A Blog on Cinema

Finding the right voice


In a recent interview A R Rahman was asked about this trend of actors singing for themselves and he replied

Yes, like in the West, actors never practise to use someone else’s voice. Nicole Kidman used her own voice in Moulin Rouge. I think that should happen in India too. It will be good if actors learn music because it will make our industry more credible. It will be good if these things could happen simultaneously.[Interview: Sound of Rahman via LazyGeek]

Kamal Haasan imposes himself on most of his films these days as a playback singer and Aamir Khan had the hit, Aati Kya Khandala. Sanjay Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan too have tried various songs. In Malayalam, Mohanlal has tried a few songs with his limited singing capabilities and among actresses Manju Warrier has atleast one song (Chembazhukka Chembazhukka).

Still all these actors have limitations and we will alyways need playback singers. While choosing the playback singer, one important factor should be how well their voices match.
As an example let us look at Vineeth Srinivasan who has ventured into singing big time. In Udayananu Tharam, he sang a song for his father and it was excellent since both of them have the same voice and we felt as if Srinivasan himself was singing that song. Both Mammotty and Mohanlal do not have the same voice as Srinivasan and we were amused to see Vineeth singing playback for both of them, in Thuruppugulan and Rasathanthram. Similarly it was Afsal who sang for Mammotty in Rajamanikyam. Recently we saw the movie Sanmasullavarku Samadhanam (again) and it was Yesudas who sang Pavizhamalli for Srinivasan.

Imagine a man with an excellent voice like Mammotty acting all macho in Thuruppugulan and when it comes time to sing a song, he sounds like a bumblebee. Similary it is odd when a man with the voice of a bumblebee like Srinivasan turning all baritonic when he sings Pavizhamalli.

We don’t mean to say that new singers like Vineeth and Afsal are bad singers, it is just that their voices does not suit certain actors. Probably since we grew up hearing the voice of Yesudas, we think he is the right voice for Mammotty and Mohanlal. A better way to use these talents would be to let the song play in the background while the story progresses forrward. In this technique, the actors do not have to lip synch to the songs and it would not look odd as well.

We wish film makers  pay serious attention to these aspects.

Read Also: How mediocre singers come up


  1. Hollywood actors and actresses (so far the ones who have sung in movies) have a good voice and a good sense of music. You would be completely amazed if you listened to Kidman or Kate Winslet singing in movies. But our superstars like Mammootty and Mohan Lal sound terrible when they sing. Mammooty hasn’t tried singing more than once or twice, I think. But Mohan Lal seem to get addicted to his own voice and sing whenever he gets a chance. But such an awful singing! (like Balettan, Kannezhuthi Pottumthottu etc). They should know their excellence is in acting and not in singing.

  2. I agree Jo, i can barely stand when these star night programs come and actors try to sing, i feel like throwing tomatoes at them!

  3. Personally I like MohanLal singing. The thing is, the magnitude of his stardom is so big that we have got so very used to his voice, style of walking, smile.. everything that comes from him. So when MohanLal sings a song, its not the musical quality that is meant to reach the audience, its the stardom. The fact that MohanLal is singing a song! The fact that the voice which the a generation has gotten so used to is rendering the song! We invariably smile when he sings. And its not as if he is that terrible a singer. He has good rhythm sense and pitch sense. True, he does not have a singing voice. When the product is delivered with ‘MohanLal’s stardom + not-so-ridiculous musical quality’, it becomes more than just palatable to the audience!

  4. “But Mohan Lal seem to get addicted to his own voice and sing whenever he gets a chance. But such an awful singing! (like Balettan, Kannezhuthi Pottumthottu etc).”

    Sorry Jo – Cant agree on that. Lal is not a singer; hes an actor..but as a singer he has done more than a decent job – if he didnt do a good job of his singing, producers wont have asked him to sing. I also dont think, he goes after them asking them for a song. I suppose he should be perfectly aware of his limitations as a singer and would do it, ONLY if it fits the scene – be it Balettan, Chitram. In Kannezhuthi Pottum thottu, he has sung for Abbas, which could be have been the producer’s idea

    About Mammotty, I belive he has sung in Pallavoor Devanarayanan. Havent seen the movie – so cant comment on it.

    Tony – I thought we were talking abt singing in movies here – not in star shows where every tom dick and harry take to the stage shout hoarse in the name of singing.

  5. Unni, I was just referring to cinema actors singing in movies, like Mohanlal and Mammooty, who have sang at cine shows. Usually its their star power not the vocal chords thats pull the applause.

  6. Pingback: varnachitram » Blog Archive » Singer-Actor-Hit Combo

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