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How do you make a baingan babble?

Simple. Just call a ?voice cosmetician? ? an artiste who provides films with sound effects that machines cannot replicate, writes Alaka Sahani.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2006 19:39 IST

Hearing is not always believing. You would imagine that the signature tune of Dhoom 2 is the product of a synthesiser in a studio. But it is not.

The main tune – the one that invaded our living rooms with the movie’s promos and became a hit caller tune much before the movie released – is not the outcome of today’s technology. It was whistled by a father and daughter duo, Nagesh and Rupali Surve.

To the accompaniment of electric instruments, the Surves took the tune to a different level with sheer lungpower. Without Surve’s whistling, which ran almost parallel to the singing, the number would not have been as peppy.

That is where this whistling wizard’s appeal lies. Surve has whistled for several films including Fanaa (remember the chartbuster Subhanallah?) and lots of advertisements.

But Surve is not the only vocal chord magician. There is a whole breed of sound artists – call them ‘voice cosmeticians’ – who can change the tone and timbre of their voices faster than you can wink, and who provide films and ads with sound effects that can’t be done by machines.

These artistes can reproduce any voice, from those of filmstars like Shah Rukh Khan to sportspersons like Sachin Tendulkar. They also lend their voices to parrots and cartoon characters, and make inanimate objects talk.

Look at Meena Goculdas. She can gurgle like a baby one moment, screech like a parrot the next and talk like an old woman with a quivering voice before you can even figure out what is happening. Then there is Chetan Sashital, a master imitator, who is the voice behind the tapori bhindi and South Indian baingan that you heard in a radio advertisement for a refrigerator. CRADLE WHISTLERS Asked about their skills, all three have one explanation: “It’s God’s gift.” Whistling and mimicking comes naturally to a lot of people. But only a chosen few can make a career out of them. No wonder Goculdas calls herself “God’s special child”.

Mimicking comes as easily as talking to Sashital, who used to mimic teachers in school and college regularly. Similarly, Goculdas and Surve used to play pranks that pointed to their future careers. Goculdas would often talk in a baby’s voice to fool her uncle. And Surve, who spent his childhood in Dadar, Mumbai, irritated the boys in his neighbourhood by first imitating the whistle that his friends used to call each other out of their houses, and then hiding.


Sashital is a veteran of more than 8,000 ads as well as a number of films and cartoon series. When lending his voice to a fictitious character, how does he know what will work?

“I go by instinct,” he says. “Certain voices work and go on to become big hits. Some don’t. There is no explanation for it.” His instinct must be bang on most times as his voice for Baloo the bear in Tailspin, Goofy and Launchpad in Duck Tales and the Genie in Alladin matched the characters effortlessly.

Goculdas, the voice of Julia Roberts in the Hindi version of Pretty Woman, decides how to modulate her voice only after she observes the character she is dubbing for. She works best this way, she says.

Ad man Ravi Deshpande, who calls Sashital “a hothouse of talent”, says: “A good voice artiste needs to understand sound as well as sound designing. Mimic ry is a talent that can be honed with keen observation and practice.” Take Shah Rukh Khan. Sashital did a perfect imitation of King Khan in a Pepsi ad that starred the Bollywood star. Apart from Khan, Chetan also ‘did’ Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Naseeruddin Shah and sports stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Kapil for their endorsement of brands and products on TV and radio.

And, incredible as it may sound, Sashital has dubbed for more than one player in a single advertisement. Considering that he has often made inanimate objects talk, it must be a cakewalk for him.


Goculdas loves the never-ending possibilities of the range of voices in her profession. “Each day is a new day. Every character I dub for is different, and so is their style. At times, I do five characters in a single day,” she says.

Sashital constantly reinvents himself to keep the edge he has over others intact. “This is a rat race,” he says. “It is also a very demanding profession.” So he believes in pushing the boundaries regularly. He is now dabbling with conceptualising ads, writing and singing. His firm, Chatterbox India Private Limited, set up in 2001, was a step in that direction.

Surve’s ability to whistle using music notations to guide him sets him apart in the industry. In fact, he insists on notations. “With notations, perfecting breathing and scale is easy,” he says. His association with sound runs deeper than whistling. Surve plays the violin, composes music and even runs a recording studio. But he says his whistling “comes from the heart”.

“Surve is superb. He is one of the most sought after persons in the music industry,” says Pritam, the music director of Dhoom 2.

Rupali Surve, a final year BA student who whistled for Ghungat when she was nine, practises whistling for an hour daily with her father. “I try to pick up tricks from him,” Rupali says. But because “whistling assignments don’t come regularly” she wants to be a sound recordist.


Surve, a regular in Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai and Rakesh Roshan productions, may have an impres sive resume, but has rarely got his name in a film’s credits. Goculdas got a rare place in the credit roll of Main Prem Ki Deewani Hun having dubbed for an animated parrot in the film.

Sashital was given an “additional vocal” credit when he sang for Sabse bada rupaiyya – the hit track in Bluffmaster.

But he wasn’t happy.

Why? Because he had sung the song and it was not Mehmood’s original track as projected in the film’s credits. Even af ter he made a fuss and was assured the error would be corrected, he is yet to be given credit. “The film lived up to its ¦ name,” he says sadly.


First Published: Nov 26, 2006 19:39 IST