The art of dubbing

An interview of Bahrâm Zand

Bahrâm Zand has a unique voice. An experienced dubber, many Iranians have grown up, smiled and cried to the sound of this man’s voice. During his long career, he worked with numerous famous movies and TV series: both Iranian ones and foreign productions like Navarro and Sherlock Holmes.

You started dubbing at a very young age. How come you chose this path?

I’ve always been interested in presenting movies. Because of my special voice, people always used to encourage me to take the exam to be a presenter. They said I would succeed for sure. Back then, each time I started to speak, everyone stopped what they were doing to listen to me. One day, I went ahead with it and passed the exam. At that time, in order to make sure your voice was right for the expected role, you first did an internship. This way, you would learn how to work with your voice. I started making several of these internships before working my way up. I’ve been working in this field for almost 40 years now.

According to you, what is dubbing: an art or a technique?

Both. I don’t consider them as separate. Because you’ll never find any type of art without its own technique. It’s the same with music or poetry. In fact, each artistic field follows its own rules, which are adapted to the specifics of that art form. Learning an artistic technique, you prepare the ground for something hidden and unknown. For instance, a musician just needs to follow a repetitive and mathematic logic when playing his instrument, but the moment his fingers start playing a note, this is when the making of art starts. It’s set in motion by the musician’s will. This process is similar to dubbing. While one part of the dubbing job is very technical, the other concerns the inspiration which inspires the artist. This phenomenon, which might appear easy, is in fact quite hard.

So is dubbing like a game led by the voice?

Yes, exactly. When dubbing, we transform ourselves into actors. Us dubbers make as much effort as the actor himself or herself, but we should never express anything more than what he or she says. When dubbing the film The Patriot for instance, we came to the scene where Mel Gibson’s son dies. The dubber doing the father left the studio in tears as had it been his own son.

A similar thing happened when working with the movie The Sixth Sense. Dubbers Shirzâd and Râdpour were so affected by a powerful scene between the mom and the son, that they both started to cry. I was the dubbing director, and I left the room so that they could express their sorrow without being disturbed.

As dubbers, our profession is somehow similar to that of the goalkeeper in a football game. Like him or her, we have to protect our goal. If the goalkeeper does his or her job well, no one notices it. But, as soon as he or she fails, we will all start criticising it. That applies to us dubbers too. If we work well, no one sees it. But everyone notices if there is a small mistake.

How does the future look like for dubbers?

There’s no retirement in our profession. If I lose my voice, I’m done. So those who dedicate their lives to this job risk a lot. It’s just like a small bubble on the water surface. It can disappear at any time, just as if it never was there. Lots of people doing dubbing have run this risk.

There are also those who choose this work as a side job. But really, it’s only when doing it full-time that you can develop your full potential. For me, dubbing is the ultimate job, although I’m well aware that I can fall sick or lose my voice at any time, thus loosing my job.

The interview was made by Elâheh Hâdjâghâ and, Mohammad Zâdeh, translated by Mashallah News and was published with the courtesy of La revue de Téhéran.

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