The voice of the force

Unsung stars

The voice of the force

For those of you who were lucky enough to watch the recently concluded Aero India 2017, the sound of the fighter planes whooshing past must still be ringing in your ears.

As these mean machines roared past the cheering crowds, another sound could be heard in the background — a voice enthusiastically giving the lesser known details of the plane and the pilot as well as explaining every twist and turn of the jet, causing the audience to applaud on cue.

These facts and features were presented by a dedicated time of five, part of the primary Air Force commentary team. Responsible for the announcements during all major functions of the Air Force, it is no easy task that they have taken on, in addition to their usual duties.

“I got into the commentary panel in 2007,” says Wing commander Prabhjeet Singh. “I applied for this and had to give an audition in front of a panel of specialists. They ask you to read a few paragraphs and you will be assessed on the basis of your pronunciation, diction, modulation and so on.”

But even after clearing that test, the distance to a seat in the commentary box is still somewhat long, he points out. “You will be asked to sit as an observer for certain events before letting you take up the task. The situations are very dynamic and things may not always go according to plan. So you should have the confidence and capability to adjust accordingly,” he says, adding that this is an additional role they have taken on, along with their basic duties in the Air Force.

Wing commander Satyendra Kumar Chauhan explains the requisites for this job. “Obviously you have to have a passion for commentary as well as a flair for writing. A background knowledge about aircraft and the history of whatever event you are preparing for is also mandatory. Knowledge gives you confidence and allows you to incorporate last minute changes.”

Talking about Aero India in particular, he says, “We have to understand the manoeuvres and what he plans to do next. If the wind direction changes or some other factors come into play, the pilot will change his routine. You have to be prepared for that. Also, aircraft like F-16 or the Dassault Rafale make a lot of noise. You get gaps of 10-20 seconds in between bursts of sound and you have to finish your commentary within that.”

Squadron Leader Tanya Singh was picked out from her unit to audition for the panel, something which made her feel “very proud”. “I have been a debater all my life and have taken part in many school and college level activities. But everyone here has many laurels to their name so getting picked up was a matter of honour to me. ”

Her first event as a commentator was the Air Force Day Parade that took place on October 8, 2011. “I was so nervous; there were so many people there. You are talking about eminent people and their achievements as well as showcasing the might of the Air Force. I had butterflies in my stomach and was hoping that I don’t say anything incorrect. But it was a wonderful occasion for me.”

Mistakes are not an option, explains Flight lieutenant Anjali Rai. “The script is vetted by seniors before we are given a go-ahead so facts are never wrong. In case you goof up on a word or something while speaking, you just have to move on and quickly change the words.”

She adds, “We alternate voices during events. In case of a parade or so, one person may read two paragraphs or so. In case of a display event like Aero India, one person takes care of one aircraft. It is hard work; what people hear is only the final product. A lot of work goes behind it.”

On the day of the event, a lot of things have to be taken care of. “No sound is allowed there, not even shifting of paper,” says Anjali to which Satyendra adds, “We don’t communicate through words. Instead we use stick-ons, whiteboards and so on.”

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