RJ’s | 14 Jan 2004
"If you are a public monkey, you are bound to be spanked. No two ways about it."
In this section of Radio Speak, meet Jaggu and Tarana, the fun filled hosts of Good Morning Mumbai. In a conversation with Anushree Madan Mohan from exchange4media, the two discuss the fundamentals behind a successful show, the nuances that go into being an effective RJ and their experiences with Go 92.5. Stay Tuned!
Q. How did you guys begin your career as an RJ?
Tarana: Well, I have been involved with radio ever since I was a child. I had been a part of plenty of Vividh Bharti programmes, voice-overs for Hindi films and serials, dubbing for humor segments etc. As a kid, I was involved in absolutely anything that involved using my voice and it did have its pay offs! My association with Radio Mid Day started about six years ago. Somewhere in 1997, I heard of an opening in Radio Mid Day for the position of a newscaster, a slot that involved a 30 second news capsule every single day. I tried giving a demo, the recording was terrible in every sense of the word and yet they informed that they were taking me on! After a couple of months, I started hosting my own show, which was Radio Talkies, and it made an appearance every Sunday. Did the same show for Pune FM, for Radio Mid Day yet again. There was a lull after that; we went off air for a while. Five years later, when radio Mid Day relaunched, I already had a place in it!
Jaggu: Believe it or not, I started my career as an RJ with stock market and finance related shows, in the earlier avatar of FM. I took time off (a break of around 1-2 years) and went on to private channels. Thereafter, I was lucky enough to be approached by a private producer for a stock market and finance related segment on All India Radio. It was a Monday to Friday gig, it involved the morning slot and it was all about stock and bonds! With Go 92.5, I auditioned for a slot in the evening hours and took up Horn Okay Please, soon after that. The segment was about prime time entertainment, it started at 4 pm and went all the way uptil 7 pm. By the time I moved from that particular slot, the timings shifted from 6 pm to 10 pm. It’s the Good Morning effect in the evening, except with a little more drama attached to it! I started off with Good Morning Mumbai only some months back, and it’s been a fun experience.
Q. This question is specifically addressed to Tarana. Was it difficult taking over from where Anish Trivedi left off?
Tarana: Not really! After all Anish and I had co hosted the show together (before his departure) and I pretty much had the hang of it. Previously, I used to work in the early morning slot on Radio Mid Day and that too, only on the weekends. I told the station that I would prefer a slot that din’t really involve weekends. At the time, I had not expected to be accommodated within Good Morning Mumbai because Anish Trivedi was already on it! But Radio Mid Day felt that my presence would add to the fun element of the show and I came aboard. His departure did leave a void because we had gotten so used to each other. At Go, it’s like one big happy family. So if somebody decides to leave, it gets a little depressing, especially if you are left all alone to handle a great show, with a great presenter whom everybody misses, including me! But what’s important is that the listeners have moved on! They like having Jaggu and me around.
Q. And Jaggu, isn’t stock market and bonds a far cry from what you are doing now?
Jaggu (laughs): I know exactly what you mean. When I auditioned for Go 92.5, Cobalt (the producer of the show) told me “ I hope you are not as serious, as you sound!” and it did make me feel blue! But the audition worked out well (Cobalt was more than pleased) and the going has been great since then. What works for Tarana and me in the show Good Morning Mumbai is that we are the perfect team. While I am the ‘Funny Guy’, she is the relatively ‘Nicer’ one out of the two of us. The equation works perfectly.
Q. What’s your schedule like? When are you expected to land up at the studio?
Jaggu (sadly): It’s indeed a tragic story. Since it’s a 7.00 am to 11.00 am gig, we are ideally required to be here by 6.40 am! While the intent is always to arrive in time, we land up making an appearance by 6.59 am. It’s easier for Tarana though (she stays close by) and she’s faster in her morning schedule. For me, a hot cup of tea is a must in order to revive my senses and I take around 20 minutes just sipping tea! But what works for us is that we don’t have to do much of prep work for the show (at least not right before the show.)
Tarana (mocks): I am way faster in my morning schedule than him and I more or less make it in time. But there have been occasions, when I have walked in at 6.59 am, when we are almost ready to go!
