Bollywood fans know the power of lipsyncing.
This song "Kal Ho Naa Ho," sung by playback singer Sonu Nigam and lipsynced by actor Shah Rukh Khan in the 2003 film of the same name, can reduce me to tears of joy and sadness in seconds.
And one time, my Bullet Train co-producer Brian Hu and I traveled over 300 miles to San Jose, CA for a concert called The Slam Tour, just to see Indian superstars including Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, and Abhishek Bachchan lipsync to the songs of their upcoming Bollywood blockbuster film, Happy New Year. Sure, none of the singers of the songs were there, but it was a rare opportunity to see these stars performing in America, and we did what we had to do.
But nowadays, when many Americans think of lipsyncing, they think of a popular show called Lip Sync Battle.
It started out as a bit on Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show and has become a half-hour Spike TV show that regularly churns out viral videos.
In this episode of Bullet Train, we explore the history of lipsyncing -- namely, how did it come to be that on one side of the globe (in Bollywood), lip syncing has been done in earnest for the last 80 years by the most respectable and bankable actors in the world...
...while on the other side of the globe (Hollywood), lipsyncing is seen as a sign of inauthenticity and lack of talent, with lip syncing scandals destroying the careers of the likes of Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson? (That is, unless it's played as an over-the-top comedy bit on Lip Sync Battle, the exception being the very serious lipsyncing in RuPaul's Drag Race!)
We talk to musician Lucie Alaimo, who penned the essay "Unsung Heroes? A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Lip-Syncing in American and Indian Film," and Richie Mehta, an award-winning director (Amal, Siddharth, 2016's India in a Day) who is also a judge on Canada's reality TV competition Bollywood Star.
We also go backstage of Kollaboration Los Angeles show's Lip Sync Battle -- a competition between actors Jenny Yang, Naomi Ko, and Jimmy O. Yang -- to get some tips on how to prepare for a lip sync battle.
Jimmy O. Yang
Kollaboration's 2015 Lip Sync Battle (L-R): host Sean Miura, Jenny Yang, Audrey Okamoto, Naomi Ko, and Jimmy O. Yang.
Check it out!
For more Bullet Train episodes, go to BulletTrainPodcast.com.