Earlier, other language films dubbed in Malayalam never really received much attention in Kerala. But now things are different and there is a sizeable audience for them. But of course, there is solid teamwork behind this success story and there can’t be a better example than ‘KGF 2’. And Malayalees eagerly awaited the release of ‘KGF2’ like the rest of the world.
Those who have seen the film will vouch for the quality of the Malayalam script as well as its superior dubbing. Sankar Ramakrishnan managed to gather some of the finest dubbing artists and popular Malayalam actors for the film. We had a chat with director-writer-actor Sankar Ramakrishnan who wrote the Malayalam dialogues and spearheaded the dubbing team of the film.
“Malayalees prefer watching Tamil and Hindi films in their original language. But I don’t think we can say the same when it comes to a Telugu or Kannada film. Prithviraj wanted to make sure 'KGF2' had a wider audience in our state. The 'KGF 2' team wanted to create a universe of their own. They have a special language in that world. And they wanted to make sure we recreated that feel through our dubbing without dissolving the essence of the original dialogues. When they asked Prithviraj for someone who can do this job, he called me.
They told us not to look at it like a dubbed film and briefed us on their conditions. That the film was distributed in Kerala by Prithviraj, the dedication of the 'KGF 2' production house, and their desire to make sure this reached Malayalees in its best form, were some of the aspects that made me agree to do the film. Malayalees are well aware of the world that was created for 'KGF'. The film has been widely appreciated all over India. The soundscape they created for 'KGF 2' is a bit loud. Since it is not possible to exactly recreate it we decided to create a new world for the Malayalam version.
We made stars dub for the film
It is not because there was a scarcity of good dubbing artists that we opted for film stars. I felt it will be interesting to bring actors who looked similar to the characters in the film to dub for them. Nishtar Seth dubbed for Andrews. He is someone who picks his characters with care, and he is always there when I call him.
Similarly, Lena is a busy actor. She dubbed for Raveena Tandon. I know Lena personally and she handles Hindi and English equally well. She can speak Hindi without any trace of a Malayalee accent. I think it must have something to do with the fact that she was born and raised in Bangalore. When I told Lena about this assignment, she was interested and said she has only dubbed for herself. Since I wasn’t very sure if she would be able to dub for Raveena Tandon, I didn’t tell her that initially. I felt she would be perfect for Ramika Sen who requires a haughty, aggressive voice.
We didn’t want a traditional charming voice, but a confident voice that is at home in English and Hindi. Lena didn’t let me down. She appears as a powerful woman in that swearing-in ceremony scene. When they are protesting against the hero, Ramika Sen makes a tsunami-like entry. And Lena elevates that performance with her voice. I am sure in that scene where she talks while walking through the parliament corridors, she might have picturised herself as that character. That’s the sign of a true artist!
I felt some of the artists from my friends' circle will be ideal for some of the characters' voices. Prashant Neel’s right-hand Dr Soori was in charge of the script. I had a chat with Prashant and Soori. And they had allocated their associate Chandan Bhargav to help me. I decoded the script with the help of Chandan. Since it was filmed during Covid, they hadn’t finished the shoot and they were making constant changes to the script.
After the dialogues were written, we conducted a voice casting. We selected a few voices we thought were apt for the characters and send them to the team. They are not aware that these are the voices of some of the popular actors in Malayalam cinema. But they picked the apt voices, which included Lena, Mala Parvathy, Sudheer Karamana, Nishtar, etc. We had the freedom to pick the voices. If we were to dub for a scene featuring five artists it was crucial that they all delivered according to how the actors performed on screen. So picking known artists helped in perfecting such scenes.
This film has many child artists. Since it was Covid most parents were reluctant to send their children for dubbing. But Jewel who is a popular child actor in Malayalam came to dub for the film. He has dubbed for the scene where a child is serving tea at the police station. I was bowled over by his dedication. Even Kannada actors were stunned by his professionalism. You cant find such people who speak good Malayalam in Bangalore. When they speak, you can detect a trace of Hindi or Kannada in their accent. During the quarry scene, they were adamant that Ishwari Rao and his son should speak Malayalam with a Hindi accent. “Falaka Dastur Khudha ka Hukum” had to be repeated like that. We can of course translate it as –“Your Sultan will be back despite the obstacles created by fate and God.” Since that was Urdu, they wanted to retain it as it is in the minds of the audience. We decided to stand by their vision.
Though Kannada is a Dravidian language, there is a difference in speed between Malayalam and Kannada. You need to stretch a bit when you speak in Malayalam. By that time you can finish what you want to say in Kannada. And 'KGF2’s speed was also too fast. We had to write in that meter as well as dub in that speed and get the lip movement right. Tamil can be contained in our grammar. We have grown up enjoying the Tamil films of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.
But Kannada isn’t an easy language for us. During the dubbing of 'KGF 2', I met Puneeth Rajkumar. He sat with us and spoke in detail about ‘KGF 2’ and Malayalam franchise. That’s when I realised that 'KGF 2' is crucial to the economics of the Kannada film industry. Puneeth Rajkumar who had no stake in this film wanted ‘KGF 2’ to be a huge success in India. But two weeks later he died. More than mere dubbing, it feels great to hear that we were able to absorb the essence of the dialogues and present it to the Malayalee audience.
The Malayalam lyrics were written by Sudanshu, keeping the vast canvas of the film in mind. 'Toofan' didn’t take much time to become viral. I met Sudanshu just a few days before its release. Everything related to the film was kept confidential. Ever since we started the project, none of us have disclosed our involvement in the film.
