RJ | 08 Dec 2004
“It is the ‘connect’ with the people that carries you. You may have the best voice in town but wouldn’t know how to reach out to people. If you really tell people that listen, you are not a super being and there are times when even you can have a bad cold or something stuck on your throat. On some days when you cough, you tell people ‘galle me kuchch attak gaya’ or fumble five times and say, ‘Anu, tujhe kya ho gaya?’ and people understand. What really matters is to be true and real to your listeners.”
Her voice is as exuberant as her personality. For Anurita Gupta, RJ for Radio Mirchi’s show ‘Khoobsoorat’, life is all about challenges. Disappointments certainly don’t bog Anurita down because she is an incorrigible optimist. Popularly known as Anu, she takes on life as it comes and is happy the way it is. She speaks to Malini Menon on how her voice, her biggest asset, has opened new avenues in life. Excerpts:
Q. How did you become an RJ?
See, with me Radio Mirchi is the first full-fledged job as an RJ. I have been a voiceover artist before this and I would say that I didn’t intend to be an RJ. I was working with HMV Sa Re Ga Ma, a production house which was supposed to start very quickly but it really didn’t happen and my hopes were dashed immediately. I realised that things were really not working out and was very upset because I was nudging a balance between college and this work. So I was disappointed. Following this, I kept working at different places and later joined an MNC. So I really didn’t think my voiceover career would take off after that. But then as fate would have it I saw an advertisement of Radio Mirchi and my friends passed it on to me. I was hesitant and passed it on to my friend. In fact, then I decided to tag along with my friend and he said why don’t you also give it a shot. So Radio Mirchi gave me a script and I went from one level to the other. Ironically, in the third round he was out and I was in. So that’s how it all happened.
Q. Why not a DJ?
DJ….well, I didn’t have the figure. Honestly speaking the passion was for the microphone and to speak on it from behind, speak to people and connect with them at the same, knowing what people want and moving with that. That was the passion and that is what kept me going. In fact I was very passionate about this and a lot of cheating happened with me. Even after I lent my voice I was not paid and so there was a time when I thought that media was not for me and this was not my job. But here I am!
Q. Do you enjoy the element of anonymity while RJing?
Yes I do. In fact you enjoy the sense of anonymity to the extent that you let loose people’s imagination. In fact people’s imagination can really go high and they even think that there is a Cindy Crawford sitting behind the microphone. People imagine what they want to and there is absolutely no extent to which it can run high. There are no boundaries to their imagination and that is something you really enjoy. For instance, there was this one guy who used to constantly send me pictures of how I look. Therefore, I would say that anonymity is something that you truly enjoy and it is also very easy to move around. Once I remember I was sitting in a restaurant and the word got around that I am Anu and immediately everybody started looking at me and noticing how I eat etc. Then at another instance I was sitting at Anupama Sweets enjoying Idli Sambhar and I heard people sitting in the nearby table talk about Khoobsoorat without even knowing that I am sitting bang opposite. So I absolutely enjoy it.
Q. Do you do some voice exercises or is it purely instinctive?
No, not at all. It’s purely instinctive. Believe me, it is not the voice that carries you. It’s much more than that.
Q. So what is it that carries you?
It is the ‘connect’ with the people that carries you. You may have the best voice in town but wouldn’t know how to reach out to people. If you really tell people that listen, you are not a super being and there are times when even you can have a bad cold or something stuck on your throat, then they understand and feel involved at the same time. So, there are some days when you cough and you tell people ‘galle me kuchch attak gaya’ or fumble five times and say, ‘Anu tujhe kya ho gaya’ and people understand this. So what really matters is to be true and real to your listeners. See for instance, look at Rani Mukherjee’s voice it has no depth, no volume but she works as an actress. I really don’t think it is the voice that really works, what really matters is if you connect with people from your heart.
