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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Angelina Jolie speaks with Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan’s voice in Maleficent II

Angelina Jolie speaks with Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan’s voice in Maleficent II

Mistress of Evil’s voice has been dubbed in Hindi by Indian star actress Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan in Disney’s Maleficent II, which opens in India on 18th October, 2019. In a press meet held in Mumbai’s J.W. Marriott Hotel on a Monday afternoon, Bikram Duggal, Executive Director and Head for Disney’s Studios business in India, revealed that hers was the first, and only, name that came-up during a Monday morning company meet, and by Wednesday, they had her on board.

Unbeknownst to Disney, Aishwarya took daughter Aaradhya, now 7, to see the film that same day, at its Cannes première, after which, quite uncannily, she received their email, on Wednesday, with the proposal. “It was bizarre,” said Aishwarya. Duggal stressed that Disney believes in retaining all the visual content of its films in their dubbed versions, but does everything else it can to reach deep into the interiors of India. These steps include getting the best talent to dub, like ShahRukh Khan in The Lion King and Aishwarya in Maleficent, best talent to write the language version, like Mayur Puri for Maleficent, best lyricist to pen the language lyrics, of the calibre of Irshad Kaamil, and the best singers to sing the songs in the respective languages, like Armaan Malik in the present film. They also push their language version trailers hard and are very active on social media about Indian languages content.

Mr. Duggal is responsible for Marketing and Distribution of all of Disney’s Hollywood releases in India. Additionally, he also leads the central marketing function across the organisation, to ensure alignment, in the way the company engages fans and audiences and positions the brands and franchises across various touch-points and strategic marketing projects, such as the Data Management Platform and Short Form Content Creation. “WEfelt that Aishwarya was just the person to essay the character, which has strong shades of grey, with grace and poise,” he confided.

After an introduction by Mr. Duggal, compere Rohini took over, and kept gushing over all the time. Aishwarya walked on to the stage to muted applause and the three of them took their seats, after which Rohini posed questions to them. At the end, there was a Questions and Answers session, which was followed by lunch.

Mistress of Evil marks the dubbing debut of Aishwarya, who has often had her own voice dubbed in south Indian languages, in which she has done many films, and Bengali—Chokher Bali being her only foray into the East. In fact, her acting debut was in a Tamil film, Iruvar (1997), wherein her voice was dubbed. She is married to actor Abhishek Bachchan, son of Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri-Bachchan.

Aishwarya was supposed to travel in a few days’ time, but Disney just wanted a couple of hours every day, for a short period, and that suited Aishwarya. When Rohini asked her whether it was difficult or easy, Aishwarya said that it was neither difficult not easy, but something different. “And being a thorough professional, I did not think of it as an opportunity to exploit, rather as a chance to do something I believed in. I had to see the scenes and emote. It was not a voice-over, or going there and merely mouthing lines; it was about enacting,” she averred. Of course, she has dubbed all her own dialogue in Hindi films that were not shot with sync sound, as any actor in her place would have.

Angelina Jolie, the original Maleficent in both the 2014 and 2019 editions, and Aishwarya, her ghost-voice, have never really met, except for a fleeting meeting at Cannes in May this year. But once the news spread that Aishwarya was going to dub for Angelina, fans all over the world got active on social media, “Her fans, my fans, and fans of both of us, individually and collectively,” revealed Aishwarya, and they sent her sketches and messages galore. “A heartfelt thank you, to all of you,” she announced.

A Hindi teaser trailer was also projected, showing Aishwarya dressed like her character and emoting, in close-up, looking gorgeous, as ever. Clever idea indeed!

Hindi trailer, with Aishwarya on screen:

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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