When Prithvi posted about the film, he didn’t mention my name anywhere. It was more important to enjoy the film called 'KGF 2'. We wanted people to watch the film and then talk about its dubbing. There is a reason why people are talking about its dubbing. Now a lot of people are interested in seeing the Malayalam version of 'KGF2'. Considering we have always watched the original versions of Tamil and Hindi, it is quite surprising that people are keen on watching the dubbed Malayalam version of the film. This is exactly what we wanted when took charge of the film’s Malayalam edition. So many people have reached out to complement the people who dubbed for the film.
The voices behind the actors
The voice artist who has dubbed for Yash is Arun CM and he has been in this field for the last 10 years. He has worked with me as an associate. He said so far the Malayalam dubbing of such films has been off-key as they mostly opted for literal dubbing without understanding the situation. Or maybe they couldn’t find the appropriate words or didn’t get enough time. Here we had a lot of time to do this job.
I want to thank Prithvi. He would call and check with me during regular intervals. We were given enough support by Hombale films Vijay, Karthik and Prashant Neel. All the stars dubbed at Bangalore’s Akash studio in front of studio engineer Anand Raj. We did this all during the time of Covid restrictions. It was senior dubbing artist Tony who dubbed for CBI officer Raghavan. He came braving ill health. When you travel by train or flight, your voice might get affected. So we had to give them two or three days for their voice to get back to normal. We had to take several retakes. All the artists gave their 100%. It was senior dubbing artiste Adarsh who helped me in bringing all of them together. Kannadigas are in awe of him and call him tiger. You will be stunned to hear the voice that comes out of that lean body. They would all come together to watch his dubbing. We all worked together like one big family.
Chandunath who debuted in my film 'Pathinettam Padi' and later acted in 'CBI 5' and 'Pappan' dubbed for Prakash Raj’s father’s younger version. I remember Chandunath asking me if I have turned into a dubbing film director and that he had high hopes for me. I told him—“Chandu, don’t look at it as a dubbed film. You will know it when the film releases.” Through this film, Chandu also became part of KGF history.
Mala Parvathy is a friend. She is a psychologist and her English is good. She dubbed for Malavika Avinash’s character. She is someone who speaks a blend of English and Malayalam. If you look closely, you might even find some similarities between Mala Parvathy and Malavika. The character is someone who speaks inside a closed door. We have only heard Parvathy speak loudly. But surprisingly her voice was selected by the KGF team. She came to dub for the film when she was acting in 'Bheeshma Parvam'. That film required her to speak in a loud Fort Kochi accent. But this character requires a calm and controlled voice. That she was able to balance both versions shows her caliber.
Beena Antony’s husband Manoj dubbed for Sanjay Dutt’s voice. He finished the dubbing just before he was affected by a serious illness. There are several scenes in the film that shows his caliber. Sanjay Dutt is talking after a big action scene and his voice will be hurt and subdued. But Manoj pulled it off brilliantly.
It was model Shanu Suresh who dubbed for heroine Srinidhi Shetty. This was Shanu’s first dubbing, and she did it well.
We were insistent that Prakash Raj should dub for himself as he is very familiar with Malayalees. He also dubbed in other languages as well. We weren’t sure whether he would be able to dub for us. Despite planning five times, it didn’t happen. They took a track with three of us but felt only Prakash Raj should do it. Though his Malayalam isn’t flawless, I think Malayalees would rather listen to his heavily accented Malayalam.
We got a call just two days before the film’s release saying he was willing to dub. The very next day we went to Chennai and he dubbed the entire film in one sitting from 7 pm to 2 am. He wasn’t too confident about dubbing in Malayalam. But he said he was unable to sleep in peace after we asked him to dub. I think it will be impossible to catch the nuances in his acting while dubbing for him. So the best person is the man himself. Malayalees will forgive the minor flaws in his rendition.
Inayath Khan who is a don in Dubai speaks in Hindi. He is an Arab and he will never speak in Malayalam or Hindi. But I think it will be bad to make him speak in Malayalam. Malayalees don’t really appreciate the dubbed voices of Shah Rukh and Aamir in Malayalam. We are able to appreciate Hindi films without any dubbing.
Rocky’s left-hand man Kasim Bhai’s dubbing was done by Sudheer Karamana. He told me— “On one side there is Prithviraj and on the other side you are there. How can I refuse?” Sudheer actually speaks better Hindi than Malayalam. Kasim was safe in the hands of Sudheer. It was Harish Roy who did the original role and coincidentally both looked similar. Sudheer said he felt like he was dubbing for himself.
Guru Pandyan’s character was dubbed by Kottayam Ramesh, who is currently a busy actor in Malayalam. Shalma dubbed for Ishwari Rao. Bangalore-based Neethu dubbed for Rocky’s mother character.
I am not claiming that we did a perfect job in 'KGF2'. But we are listening to a Malayalam we haven’t heard before for sure. We took a lot of takes before coming to the final version. I think we have managed to come closer to the original 'KGF 2' script. They also gave me an opportunity to direct the dubbing sessions.
I can't say for sure the film would have looked like this version if I had just written the script and left. I was able to bring so many artists and also direct their dubbing sessions. There is a difference between the tone of Yash and Arun and therefore Arun had to work doubly hard to match his voice.
Vanaram is a cruel character and I think dubbing artiste Adarsh was able to bring that cruelty in his voice. If we give more time and great texts to our dubbing artists I think they will be able to do this easily. I am thankful to Prithviraj, Hombale films, Anand Raj Chandran, Dr Soori and Prashant Neel for making me a part of the 'KGF 2' family.
Recently an EK Nayanar hybrid museum was opened for CPM at Kannur. I directed a visual story for it. At the orientation theatre they are showing communist-themed films and revolts. We have finished the first stage. I am writing a script for a big-budget Santosh Sivan film. I am also planning to direct and produce a film.