Q. What are the things that you have to keep in mind when it comes to hosting a show like Good Morning Mumbai?
Jaggu: Well, you have to stay alert at all times and presence of mind does come in handy. But it must be remembered that Tarana leads the show at all times and we have a producer to make sure that nothing colossal occurs on air. So, there’s a lot more on their plate than on mine! But yes, as an RJ for a morning segment, I have to keep a tab on current events, scan websites and newspapers for city specific information and stay forever topical and funny. Those are some of the things that fall on your plate, by default!
Tarana: No doubt, I have some additional responsibilities but it more or less, it works the same way for me too! For instance, I sit on the console and I have to handle the music, in addition to handling Jaggu. He on his part is extremely funny but he does tend to go on and on at times! While he’s forever the ‘Funny Guy’, I am the boring and steady one. So, if there were some paid activity on the station or some crucial announcement to be made, inevitably I would have to be the one taking care of it.
Q. There are times when you poke fun at people, while on the show. Have you ever taken flack from a public figure for the same?
Jaggu (straight faced): My philosophy in life is – If you are a public monkey, you are bound to be spanked! No two ways about it. So if you are Socialite Queenie or anything else, it’s obvious that you are going to be written and spoken about. Especially, when you have managed to screw up on a large scale. It could be something as frivolous as Aishwarya Rai’s clothes at Cannes, which sent everyone in a tizzy! Though it was a non-event in the broader scale of things, it did work great for the show. The point is that we are NOT a national newspaper editorial. And we don’t mean to be malicious, we are just being silly! In that sense, there is little or no ruffling of feathers.
Tarana: The fact remains that in everything that we say, we are reflecting the views of our listeners. I mean, there were so many people around Mumbai who were flipping through their newspaper and saying “ What in God’s name is Aishwarya Rai wearing?” and we just happened to voice it. And everything that we say is in a light vein, we don’t mean to nasty and we don’t intend to hurt anyone. Lets not forget that we poke fun at each other as well. Jaggu calls me ‘Prudish…. I call him ‘Fat’…. The list goes on.
Q. What are the essential ingredients that you need in order to be counted as a good RJ?
Jaggu (grins): Well, Tarana is a far better RJ than me. Let her answer this one!
Tarana: Oh well! For one, you have to handle stressful situations. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to make conversation before millions of listeners. Presence of mind counts a lot and you have to have the ability to say things that would capture the interest of people. And in order to accomplish that, you have to stay aware, informed, well read and its imperative to keep abreast of all city specific events and occurrences! The job requires you to be opinionated. You can’t possibly have the ‘Sab Chalta Hain’ attitude. You must feel strongly about things and must have a thought on every subject. People respect us because we have an opinion and we are not afraid to voice it!
Jaggu: I can’t help adding to what Tarana’s already said. You have to be smooth in your talk and one topic must make way for another, effortlessly. You can’t have too many Ooh’s and Aah’s! And you should have the knack of talking, as fast as you think!
Q. For people like me, it’s difficult to come up with the right things at the right time. Out of curiosity, how do you guys manage to pull it off?
Jaggu (sympathetically): I guess, its something that you inculcate within yourself and it takes a certain amount of practice. With time, you tend to lose your inhibitions, you learn to be yourself and the conversation flows smoothly enough! Give it time and it will happen!
Q. Is it an attractive proposition to be an RJ in today’s times?
Tarana: The work satisfaction that you derive is enormous! Especially because, the station gives us the freedom to air our own views and there are no restrictions on what we can say. The focus is on being yourself and Go allows us to do just that! And with the heavy license fee and all the other issues that stations are facing today, I would say that we are paid well enough.
Jaggu: Yeah, it’s a great job. And yeah… they pay us enough! Enough to wake us up in the wee hours of the morning and make us head towards the studio. Its great to be an RJ on Go, the work satisfaction that you get is indeed tremendous. In addition to a super work environment!
Q. And what are your pay packets like?
Tarana (mock sadness): Well, we are paid such minimal amounts that we can’t make ends meet. Can’t afford chicken in my meal anymore. I have to put with carrots and bhindi!
