Audible’s new title Buri Nazar has names like Supriya Pathak Kapur, Sayani Gupta and Rithvik Dhanjani lending their voices to the platform’s newest original thriller. Over a video chat, The Telegraph caught up with Sayani and Rithvik to know more about the experience of working in this medium.
What is it about Buri Nazar and the audio medium that got the two of you interested?
Rithvik Dhanjani: The audio medium is something I haven’t attempted before. For me, it was very exciting, almost childlike. It seemed like a new playground where I could have a lot of fun with my craft. I just jumped at it, also because it gave me the opportunity to collaborate with artistes like Sayani and Supriya Pathakji. I started recording for this with no preconceived notions, and I enjoyed every minute of it thoroughly.
Sayani Gupta: There is great scope with audio, and I find it quite fascinating... what you can do with the microphone in front of you. The distance between your mouth and the mic is almost like how it would be when you stand in front of a camera lens while shooting in the visual medium. When you go close to the mic, every tiny breath, every little emotion, every movement of your tongue, how your lips shut and open... even that gets recorded. You can do so much with it... it’s truly magical!
Rithvik: How deep Sayani has gone with this... I really had no idea!
Sayani: Come on, Rithvik, you really don’t have to know all this! Even now, I am talking in hindsight. When you are in front of the mic, you are just performing. But I love what one can do with the mic, and I wouldn’t let this opportunity go. I am glad Audible called me for this and it was such a breeze that we actually got done with it in lesser time than we had earmarked for it.
As an actor, does doing something like this require a different set of skills?
Sayani: It’s not a different set of skills, but it does call for some sort of awareness, of course. But it’s also acting, but as actors, we are constantly modulating our voices, our pitch, our tones, the notes that you hit... these are all branches of the same tree, the roots are the same. Voice is such an important part of acting. It’s your imagination that comes into play in the recording studio, and that also happens in acting.
Rithvik: It was very exciting to play with my voice and the skill required of me was to imagine the whole scenario and imagine what my character was doing in it.
Does that then bring on the pressure, or at least the awareness at the back of your mind, that you have to keep the listener hooked just with your voice, since there are no visual crutches?
Rithvik: Not really. The only thing that was playing on my mind was, ‘Oh, I love Pallavi! (Sayani’s character). I have to meet her soon, I have to meet her mom (played by Supriya Pathak Kapur) soon!’ That’s what you do as actors even in front of the camera. There are a million things happening around you, but you have to focus.
Sayani: I don’t think any actor while performing ever thinks about the audience. It’s not possible. You can’t think of the audience because then that means you are being untrue and un-present in the moment, which is all you need to do as an actor. You can’t even think of your own mother, forget about the audience! (Laughs)
What the audience will feel is none of your business. It’s anyway not in our control... we do everything to the best of our ability and to the best of our understanding. But having said that, if you have been there in that moment and done the emotion honestly, then the audience will grasp it.
And then again, it’s not just your voice. Sound design plays a huge role, which comes in once you have recorded with your voice. Our work is just the initial bit of the whole process... a whole lot of work goes in after that, in terms of sound design, music, foley.... It may not be a film, but these things do help you to visualise the scene and the people.
The title is very intriguing. Do you guys believe in ‘buri nazar’ or at least have some superstitions that a lot of people in your line of business tend to have?
Sayani: In life, I do have some, like touching wood or not passing on a pair of scissors directly. But I don’t have any rituals or superstitions when it comes to my work. The only ritual I have is that I need to know my lines inside out before I go on set. A lot of people have stuff like putting on a certain perfume or playing music, but I don’t have anything like that.
Rithvik: Honestly, I don’t believe in any of these. But one grows up with certain things, like not cutting one’s nails at night or not stepping on a lemon. We are conditioned to believe things since childhood. And I feel that’s not right, because bachpan se, fear is such a strong emotion in us... everyone thinks ki bachche ko daraunga toh woh sahi karega. Even now, I am scared that if I cut my nails at night, a ghost will come and catch me! (Laughs)
What’s contributed to the growing popularity of audio content in the last few years?
Rithvik: I feel everything comes back. Audiobooks were very popular back in the day, when we were growing up....
That’s true. I remember that when I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, we would listen to dialogues of films on audio cassettes. Even now, I remember the Mr. India dialogues by heart!
Sayani: Ya! I used to have a cassette with the dialogues of Ijaazat and I can never forget Rekha and Naseer’s (Naseeruddin Shah) voice. Before every song, the dialogues would play out, and it was so wonderful! I have also grown up listening to radio plays. So it’s nothing new. What Audible has done remarkably well is that it’s taken what we have traditionally known and clubbed that with technology. They have married these two and created a platform where one can listen to stories, books, shows....
Is there a classic character you would want to bring alive through your voice?
Sayani: I would love to voice for animation films! Maybe Jungle Book!
Rithvik: My favourite character is Casper, and I would love to voice him.