“The transition period of audio visual media helped me to become a professional writer for animation. Radio Drama and commentary helped in voice-over, voice modulation and direction”.
When a student from the ‘Jabalpur Drama School’ landed in Mumbai, he had no idea that he will go on to become an important key of Indian Animation developing era. Time taught him and shaped him in all required skill sets through physical, mental and social challenges. With no clear direction, he trusted his sheer instinct and did whatever came in his way. This is none other than Mr. Amarkant Dubey - Voice Director of the film, “Toonpur Ka Superhero”, and writer of the concept and pilot episodes of “Chhota Bheem”, the popular animated series.
Amarkant Dubey with his Family : Vatsal(son), Alka Amarkant Dubey(wife), Amarkant Dubey and Anushka (daughter)
He started his journey from ‘All India Radio’ (AIR) and gave his voice and writing to some of the most popular radio drama programs of the day like ‘S. Kumar Ki Mahfil’, ‘Pyari Mausi Hamari Mausi’, ‘Videocon - Film Dhara’, ‘Radio Dream Stream’, ‘Lux - Sitaron Ki Sargam’, etc. He started doing voice Direction for “Fair & Lovely - Sapno Ka Khazana”, a program, in which stories were narrated with songs from films playing in between various situations. Radio was the strongest medium of communication during the 70s and 80s in India and Amarkant Dube gained as much popularity as his contemporary counterparts, like Vinod Sharma and Ameen Sayani, did.
Amarkant Dube continued working with All India Radio. In the meantime, he also did voice-over for the first time in an animated project, “Vartaman” (26 episodes-India’s first 26-episode animation serial- by Director-Producer Bhimsain Khurana) where he was lucky enough to work with Bhimsain, a legend of Indian animation. Back in the day, animation was very much in its gestation period, and experiments had been done only by a handful of visionaries like Ram Mohan, Bhimsain and Anant Pai.
Amarkant Dubey with Bhimsain Khurana
Mid 80s saw a growth of Television sector in India and Amarkant was dragged by destiny into acting. He did his first serial ‘Chunauti’, which aired on Doordarshan. His journey as an actor started from here. He acted in another popular series, ‘Campus’ on ZeeTV. He played ‘Mama Motilal’, a memorable villain in ‘Amanat’. He went on to do many roles in various other serials like ‘Prahari’ and ‘Tahakikat’ by Vijay Anand, ‘Jai Jai Jai Tridev’, ‘Darshan Do Bhagwan’, ‘Gayatri’, etc. Having worked in over 40 serials, he gained considerable mastery in the field of acting and character roles.
When serials started telecasting on a daily basis, it became difficult for Amarkant to concentrate on his personal and professional lives, so he gradually cut himself from acting but was left with confidence, and mastery over the art of acting and storytelling.
Along with acting and voiceover, he kept writing jingles for T.V. programs. He got an opportunity to work on “Bongo” a live action and VFX project on Doordarshan where he did voiceover and voice direction as this was a small budget project. The project was aired for only 13 episodes. During the same time E-TV started with “Panchatantra” (Rod puppet show), directed by Mr. Sanjeev Ghosh (Director of famous serial ‘Potali Baba Ki’). In this project, Amarkant did voice direction and writing for 5 years for around 328 episodes. This project helped him to experiment with his writing by telling stories in different ways.
Soon he got offer to work with Cartoon Network’s 60 min animation film ‘Vikram Aur Betaal’ where he worked with Green Gold production Managing Director Rajeev Chilka for a very urgent required voice over. He finished the entire movie in just a day and the next day, it was ready for submission to the channel. Impressed by his work and professionalism, Rajeev Chilka offered him another animation film, ‘Krishna - The Birth’. Amarkant wrote for the film and the children’s voice-over was done by his family members (son Vatsal and daughter Anushka).The trio repeated this feat for ‘Krishna Kill Kalka’. 'Krishna, The Makhan Chor’ won awards at FICCI and DIGICON. These films were aired on Cartoon Network and become popular among kids.
As he was already working on animation films with Rajeev Chilka, he was also approached for rewriting the concept of the animated series, “Chhota Bheem”, which gained approval after being rewritten by Amarkant. It took no time to become a popular serial among the kids, who had found a new superhero in Bheem.