Jaggu: Yeah…. I can’t commute by auto rickshaw anymore. Have to walk up to my workplace! Nahhhhhh… we are just kidding. The fact remains that we get more than satisfactory pay packets. Financially, it’s an attractive proposition. And it’s a fun job.
Q. What about the choice of songs on the station? Are you allowed to pick the numbers?
Tarana: No, that’s strictly the area of the station. The station decides on the kind of music we play and the kind of image that we want to send across. We do take in requests (depending on how badly one begs of course.) If it fits into the profile of our music and station identity and if it doesn’t break any rules, we play the number. But we never play Metallica in the mornings, no matter how badly anyone begs for it! In order to please one person, we can’t afford to displease many. We play the kind of music that most of our listeners would like to tune into!
Q. What differentiates Jaggu and Tarana from the competition?
Jaggu: We each have our own style. Spontaneity, humor and the gift of the gab are some of the things that put us apart. Our take on one individual subject would of course be different from what another station or another RJ has to say. This also stems from the fact that Go gives tremendous liberty to us when it comes to airing our views and we are not restricted to any fixed pattern.
Tarana: While on air, we speak in a language that is comfortable to us! It’s a natural blend of English and Hindi. Now, many of the other radio stations expect their RJ’s to stick to Hindi, even when they are not typically Hindi speaking people. What occurs as a result of that is- the language is forced and unnatural and its not really the kind of Hindi that one would expect to hear. Now Jaggu gets the Mumbaiya angle in on every possible occasion and I switch to Hindi on a number of occasions, but there is nothing crass or unnatural about the language that we use. That’s what’s different about us.
Again, a lot many stations have plenty of censorship on what the RJ is allowed to say. You can’t say this… you can’t voice that… you have to stick to a certain tone… we don’t have to deal with these kinds of issues. And hence, there is lot more spontaneity involved.
Q. Is there a written script that’s involved? Or is everything that you say, spontaneous?
Jaggu: Well, there is no script. We make a note of the points that we are going to touch on, during the course of our discussion but that’s where it ends! If you were to write a script and then read it out while on air, I can assure you that the whole thing would turn out incredibly bad and there would be a much-rehearsed unrealistic tone to it. Going on air without a script… I know that its sounds a bit unnerving but trust me; the edginess is worth the final product. The word is not unprepared, it’s unscripted.
Q. But do all RJ’s across stations go on air without a written script?
Tarana: Nah. It’s only our station that doesn’t have a written script. Go 92.5 trusts its RJ’s and gives them the liberty to do their own thing. The station believes that we have a personality that’s sparkling enough to carry off a complete show without any hassles. Be yourself, it does work- that’s what the station has always believed in. On their part, they never tell us as to how we should conduct ourselves or the kind of people that we ought to be! The results of course speak for themselves.
Q. What are the things that can go terribly wrong while on air?
Jaggu: Well, you can make a colossal mistake while on air and there are occasions when, you just can’t cover it up. If you have managed to make an ass of yourself, you better have the good sense to recover completely in the next five minutes and get on with the job.
Tarana: I agree with Jaggu there. There’s no scope for crawling into a shell and moaning ‘Oh Gawd.What do I do now?’ You have got to be bubbly and bright and you have to keep the momentum going.
Q. What excites you the most about the job?
Tarana: The countless SMS messages that we get from our listeners in addition to the persistent phone calls. I love the one on one relationship that we have managed to build with our listeners.
Jaggu: I love the fact that we have managed to make a drama out of traffic updates. For instance, an ongoing debate on ‘How can Siddhivinayak be traffic less on a Tuesday?’
Q. Things that you can’t stand about each other?
Jaggu: This should come easy. Tarana’s terribly bossy and she gets away with all kinds of stuff. Plus, she has this awful habit of referring to the actor Govinda as Govinda Ji! Now that’s annoying.
Tarana: What’s annoying about Jaggu? Well, there are occasions when we are going on air in the next 2 seconds and Jaggu’s blissfully lost in the Economic Times! And then, he gets on air totally unprepared. Uggh! It’s infuriating.
Q. Ten years from now, where do you see yourselves?
Tarana: I see myself hosting a travel show on BBC!
Jaggu: I see myself as the sole supplier of machine tools for Larsen &Toubro.