The art of resounding Sotto Voce
“Main tumhe bhool jaun yeh ho nahin sakta, aur tum mujhe bhool jao yeh main hone nahin dunga…!” Suneil Shetty articulated his undying love in his oft-imitated voice with as much élan as Shahrukh expressed his stalker tendencies, when he stammered as he said “K..K…K…Kiran.” Voice modulation is an integral part of acting and may be that is why we too feel Sunny Deol’s anger when he threatens with his “Dhai kilo ka haath” and hearts melt when Sonakshi says “Thapad se dar nahin lagta saab, pyaar se lagta hai.” Actors infuse emotion in their dialogues and wield their voices like weapons. It is an art that takes careful honing and patient nurturing.
In simple terms, voice modulation means the person uses the pitch of his voice to emphasise his meaning when saying a sentence. If a sentence is read at an even pitch it will sound dull and not really convey much meaning, but if some of the words the sentence are stressed upon with a change in tone, they will grab the attention of the listener. A person can tailor his pitch to drop and rise a few times within a sentence to convey the underlying emotion/intention.
Demosthenes the greatest orator of ancient Greece is said to have put pebbles in his mouth and spoken against the sound of roaring ocean waves to strengthen his voice. The tips that can be employed to strengthen your voice are simpler than what Demosthenes did:
1) Pick a passage from any play or poem and read it out loudly. Not fast. Read it slowly such that you can hear each word from beginning to end very clearly. It is quite common to hear people gobbling up half the word when trying to convey something fast, and that really doesn’t help their cause because it doesn’t make what they are saying intelligible to the listener.
2) Stand in front of a mirror and emote what you wish to convey through dialogue. Say each word slowly, clearly and, if needed with gestures. Gestures will help instil your intended emotion into the words. Try and make sure your whole body is involved in the dialogue.
3) Look up how a word is pronounced if required, in order to attain the precise intonation. Having achieved this, practise it again and again, till it becomes second nature to pronounce the word correctly.
4) Breathing exercises are said to help strengthen the voice too as they help imbue the diaphragm with the necessary power. The diaphragm is a thin sheet of muscle that extends across the rib cage and is essential in breathing life into every word.
5) It is very important to protect your throat and vocal cords, so too hot or too cold food and drink need to be avoided. It helps to gargle with slightly salted water in the mornings to clear the throat and to drink lukewarm water just before practising voice modulation.
It is absolutely vital to practise unremittingly until your voice has the strength to be heard and understood in a single take. So make sure you – ‘walk the walk’ in order to ‘talk the talk’.