He did voice direction for India’s historical animated feature film, ‘Toonpur Ka Superhero’, starring Ajay Devgan and Kajol. Amarkant also wrote for the first 13 episodes of ‘Krishna aur Balram’, an animated series. His son and daughter accompanied him for the kids’ voiceovers in these films. Today, they too are enjoying voice-over as a hobby along with their studies.
A visual from film "Toonpur ka superhero"
His son Vatsal who has been the voice of ‘Chhota Bheem’ serial on Pogo has also given voiceover for ‘The Adventures of King Vikram’ animated show aired on Disney XD Channel and voiceover for Krishna’s character is another cartoon series titled ‘Krishna aur Balram’. Daughter Anushka is also a voiceover artist for krishna and sarangi characters and ‘Luv Kush’ project of Green Gold Animations. Amarkant Dubey’s better half, Alka Amarkant Dubey is the pillar of strength for the entire family’s work of writing, direction and voiceover. In fact, Amarkant shares his credit name with Alka on screen as Alka Amarkant Dubey.
Today, the entire family is working for animation films and serials majorly to be aired on DisneyXD and Cartoon Network, setting an amazing example of life where everyone breathes, eats and survives animation. Doing voice-overs for animation films, and serials is their passion. With one voice, they mention that “doing voiceover, writing and direction is a real fun and we all enjoy it together”. We get time to spend with each other, not only at home, but also at studios.
Amarkant worked in an era where there were no set of rules and regulations or specific parameters to follow for animation writing and voice-over, but today he has got all the secrets to successful storytelling, voice-overs, and direction for animations film and serials.
In conversation with animationsupplement.com Amarkant shares with us his experience about Voice-over, Writing and Direction of Animation Films and Series.
ANS Interviewer: Hello Amarkant Dubey First of all, please tell us something about yourself.
AmarkantDubey: (smiles humbly)AmarkantDube is nothing. AmarkantDube, today, is talking with you by God’s grace. I have done nothing. It is He who has made me do everything that you know about me. I had come to Mumbai for employment – and ended up becoming a writer, actor and voice director. And all this has been possible only by God’s will and the support of my family – my kids and my wife.
ANS Interviewer: Tell us about your career. What does Amarkant Dubey do?
AmarkantDubey: I have been an announcer on ‘VividhBharati’ Radio for the past 25 years. But I’ve been part of the (film) industry since 1988, starting off as a voice-over artist. People soon encouraged my penchant for writing andopportunities came my way. Thus, I started writing for a multitude of areas like advertisements, jingles, radio programs, sponsored programs, copies, hoardings, and even for serials. Eventually, I got opportunities to work in the field of voice direction and became a full-time voice director, especially for animated serials and feature films. Currently, voice direction is the only area of work in which I am busy with my utmost dedication.
ANS Interviewer: How do you manage to work as a voice director as well as a voice-over artist simultaneously?
AmarkantDubey: When I am directing, I try to ensure that I do not work on any major character as it distracts from the bigger job. However, there is a line by the character ‘Kans’ (Kansa) that I would like to deliver. The character of ‘Kans’ was played by Mr. Dilip Sinha, an esteemed dubbing artist of our industry.
(Enacts a dialogue) So, there are things like these which I direct the artists to do. Reflecting back on our conversation, this is how it helps if a voice director has been a voice-over artist him/herself. He/she can direct the artists to deliver lines by way of doing it him/herself. In some cases, the artist fails to understand any specific requirements of the voice director. In such cases, if the director is able to enact the lines, it makes the job easier for everyone.
Interviewer: How different is it to write for animation serials as opposed to writing for radio or television or films?
AmarkantDube: Very different. As I mentioned earlier, when one writes for animation, there are practically no limitations to one’s imagination. When it comes to radio, the biggest limitation one faces is the fact that the audience will not be able to see anything, just hear. So the writing has to be such that a performer can make the audience understand the scenario. The performer has his/her own limitation when it comes to immersing the audience in the scene, and so the fact that the written material is not going to be visible has to be ever-present in the back of the writer’s head when it comes to writing for the radio. Long, drawn out conversations, big speeches and use of complex language was never popular on radio and never will be, especially with this generation. The people of today like things to be short and sweet. Advertisements last for no more than 10-30 seconds.
