Visual note: Janhavi Kulkarni
– Ayushi Limbachiya
This Lumière Learning Monday, we took a dive into “A Whole New World” with the global creative powerhouse, actor, singer, voice actor, and trainer, Chetan Sashital.
Every element of our being is connected to the other. Similarly, our voice is not merely a sound but defines our entire existence. With his spontaneous voice-overs, captivating stories, and fun exercises with the Lumière audience, Chetan took our imagination to a recording studio; behind the scenes!
This Monday we felt more enlightened to explore the potential of our voice and how by nurturing it we can realise our life’s purpose.
So read ahead to unlock the secrets of voice and the unlimited possibilities it holds for us!
Breath & Sound
We breathe to live and express ourselves by speech (able-bodied). Just like we exercise to tone and strengthen our muscles, our voice needs some care and attention too. The practice is not exclusive only to voice artists. The diaphragm is a critical organ of respiration. We use it involuntarily and unaware when we laugh, and Chetan enabled us to be mindful of that as he made the entire team laugh instantaneously.
“Each Akshara (अक्षर ) in Varnamaala (वर्णमाला) teaches you different things,” explained Chetan.
Utilising the diaphragm, in a certain way lends each Akshara its unique identity. The key is to pay attention to the changing pressure centre of the sound.
Interestingly, the most important Akshara is ‘R’ (र). Small children and sometimes adults, struggle with its pronunciation. Practicing how to say the phrase, “Road roller”, is a good exercise to work on, mentioned Chetan. For practical learning, the team participated in Chetan’s fun tongue twister challenge of reciting a Marathi limerick multiple times and quickly and, learned how one can sharpen the clarity of speech. Here is how you can too!
Be a Proud Owner of the Conch (शंख)
Playing a conch is the best exercise to activate the diaphragm. The goal should be to play it in a single breath for at least 30 seconds. The right technique is to generate vibration of sound using the lips in synergy with the opening of the conch. This method of controlled exhalation ensures you don’t feel tired. After all, it is all about tapping into the power of our diaphragm.
Studies have shown that each time you play the conch it generates 50,000 vibrations.
“All the surroundings become purified, sanctified, sanitised by the conch,” says Chetan and recommends playing it at least 11 times a day.
In Mahabharata, each warrior owned a conch;
“Everybody should be a proud owner of a conch,” a lesson worth remembering and incorporating.
Sing and Strengthen
Learning and practicing vocal singing is another beneficial exercise for our voice. Training the diaphragm to match the perfect frequency of each note will improve the mobility and frequency of voice. Chetan’s connection with music is strong. He has been a student of Hindustani Classical Music for 14 years and is still learning the art. He also plays various musical instruments.
“Music is very important. It’s the best way to relax.”
Among the many insightful facts that Chetan shared, one was about how challenging Mongolian Throat Singing is. Traditional Mongolian herders develop different harmonics from one note by using their upper vocal cavity muscles. These sounds travel long distances to keep the animals close by.
Equally challenging is singing low notes. They can be used to create relaxing sounds, found in many Buddhist chants.
Parameters & Elements of voice
One of the challenging experiences in Chetan’s professional endeavours was to use the Base element of his voice for the character of Darth Vader in Star Wars. It involved the use of breath and an absolute relaxation of the vocal cords which is like doing Kapalabhati (कपालभाती), also known as the breath of fire.
Only an expert like Chetan Shashital could take us to the other end of the vocal spectrum by doing the impression of how a robot sounds using the metallic element of his voice. The pitch of such a sound is really high.
Other elements are Mids and Huskiness. Chetan was also requested to play musical instruments using his voice in his career. His creativity has no limits. Using the same voice he can play the Rudra Veena (रुद्र वीणा), emulate a fly and play the saxophone!
Intense Study of Voice
Deepa Soman asked Chetan about his interaction with artists whose voice Chetan was to dub and whether they doubted his capability. Dubbing for Late Amrish Puri in a Marathi film, was challenging as it involved the use of the base. Nevertheless, Chetan surprised the star with an accurate voice representation! Another time, he surprised Sachin Tendulkar while dubbing for a commercial.
