Harith Iskander is no stranger to voice work; after all, his distinctive vocals can be heard on many radio advertisements.
So, it’s suprising to learn that he has never done any voice work for a feature film. But that has changed with Harith recording over Steve Carell’s voice for the Bahasa Malaysia version of Despicable Me 2.
The dubbed version is scheduled to premiere on the first day of Hari Raya on HBO.
At a recent buka puasa function with other local voice cast members of Despicable Me 2, Harith jokingly shared how he got the job: “Somebody took a look at Gru and saw me.”
According to him, the biggest challenge was that Gru is originally voiced by a well-known actor, who has made the animated character very much his own in the first and second Despicable Me films. “I am not trying to copy Steve Carell here.
“It was also challenging to sync the words in Bahasa Malaysia with the character’s mouth. There are also many jokes that cannot be translated directly, so we had to figure a way around them for our version,” said Harith who spent three days in a recording studio to voice Gru.
Despite the challenges, Harith concluded that he had a lot of fun with voice acting, doubly so with a character like Gru – a villain with a good heart. “I am a fan of the films, it has a great story arc.”
Despicable Me 2 once again revolves around the supervillain Gru who is sort of reformed as he has taken on a new role – that of a father to three very cute girls. That, however, doesn’t mean that Gru isn’t going to dabble in some weird experiments assisted by his one human scientist, Dr Nefario, and his many willing (and babbling) minions.
Things change for the stranger when Gru is kidnapped by Lucy Wilde, an attractive female agent with the Anti-Villain League, who wants his help to stop another former villain.
Now if only Gru could stop being attracted to Lucy and stop his eldest daughter from dating the suspect’s son, his life would be so much simpler.
Voicing the role of Gru’s love interest is none other than Lisa Surihani, who can be considered a pro in voice acting having done two previous gigs for HBO Asia (The Smurfs and Madagascar 3) and one for theatrical release (The Smurfs 2).
“Voice acting is something I have always wanted to be part of,” shared the beautiful actress. “I am enjoying the process of going into the recording studio very much, and just act with the voice and not be too concerned on the (right) facial expressions.”
However, she agreed with Harith that it was difficult to match the English lingo with our own national language, and to make sure the audio and visual sync.
“What sounds funny in English doesn’t necessarily mean it’s funny in Bahasa Malaysia, and how things are said in English is different. But we found a way to localise the context,” she assured.
Lisa, who replaces Kristen Wiig from the original version, took things in stride too as she was faced with another uphill task. “I read my lines in Bahasa Malaysia, and all the responses were in English. I was speaking to (the original) Gru.”
Nonetheless, Lisa – who has five films waiting for release later this year and in 2015 including Cicakman 3 – finished her voicing duties in just a day although she was booked to be in the studio for two days.
Besides Lisa and Harith, an unlikely artiste joins the ranks of voice acting. Actor and celebrity chef Datuk Fazley Yaakob is the voice of Dr Nefario.
OK, how does a 36-year-old voice a 63-year-old? “I really had to make it different than my own voice. I don’t think anyone would know that Dr Nefario is me!” said Fazley, who gave the cantankerous character a gravelly voice in the film.
“Dr Nefario is not the healthiest guy as he is constantly coughing so I figured it would stand to reason why his voice is that way.”
Other celebrities who participated in the project include Hafizuddin Fadzil as El Macho, seven-year-old Puteri Balqis Azizi (Agnes), Farhanna Qismine (Edith), Singaporean actor Hisyam Hamid (Floyd), Hanis Zalikha (Jillian), Didie Alias (Shannon), Hafiz Suip (Antonio) and Haniff Hamzah (Silas).
> Don’t miss Despicable Me 2 (with Bahasa Malaysia and English language audio options) on July 28 at 9pm on HBO (Astro Ch 411).