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Shamshir Luthra

Popular Radio Jockey | 20 Aug 2003

"Broadcasting will mature only if we all think about empathizing with the audience."

Radio Speak has explored all facets of radio business and this week we bring to you the very people who make these radio stations live wire , successful and lend a personality to the program or a station.In a tête-à-tête with Jasmeen Dugal of exchange4media, Shamshir Luthra – the Popular Radio Jockey, discusses the importance of a radio jockey vis-à-vis the station and the importance of empathy in radio broadcasting. Currently Shamshir does two shows with RED.

Q. Tell us about your journey with radio.

My first program on radio was 'In The Groove' in June 1985. Subsequently, I was involved with a wide range of programs on various channels. Then, FM happened. It was a new concept, a completely new frequency that aimed to be different. No trends that could be followed and no previously set guidelines. FM was a channel without a face or character. Soon I was presenting programs on AIR FM – 'You asked for It', 'Music on the Rocks', 'Mixed Bag' etc and worked round the clock to make 'Vaishali FM' a success. And I worked pretty hard at what I was doing. The night previous to the launching of Six O'clock FM, I slept in my car outside the recording studio, waiting for the studio to give us time to record our launch program for the same evening. To continue the journey, on Times FM, I did 'Time Out!', 'Dial In Hour', 'Dial Out', 'Polo Dial In Hour' and 'Lehar Namkeen Mazaa Unlimited'. And was involved in endless hours of research and scripting. My efforts soon paid off. I received a 9-meter long letter from a listener, a quota of 100-page letters a week, letters written in blood from listeners, etc. And I still preserve these as a cherished gift … Today I’m doing ‘Shamshir Rai Luthra Top Hits 25’ on Red FM. This is a lengthier version of ‘Das Se Gyarah;’ it’s from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and sports a new title. Also, there’s ‘Aao Khayen Rashi Phal’ which is an astrology show Monday through Saturday.

Q. Do you think such information capsules capture audience interest?

Yes they do. If you present the information in an engaging, humorous manner, it will definitely catch audience attention, and they’ll tune into the capsule every day.

Q. It is believed that you set quite a few trends?

Yes. Instead of following trends, I created a few of them myself. When I hosted 'Rock Out' and '6'clock Party' on 6 O'clock FM, for the first time on air, the latter included the top numbers played in Delhi's discotheques each week, as well as interviews with DJs, VJs, music composers, rock groups, artists etc. So, you could call me a trendsetter of sorts. The concept of Hinglish caught on after a couple of months post introduction by me in an era where most RJs like Ameen Sayani concentrated on pure Hindi. In fact, I was the first person to start the trend of Hinglish in both radio and television.

Q. What would you say is the mantra to success in radio jockeying?

There are four mantras for success: vision, consistency, empathy and the art of communication. You have to reach out to your audience. It’s not the lingo, it’s the way you present it; your attitude. And you need to know what to give them. I’ve been a door-to-door marketing executive so I have knowledge and can feel the pulse of the audience. They all have different tastes but what they do have in common is that they don’t want philosophy sprouted at them in-between top hits! I speak for just 30 – 40 seconds between songs and I focus on jokes and other things in a lighter vein. I firmly endorse the concept of mastering a skill and only then, moving on to something else. As an example from another profession, there are several ramp models that leave the profession the moment they get a film offer; Nayanika Chatterjee refused offers and made a firm decision to stick to the ramp and master her profession. So similarly, I decided to be patient, learn the ropes and master the art of radio jockeying. My role model was Ameen Sayani and I emulated his style till the time I developed my own. This happens in every field. Daler Mehendi emulated Malkit Singh for years until he came into the public eye with his hit song ‘Bolo Tara Rara,’ and developed his own distinctive personality. But what is most important is empathy. Broadcasting will mature only if we all think about empathizing with the audience. Take the case of the BMW incident. When I was asked to do a talk show on this, I spent a night sleeping on the curb so I could gain a proper perspective of what it feels to be in the situation; what the people crushed under the car must have felt; what a person sleeping on the curb should be aware of, etc.

Q. How important is the role of a radio jockey in giving support to the station?

A radio station should ideally promote the jockey’s personality. I’ll give you an example from television. Today, when you think of Barkha Dutt or Rajdeep Sardesai, you will immediately think of NDTV. Their personality is so strong, people will remember them and their details, as opposed to several other faceless newsreaders that come and go, and don’t make an impact. So ultimately, if the personality of the presenter is powerful, the station benefits too. Red thought of this – they have three powerful personalities – Usha Uthup, Ameen Sayani and Shamshir Luthra.

Q. What’s in the pipeline?

There are offers from some new radio stations, which will be launched shortly. Also, there are talks on with a radio station in Dubai.

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