Radio Jockeys | 28 Sep 2004
“You have people who are willing to share a part of their lives with us RJs, who seem to have become an integral part of their life. It is all about connectivity.”
Pallavi and Nitin are among the two most popular names on air in Delhi. Both of them are RJs on Radio Mirchi. While ‘Ulta-Pulta’ Nitin continues to enthral Delhiites in the morning hours with ‘Hello Delhi’, Pallavi is the most awaited voice in the evening. She drives a four-hour 'reverse-drive' show, interacting with Delhiites on events over the past 24 hours. An MRUC-AC Nielson study has found that Radio Mirchi enjoys a 32 lakh listenership in Delhi, making it the numero uno radio channel in Delhi. In a candid interview with Ashish Singh of exchangemedia, at the Radio Mirchi office in New Delhi, Pallavi and Nitin share their experiences of being RJs, and the future of Radio in India. Excerpts:
Q. Kindly share your journey to the Radio world?
Pallavi : Then I was in Class VIII. I remember the time when I used to grab hold of a piece of paper or, for that matter, any printed copy and read it loudly in front of the mirror. Somewhere, I realised that there was an alter ego of mine in the form of a radio jockey, which was bubbling to explode. But I kept this secret with me for at least 10 years. I continued as a freelancer as at that particular point of time, being a RJ was not a lucrative career option. Finally, Radio Mirchi happened and rest is history.
Nitin : To me, music is passion. Music is life. I remember, when I was four, my parents figured out that I was born to be an actor. I was ‘okay’ in studies and got enrolled in Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, after passing out from St Columba’s. In my college days, I was very active with Sriram Centre of Arts for Theatre. Theatre is the other passion in my life. In college, theatre shaped my life and I can say that it was ‘the’ learning ground for me. I wanted to be an actor and you would be surprised to know that I have always aspired to be a villain like Amrish Puri. To me, the job of a radio jockey is a passion, not mere work. My girlfriend is my mike.
I became a RJ by chance. There was this friend, a girl, who was junior to me at college. Whenever I used to call her, her mother kept pushing me to apply for a radio jockey’s job. Finally, I heeded her ardent request and responded to an advertisement with All India Radio. For two years, I was conducting their ‘Wicked Hour’ show, which was slotted for 1 am to 2 am and linked with the 5 am to 6 am show called ‘Words In Music’. Then there was ‘Just for you’ in the afternoon. After a while I started looking for a job and joined a call centre. Thereafter, I worked with KLM North West, American Express, a media house as an assistant director where I wrote ‘Street Plays’. I started realising that frustration was building up in me. I wanted to do something full-time, fully bindaas. Then it happened by luck that I saw this attitudinal advertisement in the Ascent supplement of The Times of India. To me brand makes a lot of difference. One should always try to join a good brand. It is essential if you want to maintain a certain standard of working. The moment I saw Radio Mirchi’s logo in the ad, I told myself, ‘this is it Nitin’.
Q. What is ‘Ulta-Pulta’ and ‘Hello Delhi’? And, what’s ‘Bumper to Bumper’?
Pallavi: ‘Bumper to Bumper’ is a reverse drive show for the 5-9 pm slot. The four-hour show is Delhi-centric, with ‘mirchi ka haal mirchi de naal’, which is an audio collage of all Delhi happenings over the past 24 hours. The telephone lines are open for listeners to voice their opinions. There is a game show at 7 pm. And of course, loads of music all the way along with the traffic updates, temperature checks, time checks, etc. Basically someone driving back home has lots to look forward to.
Nitin: Just pronounce it, ‘Ulta’ is Nitin and ‘Pulta’ is also Nitin. Simple, doesn’t that sound funny. ‘Hello Delhi’ is a morning drive-time show from 7-11 am, Monday to Saturday. It is an infotainment-based show, where listeners also get a chance to voice their opinions through sections like the daily poll or ‘Mirchi Vote’ as we call it. The idea is to correlate people who are driving to work along with a friend, and that friend at Radio Mirchi shares information about the day’s fare in the Capital, while spinning out their favourite tracks.
Q. What is the mantra for a successful RJ? And how has the response to Radio changed over the years?
Pallavi: Spontaneity is one thing. A good voice and addiction to music are prerequisites for an aspiring RJ. Apart from this, when you are performing live, it becomes a must for the RJ to be able to relate your surroundings with the listeners.
Earlier, it was information at hand which one applied while conducting the programme. Today you have active telephone lines, which constantly connect you with listeners. In a single word, radio has become a highly personalised medium. Earlier, there were presenters on air, now we have friends as jocks on the other side of the radio set. In yesteryear, the listener could never really speak with the jock, today we are just a phone call away.
Nitin: You should have that fire in your belly. In life if you want to do anything you should have that kind of a drive. I should share it with you that it was a hand-in-glove thing and was not easy at Radio Mirchi where I have been for the last two years. We have very expensive and complex software, and training is a must. Today, for this full-time job that I wanted I have to get off the bed by 3 o’clock, leave for office by 4.30 am, in order to be at the station on time. My show ‘Hello Delhi’ starts at 7 am sharp; so you can imagine what sort of hard work, dedication and of course discipline are required to be a terrific RJ.
