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RJ | 17 Apr 2004

“We pride ourselves on being a people oriented station, not a star oriented one."

She calls a spade, a spade. And doesn’t apologise for it! In a conversation with Anushree Madan Mohan from exchange4media, the vivacious and outspoken Malishka shares her views on radio as a livewire medium and her experiences on the Win Breakfast show.

Q. How did you start off as an RJ? And how did you begin your association with Win?

Once upon a time, in the sad city of Bethlehem, there lived a girl who had a million career options on her plate. Ermm… I think I should begin on a less dramatic note. Actually, back in my time at Xavier’s, I was considering a million career options, which included advertising, singing, dramatics, voice lending, production etc. Interestingly, my work life started with advertising wherein I was placed as a trainee in Genesis, under the guidance of Prahlad Kakkar. While I had always leaned more towards the creative side, there was a side to the corporate world that I din’t quite like. I decided to make an exit from advertising, and after my stint with Genesis, there was this brief lull where I found myself on square one yet again. I decided that I ought to take a breather for a while, which is why, I hibernated at home with a complete stack of books. Seven books later, a very rattled sister pushed me out of the house and into the city once again. I started off with voiceovers in Hindi for Discovery channel and it worked out fine.

I was also a part of Channel V Popstars contest, wherein I emerged as one of the Mumbai finalists. I was tipped off by Devika (an RJ on Win) who was also a part of the contest that Millennium Broadcast was on the lookout for people with a gift of the gab. I picked up the phone and called up Millennium. It was like, “ Hullo, Could you put me on to the Programming Director please?” And, there was this extremely suave and polished voice on the other end, telling me that the Programming Director was out for a meeting and would be back later. Assuming that it was the PD’s secretary, I had an extremely chatty session on phone wherein I reeled off about my many accomplishments. Later, the shocker struck. It was not the PD’s secretary I was talking to, it was Gautam Radia himself. That’s how my association began with Win.

Q. Was it difficult taking on the reins as an RJ?

I joined on April 7, two years back and yes, I was extremely nervous at first. But the crew at Win made me feel welcome and wanted, and they did everything possible to boost my confidence. When I started off initially, it was a part Hindi, part English station. First I took on the nine to twelve slot in the night and then went on to the afternoon slot. The afternoon slot revolved around two to five at first and then, from two to six. After the changeover to Hindi, I was told to handle the breakfast slot, which was one of the most coveted slots on any radio station. The reason, being that the morning jock at the time, needed to get adjusted to the Hindi switchover. When I was told about my new mandate, my first instinct was to run and hide my face. I was tremendously nervous and couldn’t sleep for a week.

In all honesty, I was completely out of sync at first. The earlier jockey who was in charge of the morning hours (Veera) tried to help me out with my new role. Luckily for me, everyone at the station exercised tremendous support and they kept saying, “ Malishka, we know you can do it.” And, two years past, I am completely comfortable in my morning skin.

Q. While on air, do you use a written script? Or is everything that you say, impromptu?

Nah, I don’t use a written script. But I list out the points that I am going to touch in the course of my conversation. That’s how it works for most jockeys; there simply isn’t time to put a written script in place. But if a jockey tells you that he goes on air without a scrap of written matter or without a bit of homework, that’s pure unadulterated bullshit. You always need to carry some pointers with you (ones that you jot hurriedly before the start of the show). That way, you aren’t stuck for ideas.

But most of what goes on in the show is totally unplanned and impromptu. As an RJ, you need to think on your feet. It can’t be like ‘Gawd! I don’t know what to say next!’

Q. What about Chai Time Ka Silly Rhyme?

Nah, you can never think of a rhyme on the spot and at the moment. That’s something that I carve out prior to the show. Me at my poetic best. But these days, I have a guy named Prince who helps me out with the rhyme bit. My role has visibly lessened in that sector. Incidentally, our association with Prince is also something of a tale in itself. Prince was this one listener, who used to tune in to our station regularly and who was never at a loss for witty innuendos and wise cracks. If I was stuck for an idea, I could always count on him to come up with something witty and original. He was interested in getting aboard the radio ship and Win was more than enthusiastic about taking him on.

