Mumbai, June 9 (IANS) "Many Happy Returns, Dear Don!" And, Vinay Nadkarni grins mischievously and accepts the greetings. But it is not his birthday.
On Saturday (June 9), the globally favourite cartoon character created by Walt Disney Studios, Donald Duck turned 78.
Vinay Nadkarni (50), a shy, unassuming Mumbai banker, is the Indian voice of Donald Duck since 1992 and is identified as the cartoon character in his Indian 'avatar.'
"In fact, most people greet me every year and I have become quite used to this," he smiled.
After all, his was the only voice selected from among thousands of others that had been sent for a voice test to the US in the early 1990s after Walt Disney Studios decided to enter the Indian market in a big way by dubbing all their cartoon films in Hindi.
Long before Nadkarni came on the scene, the original Donald Duck was 'born' June 9, 1934, in the cartoon film, "The Wise Little Hen" which was part of the Silly Symphonies series of theatrical cartoon shorts.
Though it was a bit role, it was the only one dubbed in a 'duck voice' and became popular among the movie-going public.
Donald Duck was also known for his trademark temper swings and he became angry first time Aug 11, 1934, in the Mickey Mouse cartoon, "Orphan's Benefit".
The original voice of Donald Duck was provided by Clarence 'Ducky' Nash and the distinctive semi-intelligble speech he created helped catapult them both to stardom in over 120 shorts and films spanning five decades.
Later, after his death, Tony Anselmo took over the reins in 1985 and continues till date.
In the early 1990s, when Donald Fauntleroy Duck, son of Hortense McDuck and Quackmore Duck, started on a trip to woo Indian audiences, the mantle fell on Mumbai youth Nadkarni to give him a Hindi voice.
"It is a very tough and painful job, speaking the lines, synchronizing them with the original cartoons perfectly to make Donald Duck appear speaking fluent Hindi with a natural flow," Nadkarni told IANS.
Considering it as a 'god-given gift', Nadkarni said that he had been 'quacking' since childhood as a hobby, much to his family's embarrassment and was ridiculed by his friends.
"Once, I was on a hiking trip in western Maharashtra and we were lost in the hilly forests at night. We came to a small village seeking food and shelter for the cold December night and the villagers took us to a group of youth camping nearby," Nadkarni recalled.
They happened to be NSS students of Bhavans College, Andheri (Mumbai) and they welcomed the lost group of Nadkarni and his three friends with open arms.
At the campfire celebrations later that night, Nadkarni 'quacked' and became the hero of the evening.
Later, they invited Nadkarni to a stage show in the college and he brought the house down with his duck voice delivering Gabbar Singh dialogues from "Sholay".
Two of the main organisers of that event - Narendra Verma, who later went on to become a leading Mumbai politician and now a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, and stage artist Sanjeev Nayak - encouraged Nadkarni to pursue his unique vocation.
"There was no looking back since then and the big break came in 1992 when my voice was selected for the Hindi dubbing of Donald Duck cartoons and films," said Nadkarni.
So far, he has dubbed nearly 500 films featuring Donald Duck and continues to do more as and when they are released for the Indian audiences.
From 1942 to 1944, Walt Disney had released six short movies depicting Donald Duck's life in the US Army, and became famous as the Army Shorts. It was in the first part, "Donald Gets Drafted" (1942), that his full name, parents' names and others were officially 'revealed' (as given above).
Donald Duck's other family members came to be gradually, including his cousin and look-alike Gladstone Gander, his sister Della Thelma Duck and his naughty nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Nadkarni said Walt Disney has been making attempts to dub Donald Duck movies in south Indian languages too, but have not got a suitable voice yet.