Writing for films is also very different. A film is the product of the director. A director has his own vision of whatever the writer has penned, and consequently can fiddle with and alter the material thus provided. I have written dialogue for a few films and it is always done by brainstorming with the director.
ANS Interviewer: How important is storytelling to writing and how do you achieve it?
AmarkantDubey: Of course storytelling is necessary. If you fail at storytelling, it means that you have failed at grabbing the attention of your audience, who won’t hesitate to change the channel. The more powerful the storytelling, the better you project will turn out and the more praise your writing will earn. Storytelling is the basis on which a writer will get a job in the industry. In order to grab a writing job, the writer has to use storytelling to impress his client!
ANS Interviewer: How do you co-ordinate with the director regarding writing the script and screenplay?
AmarkantDubey: Be it ‘Krishna’ or one of the puppet features I’ve worked on, first of all, we (me and the director) decide upon the concept of the feature. We discuss what the director wants to show and what he/she wants to highlight most. After that, I proceed to write the screenplay, over which I again discuss with the director. The director recommends a few changes sometimes. Very rarely, it has happened to me that the director demands some major change in the screenplay. I then make changes to the screenplay accordingly, or even try to make the director see my point of view and prevent some changes. If the director is convinced, we keep the original material. Thus, a good script is developed. Following this, come the dialogues.
ANS Interviewer: When writing an animation feature, do you concentrate on just fun or even pay attention to the educational aspect of the medium?
AmarkantDubey: Here, I’d like to talk about the founder and managing director of our production house, ‘Greengold’, Mr. Rajiv Chilaka. For those of you viewing this interview, if you’ve seen our project ‘Krishna’, you must surely have noticed that we (Mr. Chilaka and me) did not make use of any form of the Hindi language that could be considered crude or wrong. We did not even utilise any Urdu for the project. We never compromised on the quality of language for that project. We even convinced the channel regarding this. Our language would not “pollute” the young minds, for whom this project was targeted. At the same time, we did not make use of a very heavy-handed form of the language which would be difficult to understand by them. You will notice the very same thing with our project, ‘ChhotaBheem’.
Coming back to your question, I’d like to draw attention to the mythology of India. India has a very rich mythology, as well as lots of culture and folk-art. Most people have not even been exposed to 5% of this rich tradition. We have a lot to give to our next generations. And it is a very promising thing indeed, that through the medium of animation, this task has become very simple for us. It is a very good thing that there are people working towards this cause. And the children are bound to absorb this kind of exposure in a positive manner. Most children today watch cartoon channels. So if each cartoon channel has programs which introduce and project our mythology and culture to the young generation, it is a very promising idea indeed!
ANS Interviewer: Considering the example of the character “Krishna”, how important would your say is it to understand the character?
AmarkantDubey: I was not just involved in the voice direction of the 60 minute feature of ‘Krishna’, which aired on ‘Cartoon Network’, I had also penned down all four episodes of the series. I did a full-fledged research on Krishna. I read the Bhagavad (Gita) and understood everything about Krishna. And since I had read so much, and had written the episodes, I did not encounter many difficulties during voice direction. I say I understood everything about Krishna, but to say that is to make a tall claim! Krishna is a ‘Yogi’ (one who has complete mastery over oneself) and a complete character! No one can claim to understand him fully, but I learnt enough to get by.
ANS Interviewer: What process do you adopt when you begin writing for an animated serial?
AmarkantDubey: Excellent question! I’d like to underline the part of your question where you mention ‘animated serial’. For those of our readers who would like to pursue a career in writing, I’d like to point out that writing differs vastly depending on the type of project. Live action, animation, drama or puppet – all require different styles of writing. I mentioned ‘puppet’ because I’ve also written for that genre.
A very big pro about writing for animation projects is the freedom! There is no limitation to what animation can achieve. An animator can create whatever the writer pens down. This is obviously not possible in live action. So say if a writer decides that the protagonist has to jump off a 150 foot cliff and transform into a crow as he descends, a live action crew will go crazy trying to create a scene like that; an animator, on the other hand, would have no problems executing such a scene. The world is an oyster for the animator! So, an animation writer can write anything he/she can imagine without doubts about whether or not those ideas can be realised.