The change is in professionalism. If you think of it as a part-time job, you will not feel dedicated to it. Also, private players have picked up. We are trying to be that special friend in Delhi’s heart.
Q. How do you find the Delhi audience?
Pallavi: Delhi listeners are extremely intelligent, friendly and definitely haven’t lost their sense of humour. There is huge participation not only during the game shows and contests but they also come forward with their point of view even in serious matters.
Nitin: Very intelligent. If you shove in a mediocre product, then “Vo aapki dry le lenge”. They want intelligent stuff. Like good people, be true and listen to them. Seriously, there is a lot of love. I pray for Delhi to be a crime-free city, one day.
Q. How are you competing with other RJs given the similarity of style and delivery?
Pallavi: Our USP is that we don’t faff and talk just for the sake of talking. We do not portray ourselves as just another glib talker. We don’t modulate our voice. We rather have a friend and a listener than dragging up a monotonous communication with the people who admire us and more so our work. Here, at Radio Mirchi, you share a special bond with the listeners. I would like to mention that we speak from our heart, just straight from the heart.
Nitin: Frankly speaking, the more you worry about competition, the more artificial and fake you become. You need to develop your own style and keep making subtle changes in your show, to ad variety and spice on a daily basis.
Q. How important is the role of a RJ?
Pallavi: It is all about connectivity. It is a game show. You have people who are willing to share a part of their lives with us RJs, who seem to have become an integral part of their life. Interestingly, you know, you just have to spark a conversation with one question and that one question kick starts a rocking dialogue. As if every one was waiting for it. Here one thing is important: that you have to be absolutely informal while being a bit careful about not dramatising the live interaction. You have to be very careful when it comes to dealing with human emotions. You can make out that there are millions of people listening and interacting with us.
Nitin: RJ is a very responsible job, where responsibility does not lie in your hands but in your mouth. You don’t know who all are listening to you, so anything that you say can make or break someone’s heart. You need to influence everyone’s mind in a positive way. We try and make a difference because Radio Mirchi is a radio station that makes sense and connects to the city. I am a hardcore Delhiite.
Q. Is a written script of any help?
Pallavi: Well, at times pointers are there to help you. But then, when you enter the programming room and see the mike, it is all you and your avid listeners. Once you start the programme, it cannot be stopped. Once I go on air, I do not know how it happens, it is so spontaneous and absorbing.
Nitin: No, I cannot follow a written script. I depend more on spontaneity.
Q. Do you feel that RJ is a serious profession? Where do you see the future of the radio industry in India?
Pallavi: Depends upon what you want to take it as – be a freelancer or a full-time Radio Jockey. Well, if someone is genuinely interested in the profession he should strive hard. The aspirant has to be outstanding as well as the willing to outperform others, including himself. To many people RJ is glamour talk and fun. No, it is not. You ought to have a passion for this media; it is such a kick. Just think, imagine, that there are nearly 32 million listeners. Mind you, the voice does not have a face. Moreover, you have to make it enjoyable. It has to be interesting to entire Delhi. And hey, Pallavi’s voice is no different.
Well, as far as radio industry in India is concerned, I think the journey has just begun.
Nitin: Of course, it is a serious profession, but here seriousness comes with a lot of fun. As I said before, anything you say can make or break someone’s heart. So you need to influence everyone’s mind in a positive way. The RJ fever has already caught the industry by storm. We have received so many CVs. An RJ is like an actor. Three-four flops do not mean you will not be selected. The onus is on you not to bore people. The listener connect has to be there. You have to be a dreamer and be passionate about music. You should be inquisitive and be well read. As far as the voice factor is concerned, the kashish has to be there. You simply cannot make up things as people are not stupid. You need to have the intelligence to feel the vibes of the people. And for that, practice is a must and that too every day. Most importantly, you have to be true to your heart and be honest. These are the two vital characteristics of an aspiring RJ.
Media in Delhi is very strong. Radio is a big industry. Music companies of movies like ‘Hum Tum’ and ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’ chose radio as a platform to launch their albums and connect with their audiences. Movie companies and filmmakers are eyeing to exploit this market in a big manner. The power to connect with people is tremendous. It is a good springboard for movies to market themselves.
Q. Finally, what do you feel are the challenges in this profession?
Pallavi: Listeners can get bored easily. One has to innovate constantly without being false.
Nitin: The challenge is that people put you on a pedestal by their high expectations. They think that you have the answer to everything, and that is the challenge. You have to be updated with music, current affairs. For me, like I said earlier, you have to be honest to yourself first and then only you can be honest to your listeners. This is not a speciality show. For me it is like two friends, Nitin and Delhi, who are constantly discussing their family chores, day’s fare and other human problems. And I do not have to change and overtly perform as this would be cheating myself and my profession.