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‘Couldn’t watch the film while dubbing’

Mohan Kapoor is the voice of Bane in the Hindi version of 'The Dark Knight Rises''There's a storm coming'. And this is a mighty one. It's riding on 250 million US dollars to give you an idea. 'The Dark Knight Rises' or better known in the internet universe as '#TDKR' is director Christopher Nolan's last attempt at celebrating the much-loved superhero in a bat mask. While most wouldn't know, this masked vigilante has had several makeovers in the last 70 years (check them out) and the series has had him knock the air out of various adversaries. The most memorable one on celluloid being the Joker, played by Hollywood's finest- Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson. But the latest one (TDKR) offers an entirely new monstrosity: Bane- a gigantic bad boy with a metallic mask that is tightly punched over his face to constantly drug him to relieve his pain. Apart from the functionality of the mask (which is quite cool), it also lends a devilish demeanor with metallic worm-like teeth protruding from under his eyes and rising from the end of his chin too. And while this new villain is all out to spell doom for our man in black, director Christopher Nolan is meticulous about how exactly he wants his super baddie to come across on the big screen. And this also holds true for the Hindi version of this multi-million dollar franchise. So we decided to catch up with actor and voice-over artist Mohan Kapoor who has painstakingly tried to match Bane's intimidation and voice modulations for the Hindi version of the film, 'Batman 3'. The legendary TV host from Saanp Seedi has lent his voice in about 30 international projects in the past but has no qualms in admitting that voicing Bane was the most grueling recording session ever. In a candid chat with Kunal Guha, he shares his learnings, frustrations and what he believes could've been different (if given the option) about Bane's Hindi avatar.

Firstly, what was the character brief for lending your voice for Bane and how did you interpret it?
It was pretty extensive. It was relentless (sighs). The studios and the director (Christopher Nolan) were very particular that they wanted my voice and they wanted me to get as close to the actor's (Tom Hardy) performance as possible. They had a vision for the character and they wanted that to come across in all languages. Villains in Hindi cinema are very loud and punctuated or that's how the Indian audience would perceive a negative character to be. Physically, Tom Hardy is a huge and intimidating guy. But while you expect him to be loud, you would find Bane to be the most melodious, almost as if he had a gregarious manner. If I have to draw a parallel to Bane, the iconic villain Shakaal from 'Shaan' comes closest as even he had a very cool demeanour. Also because he's bald too and as am I and that could precisely be the reason why I was called in for this (laughs). If it was just the voice, they wouldn't have called me.

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Could you identify with the character of Bane in any way?
Apart from the fact that we're both bald, I connected with the nature of his animosity. Generally, when people are angry, their vocabulary is shot to pieces and they fire expletives because the brain isn't working. But when I am in a lethal mood and when I am truly out to give it to someone, I automatically switch into a calm mood and all my faculties take over. So my adrenaline is there, my mind is sharp and my vocabulary is controlled. Then depending on how acerbic my tongue gets, I can aggravate the situation or calm it down. Or I might say my bit and if someone is going to take on me, he better be prepared to take it the whole hog. So that is something I could relate to with Bane.

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Since director Nolan is known to be extremely fastidious, was he the same about his vision for Bane? Were there changes suggested each time you would send a scratch recording?
The feedback was very cut and dry and focused. It would be like, 'you're there but you're not there yet'. Then it would be like going back to the drawing board and trying to understand the mood of the character. Sometimes, I would literally mimic Tom Hardy's performance as at times, some things sound OK in English tonality. But it all bordered on a simple fact: follow the English tonality and the English acting (exactly how it was performed in the English version).

Wouldn't that eliminate any scope for improvising? And wouldn't there be any loss in translation since many phrases in English don't have the same impact or meaning in Hindi?
Firstly, we didn't have access to the actual film while dubbing since the makers were very cautious about avoiding piracy. So we could only see the character's face in a circle on the screen and that too if and when he was on camera. In Bane's case, he had a mask on, so there was no problem with matching the opening and closing of lips and I just had to go for the performance. One can probably play a character differently through voice modulation but here the brief was very clear about how the output should be. About dialogues losing their impact when translated, things aren't kept as precise all the time. I've dubbed for around 30 movies and each time we have to consider certain things. Like when I was dubbing for The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), he used the word 'swine' and we had to change it to 'Kya Kar Rahe Ho?' We have to give sense to the language and find an equivalent. So very often while dubbing, when I reach the studio, the script lying in front of me is just the first draft. Everyone contributes to this and in this case, Atul- the sound engineer had a lot of inputs. It has to be a logical script to an international character that matches the fabric of the character. But we have to finally arrive at a language that people understand.

How much of 'Bane' is Mohan Kapoor? Did you manage to add any flourishes to the super villain?
I don't know how much of Mohan Kapoor has gone into it. I have given what I was asked to give. It was my toughest dubbing project ever. I remember the first day I showed up at the recording studio. We spent about 3 hours just doing one page of the script and this was just the first scene of the film (the aircraft scene). The dubbing director Eliza (Lewis) was very reassuring and told me, "Once you get into it, you will do it faster." I was always like, 'let me watch the film and understand the character'. I eventually mostly stuck to the lyrical tonality and the melody of the voice in the original. We would do it in our way but then we would be told to keep it to that. Let's not go down that road. I remember sending 2-3 reels each time to the bosses in L.A and then awaiting their feedback. About 4-5 changes would invariably be pointed out and we would get back to it. The most difficult thing was to get the vision of these people. No feedback from L.A was a sense of achievement for the project.

The Joker has been the most iconic Batman villain ever, how do you think Bane fares compared to him?
The Joker was amazing. But what Tom Hardy has done with Bane is very interesting and I think there's a new menace on its way. There has to be more to this story and although people are saying this is the last one, I think there should definitely be one more.

While the biggest names in Hollywood are kicked about lending their voice to the next big Pixar production, why do you think Indian actors are shy about lending their voice to a film?
Animation films don't have that kind of draw in India. You know the kind of animation films produced in India (names a few) and in the end of the day it's a game of numbers and these films don't make the cut. In Hollywood, they first dub it and then it is incorporated into the film. So the actor's performance goes into the film.

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