Jasleen Bhalla, voice behind Covid-19 caller tune, says it’s important to drill the message in people’s minds
By now you would have heard her voice umpteen number of times, as she cautions you about the measures to be adopted in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in our day-to-day lives. Since March, telecom companies in India replaced ringtones with default caller tunes that spread awareness about the virus. And the voice that delivers you the message in Hindi, is of Delhiite Jasleen Bhalla.
“This is just crazy, every Indian is hearing it,” she chuckles, as we ask her how she feels on being heard by millions of people every day. While recording the message, she had no idea it was going to be used this way. “A lot of recordings that we were doing for some time were in some or the other way related to Covid-19. When I got this, I thought it will be like one of those radio spots or something which will be used for a week or so, I didn’t know it will be used to this extent, pan-India,” she says.
Bhalla, who graduated from Delhi University’s Khalsa College, first realised the wide reach of her gig when she received messages from her friends. “Initially, within a few days, friends started forwarding memes, telling me ‘We know this is your voice…but ab bus bhi karo yaar’. Funny part is when you are calling someone… you also get to hear that thing. It’s a little out-of-body experience,” says the voice-over artiste.
So how does her family, especially her husband react when they hear her voice with every call they make? Bhalla reveals, “Well my husband was pleasantly surprised in the beginning but now he’s used to it, I suppose. I guess I have trained his ears well, being an excessive talker anyway.”
While many complain they’re bored hearing the same caller tune all the time, the 40-year-old feels it’s important given that people are still not taking as many precautions as necessary. “It was just an essential step to sort of drill into everyone’s minds that you have to wear a mask, wash your hands etc, use a sanitiser. So at times a bitter pill also does its work,” she adds.
Opening up about her first brush with the voice-over world and what made her choose this as a profession, she says, “Shortly after my graduation I started working. I’ve been a sports journalist and producer with different channels. In 2010, I started reaching studios with my voice sample. Then it hit me that this audio world was way bigger than I realised. I started going for auditions and working on my skills because doing voice-over professionally is a different ball game altogether. It is pretty much like acting, as it is voice acting.”
Like most of us, Bhalla has spent most of the lockdown doing household chores, learning to cook while completing her professional assignments from home. “I always respected my house help but my respect for her and the whole astonishment about her stamina, given the amount of work she does, has gone notches up. I can’t just even imagine how much physical labour they put in their work,” she says.
She also feels thankful for being able to earn her daily bread when a lot of people are not that fortunate. “It’s been a very humbling experience and it’s very difficult for all of us to accept this new normal, it doesn’t feel normal at all,” she shares, adding, “Whatever we have done with Mother Earth, we are just paying for our deeds. I hope we all come out of it by making some changes in our lives.”
While her voice has got the nation’s attention at the moment, what’s that one voice she loves the most? “Morgan Freeman’s narration in Shawshank Redemption (1994)…was really something else. I also admire Richard Hammond (presenter of the Science of Stupid), he is very articulate and expressive,” adds Bhalla.