Manoj Bajpayee and Vijay Varma on how voice acting for Audible’s ‘The Sandman’ was challenging


The actors are a part of a stellar ensemble in the Hindi audio adaptation of the renowned Neil Gaiman comics

The actors are a part of a stellar ensemble in the Hindi audio adaptation of the renowned Neil Gaiman comics

Voice acting seems easier than acting. After all, the actor need not worry about getting her or his expressions right on screen. Looking at the camera, the co-actors’ coordination, lighting, makeup… these concerns are eliminated in an audio-only production.

It is not easy, say Manoj Bajpayee and Vijay Varma. They, in fact, feel voice acting is more challenging than performing on screen. Both are a part of an ensemble cast, including Tabu, Neeraj Kabi, Kubbra Sait, Sushant Divgikar, and Tillotama Shome, for Audible’s Hindi audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s popular dark fantasy comic series, The Sandman, first published three decades ago. The English adaptation, released in 2020, with James McAvoy, Riz Ahmed, Michael Sheen, Andy Serkis, and Taron Egerton, was among the most popular Audible series. 

In the Hindi version, Vijay plays the protagonist, Dream, who is trapped for 70 years by an occultist. Manoj is Doctor Destiny, who has taken over Dream’s realm. These are fantastical characters far from reality. “You need to transport the listeners to this world of fantasy, which is supposed to be spectacular – though there are no visuals. It requires tremendous skill,” says Manoj.

Voice acting, he explains, is different from dubbing, which is bread and butter for an actor. “When you are giving voice to something that you’ve already said… that is dubbing. When you are voice-acting, you are creating visuals through your voice. The audience should be able to see you.”

Voice, Manoj says, should be as important to an actor as it is for a singer. “Why does a singer do riyaz every morning? It’s because he gets a certain kind of sur, which he can achieve whenever he performs. An actor, too, has to keep his voice ready. Because in a play or a cinema or a series, every word is written very carefully. So, an actor needs to give serious thought about how he is going to utter it.”

Students of acting

Manoj, at least, had prior experience in audio productions. He’s been a part of a few radio plays. For Vijay, however, this was uncharted territory. “It’s special to be a part of a project related to a DC graphic novel that had a cult following. I was very excited to play the role of Morpheus (also known as Dream),” he says before adding, “But it was painful, too.”

Painful because he realised the rigours of having to hamper his other abilities as an actor and utilise only his voice to perform. “In cinema, you can get away without saying anything, with an expression, a gesture, or a movement. Here, your voice is everything. I might look like a fool inside the booth, trying to bring alive a character without the support of any visuals. There’s a lot of imagination involved. Say, there is a sequence where you are supposed to be eating or drinking while speaking, you need to recreate that exact sound.”

Manoj, despite being a three-time National Award-winning veteran, says he, feels like a student every time he embarks on a new project. “The learning for an actor never stops,” adds Manoj. “I have come from a theatre background. Vijay comes from FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). When you are there, you learn the different aspects of acting. But that learning continues forever. Whatever you learn from life, you also apply to your skill.”

Despite primarily working in films, both Manoj and Vijay say they cherish the audio medium. Vijay sums it up: “I think it brings back the old charm of hearing stories from people instead of watching it on YouTube Since, we are all experiencing screen fatigue, it will be nice to let your eyes rest and let your inner-eye open up and imagine.”

You can listen to The Sandman (Hindi edition) on audible.in



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