Home / Industry / Commercials starring Bollywood celebs often speak in many voices

New Delhi: Only after watching it a few times do you realize that something’s amiss in the high-profile ad for hair care brand Parachute endorsed by super star Deepika Padukone.

The actor, who looks stunning in the black and white film, talks about how she wasn’t born perfect but had to struggle her way up the ladder.

Except that the monologue is not delivered in her own voice.

Another commercial for packaged food brand Britannia’s Good Day Chunkies featuring the actor isn’t dubbed by her either.

But it’s not just Padukone alone who hasn’t dubbed her lines in some of the commercials. Kareena Kapoor Khan talks in a different voice for the commercials for cosmetic company Lakme’s Absolute Perfect Radiance serum and its Eyeconic kajal products. Petite actor Ileana D’Cruze, lately seen in Rustom, features in the Pond’s White Beauty Cream commercial which is also dubbed by someone else.

Advertising and brand endorsement industry experts say that the most important reason for this kind of voice outsourcing is the perception that actors often treat endorsements as a secondary job.

According to veteran ad filmmaker Vinil Matthew, for the last 10-15 years, dubbing for brand endorsements has been a ‘matter of convenience’. “Film actors may look at endorsements as a meaningless and shallow space," said Suresh Eriyat, founder and creative director, Eeksaurus Studios, adding that though the celebrities he has worked with have always been available to dub, “I’ve heard there is a perception that this is only about selling products," he said.

Also Read: Jennifer Lawrence world’s highest paid actress, Deepika Padukone tenth: Forbes

It may be a question of logistics, too. An actor who may allot a day or two a year for an endorsement expects both the shoot and the dubbing to be wrapped up within the time-frame.

For example, the slightest glitch in dubbing does not go down well with the clients as their deadlines go for a toss since the media channels are booked in advance. The actor, meanwhile, may either be completely unavailable or charge extra in which case there are great cost considerations.

The per day brand endorsement deal sizes for actors such as Deepika Padukone, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar vary from 1 crore to 4 crore.

Further, for multiple edits of the commercial of shorter durations, a change in tone may be required, again for which the actors, as Eriyat emphasized, may not have the time.

But not everyone agrees that actors are shy of dubbing their own ads: “The only reason actors may be unavailable to dub their ads would be if they’re on a long film outdoor for over a month and if the clients insist the ads need to be released sooner since it’s important to their brand marketing strategy. That’s the only case I can imagine why someone would not dub their own ads," said Piya Sawhney, director at celebrity management company Bling! Entertainment. Bling! manages Bollywood celebrities such as Vidya Balan, Sonam Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar.

The unavailability of stars is not an issue for all. With the emergence of voice dubbing artistes, there is no need to waste a celebrity’s time and effort. “Voice artistes can often match the tone of the original celebrity perfectly, they’re more flexible and come up with more expressions. Some actors even recommend their own voice dubs," said Matthew.

“In fact, in this era of sync sound, dubbing works more as a corrective measure," he added.

However, advantages of dubbing artistes aside, experts like Eriyat believe there is little that can make up for the loss of nuance in the absence of the original voice, the most jarring effect of which is manifest on a platform like radio.

“The star’s voice, especially if it is recognisable, is a very critical ingredient in bringing the communication alive," said Harsha V. Agarwal, director, Emami Limited. “Not using the celebrity’s voice for dubbing can bring down the strength of any commercial." The fast-moving consumer goods company, Emami, uses a clutch of celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Kangana Ranaut for its products like Fair and Handsome, Navratna hair oil and Boro Plus, respectively. The brand ambassadors for the company’s products dub their own ads, said Agarwal.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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