Q. How do you hold the attention of your listeners?
Of course that is what we were trained for almost one year. In fact, you have to add the spunk factor. The attention span of any listener is as small as five seconds. So when you say five seconds you need to give a punch in that time. For instance, if you say Mallika Sherawat claims that she got 17 kisses, so my opening line would be: ‘17 kisses in one film!’ This would be the hold on factor and then I will talk to my listeners. This would be one sided but definitely hold on my listeners. Secondly, of course the connectability is essential. Now I do a women’s programme called Khubsoorat and it is absolutely essential for me to use Punjabi words and talk to women the way they do. So I make sure I address them the way Punjabis do. For instance, I say Mrs Verma and Mrs Bhatia you have to run and pick this up or Mrs Sharma will take it. Basically you have to understand the women’s psyche by simply observing them and then pack it all on radio. In fact, the other day I got a mail from Mrs Sharma saying I love the way you address my name.
Q. Did you choose to make a women-oriented show?
Yes, we went for a women-oriented show and this was after an intense thought process. We studied the radio pattern and found out that there was not a single programme specifically for women when they really listen to the radio. That entire segment was getting left out and I used to do a show called Total Filmi before this. So that was also gossip and referring to women and saying Oh my God, look at her! Women love bitching. So Total Filmi was all about that but then Mirchi thought of coming up with Khubsoorat which is all about fitness, beauty, health and personal talk. You cater to them in a certain way and say so what if you are fat you can do this. Then our show has Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh with us who talks about anything and everything from sex to kitchen to relationship management. Then we have Chef Sanjay Kapoor who talks about recipes and different types of healthy food etc. I talk on beauty and fitness and give my hot tips on fashion, home interiors, Feng Shui, etc. The thing about this show is that it is a highly research-based show. So if I have to talk about acne, let’s say, I need to know everything about it. It’s not something that you can say off the cough. So you need to have an agenda every day.
Q. Is sensitivity a very important factor while RJing?
Yes, it has to be. There are tough situations when I put a lady off air (since we do most of our shows off air for testing), this lady went on speaking to Dr Chugh. I found it very hard to moderate in a situation like this. The thing is that when a psychiatric advice is sought you have to deal with it pretty sensitively. Now for the listeners we are the nice approachable people but then we also have deadlines. So I had to very tactfully tell this lady that please don’t go beyond a question. So now whatever emails and calls I get I make sure that I moderately write them down. So that it doesn’t go over the edge. Sex is one very sensitive issue when it comes to Delhi per se. So I have to be very careful and make sure that I don’t use the word ‘sex’ too many times. So I say physical relationship or something like that. Although I personally don’t believe in it but then you have to be careful when you are on air and moderate yourself. Dr Chugh speaks very candidly but he is a very mature and media savvy doctor, so he can be both mirchi and mature at the same time. So while dealing with sex issues, yes it is very edgy, but then it is something which is extremely common too.
Q. Do you come across annoying listeners and how do you handle them?
Annoying listeners! Well, yes you do come across annoying listeners but you have to be nice to them. They might think that you are a Maharani somewhere and how can you be rude to somebody? So you have to play a little bit on air because you cannot annoy a listener because if you annoy a listener you lose him forever. And it is understandable because we are for the people. Of course, if there are extreme cases where it gets to being harassing and crosses limits of decency, then the management steps in to help us out because nobody should encroach upon your personal space. Moreover, what is profession for us is entertainment and leisure for the masses. So they might think that this is ‘aish ki zindagi’ but you and I know that there is a lot of hard work involved in creating that leisure. However, on an average, listeners are really nice and thoroughly pamper you. For instance, once when I fell ill there were so many bouquets that came to my doorstep.
Q. Do you have to be an actor?
Oh you are an actor all the time! You have to sound vivacious, energetic, sexy – all at one go. You have to be friendly with people, even though by nature I am very selective about having friends. But on radio I really have to be moderate and neutral all the time. Acting to the extent that you shouldn’t loose your natural self, your own style. So it is a mix of both acting and being your own self. At the end of the day, it’s about your own style when you Hi darling! or Hi sweetheart! This is how I go in my natural self too.
Q. What do you do when you have bad days?
You don’t do anything you just tell your listeners that there are good days and bad days and this is one of the bad days. You say everything is going wrong but then maybe you and I will feel good when you will listen to this song. Listeners do understand these things.
Q. Who is the true Anu?
The true Anu is very much the same but I am certainly not a beauty conscious person. I am very fun loving, totally bindas, extremely opinionated. I have a good sense of humour and am a hyper sensitive person. I am a true believer of Robert Browning who said that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, what else is heaven for. I am an incorrigible optimist.