The technique to dub successfully is to understand the individual artist and the impact of his established vocal identity.
“I’m not a mimicry artist.”… “My attempt is to catch that tone.”
Abiding by the correct grammar of the translated language is extremely essential!
Play of Language
Language is a medium of communication and Sanskrit is a significant one. Sanskrit utilises all Aksharas that one should be able to pronounce. All Indian languages except Tamil are derived from Sanskrit, so if one learns Sanskrit, one can master many languages with ease.
Additionally, each person’s speech is a derivation of the region they belong to, and the accent and meter in the voice are peculiar to their mother tongue. This makes it easy for Chetan to identify a person instantly;
“Every language teaches us different things,” says Chetan.
Observing, understanding, learning, and mastering the nuances of language and incorporating them in the voicing can bring an artist closer to the audience. Studying one’s state of mind is an aid.
“Your mind completely influences your voice,” Chetan stated from years of knowledge, experience, and expertise in this domain.
Fisherwoman and Tuk Tuk
Chetan’s friend, Suresh Eriyat, an animator and Founder, and Director of Studio Eeksaurus Productions Pvt. Ltd. had ideated and created a film 8 years ago. He approached Chetan for the voice-over for characters so that the story flows. This was a challenging task because it required Chetan to match the exact Lip-sync of characters without having a script in front of him. As he was dubbing he was writing the script.
Chetan usually says, “A voice actor is someone who ties a ribbon on a gift wrap.”
Chetan played 38 characters in the film and the language used in the film is gibberish.
The film won the ‘Dadasaheb Phalke Film festival Award 2016’ for Best Music and Voice Design. This was the result of a collaboration of creative minds. Rajat Dholakia, a multiple National awards winning Indian composer, was an arranger for Chetan’s vision and direction. This creative masterpiece has also brought home 18 international awards!
What makes this film special is the challenges it posed and Chetan’s spontaneous creativity and adaptability in turning them into opportunities.
Fisherwoman and Tuk Tuk Trailer:
Chetan opened for us a window into his experience with Disney. Earlier, Disney movies or series were not as accessible as they are today and it was challenging for voice-over artists to understand what the character embodies.
Disney has Standard Operating Procedures, wherein a sample of the character and its voice is provided to the artist, and nothing can be altered except the language. So once you completely personify the character and start loving it organically, the children, Disney’s major target audience, will love it too.
“The kid in you has to be there always,” advises Chetan.
Disney has acknowledged and recommended Indian voice-over artists as being at par with the U.S. and best in the world!
Chetan provides Voice Counselling to professionals who use voice as a means of communication. At times the psychological aspect is interlinked too. His consultation is focused on identifying and dealing with the root cause of one’s problem.
“I just show them the right path,” says Chetan.
The discipline of Audio and Speech Therapy tackles issues guided by fixed Standard Operating Procedures. However, Chetan thinks that sometimes one has to go beyond these and find an alternative to help each person uniquely. For instance, Chetan has worked closely with Deepa’s father and helped him with his valuable tips and inputs on speech therapy.
Chetan identifies and signals the potential for scientific research on the effects of accurate and right amount of recitations of mantras (Indian Chants) and the immense vibrations they create on the air quality around the reciter. We chanted the Gayatri Mantra with Chetan this Monday.
If you wish for absolute relaxation and quick sleep, we recommend to you listen to a 10 minute Omkar chant developed by Chetan:
Chetan left us with a beautiful reminder to tap into the power of breath and connect with our higher self and reach for the stars. We are all capable of that!
“Every voice is individual, each individual has his voice, so love your voice, take good care of your voice, make this asset grow. Because I believe that if you realise your voice you realise your purpose in life, because your voice is your Naada. And once your Naada connects with that Naada Brahma which is up there somewhere then you’ve achieved it.”
– Chetan Shashital
Ayushi is a Market Research Intern. Her formal education in Marketing and English Literature has shaped her passion for writing.