Exclusive: The dubbing star

Y.Sunita Chowdhary

Priyanka Tumpala is the most sought after dubbing artiste in Hyderabad. She reads her lines differently for different artistes, gives each actor on-screen an identity through her voice and expression. That doesn’t mean she distorts the performance of the original actor or her delivery. She takes into account where the actor is, what the character feels, what message is intended to be imparted and is open to suggestions and criticism pertaining to intonation, expression and voice-projection made by the director of the film. Klapboardpost.com takes a peep into her work and how it affects her when the going gets tough; she talks about the toll over health that some characters have on her when the subject is serious and her involvement gets intense.

The Vizag girl: I wasn’t even aware of this particular craft. I am from Vizag and was working in a radio station and moved to Hyderabad for better opportunities. I began working with a couple of media corporations here. In 2009, I went to Annapurna Studios to meet a friend and someone there told me to give an audition. That was for Village Lo Vinayakudu. Lot of people think that it is the actors who talk and don’t know there is a person behind doing the speaking, they are oblivious to the fact that there is a craft called dubbing.

Hobby becomes a passion: After dubbing for one movie, I was simultaneously working and took it up as a hobby. But I got more and more offers and the dubbing union gave me a card. Today it is a full time profession. The best part of this job is you get to experience so many characters. I dubbed for various leads from Tamanna, Kajal, Pooja Hegde, Keerthi Suresh, Tamanna etc to Rashmika, Anu Emmanuel and Nabha Natesh. You also flow with the character and make it sound like the person who acted. No actor wants to sound like the other one. Once I dub for a film, it is done and I move over to the other. Over a point, even if there is a different time in between, everything sounds the same. Yes, it is true that what started as a hobby became a passion. One has to be really focussed to deliver, it is more of a therapy to me.

A soul swap: You have to be creative. If you are dubbing for a new actor, the performance is less. The dubbing has to enhance the performance on screen and give them a screen presence. It never gets monotonous and for me every film is a new project and I work as if it is my first time. I don’t get to watch the film as the characters we see are limited. Sometimes I do see the film. After dubbing too, there will be a lot of editing also. I lost count of the number of films I dubbed for. If the movie is ready, I finish the film in two and a half days. Specific characters need a lot of work. Director Sukumar wants something that has never been done and it does get challenging. It means delivering the dialogue with the right expression, emotion keeping the character’s body language in mind. It is like a soul swap. For Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu, my work went on for one month. Every day I would dub three hours. I can’t push myself beyond a point otherwise it loses its sheen and sounds dull, so I do it in two half days. Generally we finish a film in two to three days.

How does a dubbing artist get picked for a particular heroine? You will be called for an audition, the director verifies the voice and selects us. It is just not the language, you need to catch every bit of it. There are many parameters to be kept in mind. The movie director sits with us and he alone knows how a character needs to sound. There will be a stage when the director has to check how the dubbing is and you have to be really careful about your voice, can’t be lenient. Talking less helps and be careful about what we eat and drink. Oily food doesn’t suit me and I don’t deliver. I am sensitive, I use my throat on so many expressions and I get tired. It gets weakened.

Giving characters life: I give characters life and enhance their performance and that is the compliment I get. A person said that someone has to be lucky to wake up to such a beautiful voice but when I hear my voice on screen, I feel so weird and I wonder if that was me. You got to do various characters to learn, upgrade. When I was dubbing for Tapsee in Game Over, I was in a dark zone for a week. I need to feel what she is going through to deliver proper lines. It was quite traumatising and I was scared about it for four days. We go through the intensity. For Sai Pallavi’s film in Tamil, the husband is a taunting guy. That took a toll on me. I react, I am hurt especially if there is something intense I went through for some hours, I am in that zone. My mother clearly makes that out that I was in a difficult space. I have done films both in Tamil (2) and Malayalam (1). I am not well versed with Malayalam but with help I can learn. I began with branding, corporate communication but never thought about hosting programmes.

Dubbing artist never retires? We are aging and there will be changes in the voice. You don’t dub for leads anymore when the aging of the voice begins. For every person it is different and the transformation takes place mostly after 35 years. They start putting you to character roles. Are they paid well? We have a union and I am registered there and we have no issues. It is a unique craft and dubbing artistes are quite underrated. We only have one State Award, i.e Nandi Award. For some strange reason, this craft is not well recognised. As of now I am happy being behind the camera, I am in a space where I can tell them when I can come to work. People ask about my availability and it feels good. I made my mark over the years. For me, every film is a film, we don’t differentiate between a small and a big one.

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