Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Big B to copyright his voice

Big B to copyright his voice

You’re not an aspiring actor unless you’ve tried your hand at an Amitabh Bachchan imitation. From radio to ads to comedy shows, good/bad/downright criminal copies of his voice and mannerisms are everywhere, and he’s not alone. Many actors and celebrities are spoofed or have their voices copied pretty much everyday – in fact, so often that we barely notice any more.

But recently, Big B took deep umbrage at a gutka company copying his voice for their advertisement, especially “for someone who does not smoke or propagate smoking or any kind of intoxicant, by keeping away from endorsing such products, it is most disgusting to find someone conflagrating the law of the land and the law of ethics,” he wrote online.

He’s also said that he’s going to copyright his voice so that it’s not copied in this manner anymore.

Kis kis ki copy?

He’s probably the most imitated star, but there are a bunch of others whom we’ve heard being spoofed endlessly over the years – in both commercial and non-commercial spoofs. These remain the favourites when it comes to copies. Says mimic and TV comedian Suresh Menon, “People like Sanjeev Kumar, Shotgun, Dadamuni, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan remain the most copied stars, and it just shows that our present day actors are not as iconic or as stylish as these older ones. We’re still drawing from these legendary stars; these days, there’s nobody really worth imitating or with a distinctive style, except maybe Shah Rukh Khan. Actors are very mechanical these days.”

DU student Samridhi Kapoor also remembers Sunny Deol being copied sometimes, besides Big B and other older stars, and adman Prahlad Kakar says Big B, Sachin Tendulkar, SRK, Shatrughan (with his signature ‘Khamosh!’) and Sunny Deol are copied often. Adman Piyush Pandey adds Asrani to the list.

Right ya wrong?

But while we all enjoy the humour when these stars or their voices are copied for spoofs, admen, mimics and audiences all agree that when used for commercial gain without consent, mimicking a voice like that is unfair. “Amitabh Bachchan is absolutely right. He’s recognised by his voice, it’s his signature. I mean, when someone does a thin-voiced imitation of a cricketer, we all know whom they’re copying.

If Big B gets his voice copyrighted, he can sue people like those gutka manufacturers, which he can’t do otherwise. It’s alright if you’re copying a star for a spoof or for the purpose of programming, but when you’re doing it to sell a product, even if it is a spoof, that’s wrong. When it’s all fun and games, you can spoof even Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. They don’t have a copyright law for voices yet, but if Big B gets his voice copyrighted, he’ll be the first one and he’ll be bang on,” says Kakar.

Pandey agrees. “It’s unfair to Mr Bachchan. He’s in any case overused by the industry. While the legalities are still not clear, it’s fair if he’s angry. Voices can be copied, but if they’re attributed to the star and used for personal gain, how do you prove it wasn’t them?”

While Menon agrees that it’s unfair in cases like these to use mimicry for commercial gain without the star’s knowledge or permission, he sounds a note of caution about overdoing the permission bit. “God has given us this talent – not everybody can mimic people well enough to make a living from it. If they want us to stop mimicry and spoofing altogether, they’ll have to compensate us for the money we’d lose from not practising skills we’ve perfected over years. Humour should not be interfered with. Famous people are always imitated, it’s the best form of flattery.”

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