That’s how close-knit radio is. It binds you with people, in more ways than one.

Q. Hosting a morning slot has to be a challenge in itself. While on air, which are the things that can go wrong?

That’s a good question. If you are a morning jock, the first disaster can strike if you oversleep and don’t make it to the studio in time. In the list of things that can possibly go wrong, this one has to be prioritised right in the peak position. Disaster Number 2 would be a faulty phone line. So you are on air and you go cheerily, “Hi Anushree, how are you this fine morning?” and there is this funny beep that greets you at the other end. Or it could be a catty listener who calls up and says, “Aha… A jock’s job is scarcely, what you would call a job. After all, what do you have to do except to talk endlessly?” The third instance has actually occurred and I had this mock argument with a lady listener, who practically had to eat her words by the end of it.

Moral of the story…there are a million things that can go wrong while on air. From your side, if you say something that’s off tangent, you need to know how to gloss over it. You must know how to make up for it.

Q. Is it difficult waking up in the wee hours? What time are you expected to be at the station?

Well, I am expected to arrive at the studio anytime before seven. I am quite used to the schedule by now. But I must say that life is full of surprises. All through college and through school, I was the girl who would turn up visibly late for the classes. And, now I am the one who’s waking up the entire city. And not just any city, a city like Mumbai at that.

Q. As far as the choice in music goes, do you have much of a say in it? Or is it entirely the station’s preference?

As far as music goes, it’s the choice of the people that’s paramount, and not the choice of the jockey or the station. The station does put into place the general norms related to the music. But it’s a well-researched choice. It’s a completely tried and tested mix of what people like to listen to. Internally, there are open-ended discussions on programming initiatives and music and we are free to put in our suggestions or views. And if there’s a particular song that’s close to my heart, I am always at liberty to play it. For example, Mann Ki Lagan from the movie Paap is played quite often in the morning slot.

Q. As a station, what does Win 94.6 stand for?

It stands for people. Win 94.6 stands as a representative of the people of Mumbai and reflects their choices and tastes. We’d like to think that we understand the people of this city a lot better than most other stations. The jocks here are genuine in whatever they say, and they touch the pulse of the people. Win gives us the liberty to be ourselves and not prototypes of what’s selling outside.

There are stations that go on all through the day about film stars and their lives and honestly, I don’t see much sense in it. At the end of the day, a station is not about film stars, it’s about listeners. We pride ourselves on being a people oriented station, not a star oriented one.

Q. What excites you the most about the job?

The anonymity factor. There is a strange kind of excitement attached to it. For instance, I could get aboard a train, completely unscathed and pick up a quarrel with just about anybody, comforted by the fact that people don’t recognise me. And, the very same people that I pick a fight with, will tune into Win the next day and listen to my show. How devious is that!

A jockey’s job is all about rediscovery and there’s something new that you learn about yourself every single day. A primary aspect that strikes you about an RJ’s life is that people treasure your every word. There might be something that you have said and you can’t quite remember, but you can be sure that someone else will. There are few jobs that promise you that.

Q. You come across as a bubbly person who’s upbeat about life. How difficult is it for a person who’s not as spirited, to emerge as an RJ?

For one, I absolutely detest the ‘bubbly’ word. I have been slotted as ‘bubbly’ and ‘chulbuli’ for donkey’s years now and honestly, I think that it’s an incomplete portrayal of what I am. To answer your question, every RJ has his or her unique style of going about things and it’s not necessary that one must be a typecast of the other.

There isn’t a fundamental rule that every RJ has to be upbeat and perky and exactly like the twin on the other station. At most times, the demeanour of the jock plays second fiddle to the time slot that he is based in. For instance, the night has its own mood and moments, and you work your way around it.

Q. In 10 years from now on, where do you see yourself?

Well, I have always loved venturing into new places and experimenting with new things.Which makes me think that somewhere, down the line, I would like to host a travel show.

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