Chetan Sashital is a man of many...er...too many voices. In a career spanning more than 30 years, India’s best-known voice actor has dubbed for 30,000-plus characters. From Bollywood potboilers and Hollywood animation films to TV commercials and radio spots, he has lent his voice to a wide cast of characters, including Balasaheb Thackeray in a Marathi biopic, Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Donald Duck et al.
His skills aren’t limited to mimicry; his talent is modulation—like giving a voice to as many as 38 characters in a single animation film. He believes drawing voices from the real world is absolutely necessary. “It lends authenticity to your work,” says the production engineer who used to mimic crows, cats and his teachers in school.
In a demanding industry, he knows the need to keep pace with latest developments in voiceover. “You have to constantly update yourself…like the latest software, technology in your field,” he points out. “Whenever I have time during the day, I enrich myself with such knowledge.” And stay fit too. He gets up early and heads to Matunga Gymkhana. “My day starts with a two-hour session on the badminton courts, which provides the best exercise.”
After breakfast, he is ready for his long schedule. “When I am working on a feature film, I know well in advance about the characters I am dubbing for, but on radio and television, the characters are vastly different,” he says. “My work remains tight and I hardly return home before 9.30 pm. Still, I don’t work for more than four hours at a stretch now.”
Every evening, there comes a time when he goes quiet and eavesdrops on just about everybody on the streets, especially vegetable and fish markets. “My rule is simple: if you want to be a Tansen, you have to be a Kaansen,” says the 51-year-old with the most malleable voice in India. “Evening walks are part of my routine. I keep my eyes and ears open to distinct voices. It helps me prepare for the characters I have to dub.”
His sorties are getting less productive as people hardly talk these days. “Most of them have a headphone on their ears all the time,” he sighs. “Their entire world seems to have been restricted to the 5”x3” screens.”
Weekends are family time, which he enjoys with his wife, son, daughter, and Simba and Samson, his two pet dogs. “Sunday is the only day when all of us can talk to each other,” he says. “We do not socialise much due to lack of time. But on special occasions like Diwali, a lot of our friends call in to celebrate with us.”
Whenever he manages to squeeze in some time, he makes illustrations or work on the script for an ad, spicing it up with his infallible humour. “On my off-days, I do voice counselling to professionals like lawyers, professors, actors and singers,” he says. Even ENT specialists refer patients to him. And like Amrish Puri’s compliment to him, they all go “Mogambo khush hua”.
By Giridhar Jha in Mumbai