Coming back to your original question, since I drifted off a little – there is no set of rules when it comes to writing for animation. One does keep in mind that he/she is writing for an animation project. The target audience is of prime consideration in this case. For example, the target audience of ‘ChhotaBheem’ are children. Conversely, ‘Krishna’ had a target audience of both, children AND adults. Apart from this, the writer has to introduce his/her imagination into the story to make it more exciting and entertaining. Special care has to be taken when writing for children to ensure that the children enjoy the show and remain engaged – because this generation is quick to use the remote control to change the channel.
ANS Interviewer: Would you like to share with us a particular challenge you have faced in your life that you had the pleasure of overcoming?
AmarkantDubey: (smiles) Everyday life is a challenge! Everyday, we do something that we feel we have never done before. I had never imagined that I would ever do acting in my life. But I managed to pull that off. There used to be a serial called ‘Campus’, in which I had played the character of ‘Professor Mishra’ for 250 episodes. It was an interesting, slightly grey-shaded or negative character. He was a kind of tattle-tale and mischievous professor who used to influence rifts between the people at the college. I had great fun portraying that character! After that I received a part in another serial called ‘Amaanat’ produced by that same production house. In this serial, I played the role of a drunkard uncle. I had even more fun playing this character than I did for the role in ‘Campus’. The serial went on to become very popular; even I earned a lot of popularity through the serial and consequently, a lot of people recognized me through that part. I earned a sense of self-appreciation through that job.
I’d like to inform our audience that my right leg is polio-affected. When I was growing up, I had developed a sense of insecurity because of taunts and teasing from my peers regarding this trait of mine. I used to believe that I was somehow inferior to them. But after I acted in those serials, those very people changed their opinion of me. They realised that there is no hurdle big enough to jump over considering that one has the will-power and inner strength to overcome such difficulties. And I got this sense of achievement by just acting in a couple of serials. I’m certain there must be people worse-off than me who have managed to scale the Himalayas! A person can accomplish anything through courage and will. Coming back to the challenge that has made me proud – I live each day as if it is a challenge and feel happy to have overcome it. I hope that I face more challenges in life and continue to surmount them.
ANS Interviewer: Could you tell us about your forthcoming and previous projects?
AmarkantDubey: ‘Keka’ 3D Animation film is one of my forthcoming movies. Its release is being held due to some issues. Similarly, an animated feature film,and 'Gul E Bakawali' is ready for theatrical release and can be expected any time soon.
Coming to my previous projects – I’d like to talk about ‘Toonpurka Superhero’. This movie starred Ajay Devgn and Kajol. The voice direction for the whole animation part of this movie was done by me. The voice-overs were completed under my supervision and the entire voice-track was created by me from scratch. It was an honour for me to be part of a film of this magnitude. Another specialty of this movie was that it was directed by KireetKhurana, son of Bhimsen-ji. Bhimsen-ji is considered the pioneer of Indian animation. It was with him that I had started my career as a voice-over artist on his first project, ‘Vartaman’. He made ‘Lokgatha(s)’, which are considered to be the first animation projects in India, and I had done voiceovers for those projects as well. After that, I was a part of many of his other ventures. Working with him on his various projects contributed majorly towards shaping my career and a lot of what I know today is all thanks to him.
ANS Interviewer: Before we wrap up, would you like to give any message to our audience?
AmarkantDube: To all those out there looking to enter the field of voice-overs, be they young or old – I’d like to say this: It is a most wonderful career. You should most certainly be a part of it if that is your wish – but do so with utmost dedication! And most importantly, judge yourself. Do you have that sense of drama in you? It is not just necessary to have a good voice. Many people are blessed with a good voice, but without the sense of drama and voice modulation, one cannot hope to become a successful voice-over artist. The art of voice-over is less about voice and more about the science of breathing. While creating something with your voice, the way you alter your breathing is vital.
For those of you wishing to enter the realm of writing, I’d like to point out that I never thought I could write. Time and experience have sculpted me into a writer. Situations arose and I managed to churn out good writing, and I hope to continue writing in the future.
Whatever it is you wish to do, do so with all your heart and with steadfast resolve. Strive for success, and no one will be able to stop you from achieving your dreams.
Thank you very much Mr. Amarkant Dubey for sharing your story and valuable information with us.