Busted: Covering up a myth
This weekly column debunks the various myths propagated by Indian cinema — Tamil films in particular
Myth: You can disguise your voice with a cloth over the phone
Propagated in: Vaazhve Maayam, Vaseegara, Sivaji and many older Tamil films
One device that has undergone much change during the past decade has to be the telephone. Growing up, I remember being so fascinated by the dial tone that I would often pick up the phone just to listen to it. For someone as fascinated with phones as I was, Tamil cinema taught a lot. Among the prominent lessons I learned from it was that if I covered the receiver with a handkerchief and spoke, my identity would be effectively hidden. That is among the earliest times I learned that Tamil cinema was not to be relied on too much. The teacher I called up to apply for leave instantly recognised my voice, and let’s just say I got into trouble more than once for trying out this technique.
Inspector Sankara Narayanan is quite amused. “This was an idea propagated by loads of villains in older films. Despite films growing in sophistication, this trope refused to go away,” he says. “The only change, if it can be called one, was that this method came to be increasingly adopted by lead characters. The technique, of course, doesn’t work, and the person at the other end can mostly identify your voice quite easily. With caller IDs and cellphones coming on, there was little point to trying to hide your identity anyway.”
The policeman in him surfaces when he suggests that perhaps it’s best to suggest such faulty techniques to the audience. “Today, I see films showing that your voice can be modified with apps, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s a good idea at all. Why would the average law-abiding citizen need to know about it?”