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Brought to Life by the Voice

Playback Singing and Cultural Politics in South India

Amanda Weidman

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Pädagogik


To produce the song sequences that are central to Indian popular cinema, singers’ voices are first recorded in the studio and then played back on the set to be lip-synced and danced to by actors and actresses as the visuals are filmed. Since the 1950s, playback singers have become revered celebrities in their own right.  Brought to Life by the Voice explores the distinctive aesthetics and affective power generated by this division of labor between onscreen body and offscreen voice in South Indian Tamil cinema.  In Amanda Weidman’s historical and ethnographic account, playback is not just a cinematic technique, but a powerful and ubiquitous element of aural public culture that has shaped the complex dynamics of postcolonial gendered subjectivity, politicized ethnolinguistic identity, and neoliberal transformation in South India.