Whenever we watch a film in a language unknown to us, what do we do? We might not get the meaning of what is being spoken but we still get a slight idea as to what is being shared between the characters. This is possible due to the different scales at which the dialogue is spoken. It is due to this difference between the up and down scale that we start to derive meaning.
What changes scale of a voice?
Change of emotion is directly proportional to the change of scale in the voice. Whenever there is a slight change in emotions, it should be audible in the tone. That is how it should be. It is the job of the director to find out the emotional beats of a scene. Emotional beats are the invisible points in a piece of dialogue, where there is a change in a character’s emotions.
An example from ‘Jab We Met’ (Directed by Imtiaz Ali) can better demonstrate how the scale of voice changes, with a slight change in emotion.
Scene from ‘Jab We Met’
Let us discuss this scene from ‘Jab We Met’ where Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) meets Anshuman for the first time. The objective of this meeting is to take Geet (Karena Kapoor) back to her family as her family has not heard of her for the last 9 months. But Anshuman informs Aditya that he doesn’t know about Geet and her whereabouts. Also, he didn’t get married to her and she left.
After this primary information about Geet, Aditya questions Anshuman and asks an explanation as to why did he do this to her. The conversdation that happens thereon creates different emotional beats for Aditya’s character. The scale of his voice rises expectedly at 3-4 places.
We have prepared a graph that will better illustrate how the scale of his voice rises and falls.
We are listing below the dialogues spoken by Aditya only and we have numbered them according to the graph:
- Tumne use… Kaise Anshuman?
- Tum aisa kaise kar sakte ho?
- Phir bhi wo tumse milne aayi Anshuman, apni saari duniya apne peeche chhod ke. Kyun?
- Aur tumne ye saabit kar diya ki uski sapnon ki duniya nahi hai. Kyunki us mein tum jaise log rehte hain.
- Right.. Tumne uske saath jo iya hai, uske baad safai dene ki zarurat hi kya hai? Sab kuch to clear hai.
- Mere aur Geet ke beech mein kya scene hai, main tumhe zaroor batata Anshuman, but tumhare jaisa cheap aadmi ye sab nahi samajh sakta.
- Cheap.. Ghatiya.. Gira hua
- Geet 9 mahine se ghar par nahi aayi hai Anshuman, 9 mahine se.. Akeli hai kahin par.. pata nahi kin haalaat mein, kis tarah ke din dekhe hain usne, kis situation mein hai, wo bhi sirf is liye ki tumne use mana kar diya.
- Aur agar tumhe farq nahi padta na Anshuman..
- To sahi hua uske saath.. use saza milni chahiye ki usne tum jaise aadmi se itna pyar kiya.
Now if we clearly see, each dialogue is placed at a different level on the graph. Also notice, that dialogue number 8 is spoken by Aditya at the highest scale. This is because, his emotion is at its peak or the highest scale. This is because he deeply feels for Geet as she is responsible for whatever he has achieved in his life today. At this stage, his emotion is at its strongest.
Also, if you notice, the dialogues number 1 and 11 are at the lowest scale (less than the medium scale). This is because during dialogue number 1, he and Anshuman are strangers meeting each other for the first time. So the voice is slightly formal and below the medium scale. At dialogue 11, he takes out his name ‘Anshuman’ after accusing him for Geet’s condition. This is because he is in pain to get this information about Geet and his voice is quavering. If you’re about to cry, you might speak in a quavering voice. That is why, again, the scale of his voice dips below medium.
To conclude, every time when you go out with your screenplay and dialogues, do the following:
- Make a list of dialogues which are not emotional. Take them as a medium scale or a base line.
- Mark points in your dialogues, where the emotions rise and fall.
- Always try to give a different scale to the other characters in that scene so that there is a variation.