guru was again different and Raavanan was like nothing that I have done before.”
It was director Mani Ratnam who identified her potential as a dubbing artist and utilised her voice for Girija in Idayathai Thirudadae. She also dubbed for Manisha Koirala in Bombay. “It was as if I stumbled upon something I am good at. I have been lucky to get such an interesting range of characters,” says Rohini.
While Girija's role was that of a mischievous, charming young girl, Bombay demanded a completely different voice modulation. “Manisha plays this timid girl coming from a village, who wouldn't speak loudly. In Mumbai, she acquires a Hindi accent and later, she yells out her twins' names ahead of the climax …all these variations are challenging to bring using the voice,” she says.
Rohini, who has also worked for films of other directors such as Gautham Vasudev Menon (dubbing for Jothika in Vettaiyadu Vilayadu) and Shankar (for Manisha Koirala in Indian) says she dreads hearing the compliment “Oh, you were so good” for her work as dubbing artist.
“It's like ‘oh my god, they found out.' I think the success of a dubbing artist really lies in not letting the audience know who you are. It's the character's voice – so one needs to understand the character, her body language and attitude and match the voice to all that.”
One would think that a sore throat was part of the occupational hazard of being a dubbing artist, but Rohini may not have realised how severe it could get, until she dubbed for Aishwarya in Raavanan. “The voice had to come out really strong – with lot of anger. For every scream you hear on screen, I must have shouted some 25 times,” she laughs.
Rohini will soon collaborate with writer-poet Manushyaputhran and work on a series of audio books in Tamil. “I have been eager to do this, particularly with works of great writers.”
The actor, who loves multitasking, is also active in theatre. Her solo in Pennoli conceptualised by Prasanna Ramaswamy was very well received at the recent World Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore. “I enjoy theatre. In addition to acting, it allows me to engage with literature, poetry and music.”
Queried on her next move and whether she intends wearing the director's hat, Rohini says: “I will share an update on that very soon.”