They vocally shadow the characters on screen, render emotions to the dialogues that the actors deliver, be it melancholic or cheerful. But the irony is that they are neither in the limelight nor do people recognise their face like that of the stars. And a dubbing artist, whose voice is often the star of a film, does not lead that much of a glossy life, says dubbing artist Shreeja Ravi.
Having rendered her voice to numerous characters in over 1,000 films in South Indian languages, Shreeja believes that dubbing artists seldom receive any real recognition.
“Though the State Government had instituted awards for dubbing artists, I believe that we are mostly neglected. We are never given the appreciation given to other technicians. For instance, we are rarely invited for the success parties of the films we worked for. It might seem like a small thing but it has been like this for decades,” says Shreeja who has received the Kerala State awards thrice and Kerala Film Critics awards twice.
To begin with, Shreeja says that she never thought about a career in dubbing, though her mother Kannur Narayani was a dubbing artist. Her family moved to Madras in 1972 and one day Shreeja happened to visit the dubbing studio along with her mother. Renowned director the late G Aravindan was present there for the dubbing of his movie ‘Thambu’. He was looking for someone to dub for the child’s character and Shreeja bagged the part. Later she gave voice to various child artists including Master Prasobh, Baby Anju and Babby Shalini.
“I never thought that I would be able to laugh or cry like a child. But I was only a teenager then and the genuine spunk that comes with that age was my strength,” remembers Shreeja.
In 1981, she gave voice to the heroine in the movie ‘Ilaneer’. During the 80s, there were certain prominent dubbing artists who gave their ‘famous’ voice to actors. Like Kottayam Shantha who gave voice to actor Seema, Anandavally for Geetha and Bhagyalakshmi to Shobhana. Soon Shreeja too found her own place in Mollywood by rendering voice to actors like Revathy, Rohini, Charmila, Sunitha and Mathu. “I still remember dubbing for Mathu in ‘Amaram’, especially the climax scene in which she falls at Mammootty’s feet, asking him to forgive her. It was one gem of a movie and I could really relate with the character,” she says.
Shreeja is known as the child specialist among the dubbing artists. Apart from her dubbing for Baby Shalini in several films in the 80s, Shreeja’s versatility was evident in ‘Pappayude Swantham Appoose’ where she lent her voice to the character Appoose portrayed by Master Badusha to perfection. “It is a small knack. While dubbing for a little girl,you make it a sort of prattle while for boys, the tone is changed,” she says.
Again, when Shalini made a comeback as a heroine in 1997 through ‘Aniyathipravu’, Shreeja dubbed for her. “Aniyathipravu’ is one of those films that I dubbed with my heart than my voice, I even cried during many scenes while dubbing for it. Likewise, dubbing for Manju Warrier in ‘Sallapam’ was also a good experience,” she says.
Shreeja has dubbed for Kavya Madhavan for a majority of her films. “There are some actresses who tell us that our voice suits them better than theirs. One such actor is Roma. I have dubbed for almost all the characters that she has played in Malayalam. Such good words are very valuable for us,” Shreeja says.
Though enough recognition has not come her way, Shreeja says that the job satisfaction keeps her going. “And even though we are never recognised as public figures, it is our voice that reverberates in the ears of film lovers whenever they remember their favourite female character,” she says.