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Chaitanya Hegde

Programme Director | 24 May 2005

“I don’t think you need to be an actor on air. You need to be real. You need to be yourself. That’s why radio is called an intimate medium.”

Ask him about his engineering degree and pat comes the reply, “Education, and in particular, my engineering course, just happened. I did it because there was little else I could do in Belgaum.” Ask him about his three-year stint as an advertising professional with Leo Burnett, or another three years with Radio City and he states, “It takes me one year to learn the job, another one year to practice what I’ve learnt, and one whole year to move my butt out of that place.” This is Chaitanya Hegde, Programme Director, Radio Sparsha and Radio Jhankaar, WorldSpace Satellite Radio, at his best of wits.

And just when you’re thinking he is as candid as they come, his eyes light up as he starts his reverie on films. That’s when you get a glimpse of the true-blue, filmbuff Chaitanya. When he speaks of his passion for films and film making, you realise he is not your usual intellectual, nose-in-the-air, critic types but the wide-eyed, excited, front-bencher who laps up the Indian film, song, dance, drama et al, whatever it may be.

And it is the same passion that he brings to his job as Programme Director at WorldSpace Satellite Radio. His mission here is to ensure that Sparsha (the 24-hour Kannada Radio Station) and Jhankaar (the station that plays current Bollywood and Indipop music) play the best-ever Kannada and current Hindi film and Indipop music, all the time. Now, if you are not zealously inclined to film music, or lack a sense of humour, this becomes a very difficult job. When he is not planning out the content for these radio stations, he dons his RJ hat as he hosts shows on Jhankaar and Farishta, the 24-hour classic Hindi film music radio station.

For the Belgaum guy who saved money so he could buy movie stickers for 5 paise each as a kid, any job that involved films and music, is well past being a mere job. He speaks to Malini Menon of exchange4media on what makes him go on and on. Excerpts:

Q. From engineering to advertising and now to radio, how difficult was this switch of professions? What really inspired you to become a radio programmer?

There have been no major thoughts behind my career moves. I have always done whatever I wanted to. Engineering was just another degree, because I did not know what to do after my 12th. Advertising, however, appealed to me and I joined Leo Burnett in Bangalore. I was with them for close to three years and enjoyed every bit of my tenure there. And just when I thought I had enough of it, radio happened.

I can talk endlessly about movies and music. As a child, the only source of entertainment for me was cinema. I watched one film every weekend. My parents didn’t want to leave me behind at home, and since they were heavily into films, I was dragged to the theatres. So, you could say my interest in movies is kind of hereditary. And when I was offered a chance to be a part of a station that essentially played my kind of music, I grabbed the opportunity. I started off as a producer, doing ads and promos for the station and then went on to host shows. The switch of professions was not difficult at all. I like listening to Indian film music. In fact, that’s the only kind of music I can relate to. I have grown up listening to Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu mainstream film music and when you get a job that pays you for playing your kind of music, life is super smooth.

Q. Can you tell us about the shows programmed by you? Considering that you reaching out to a specific audience that likes vernacular music, do you find this element restricting?

At Worldspace, I programme Sparsha, and have recently taken over Jhankaar. Jhankaar is a 100 per cent music channel, totally dedicated to mainstream Hindi film and Indi-pop music unlike Sparsha, which has been designed as an on-air magazine. So programming here includes non-film music and some non-music content. Kannada as a language has a rich history. There are different genres of music here – folk, devotional, classical, light, etc, and at Sparsha we try to have equal representation of all these genres. In that sense we have a broader database to choose from. I wouldn’t say it’s restricting, in fact this format allows more choice and room for creativity.

Q. How would you define the taste of Kannada and Telugu people? Do they like to listen to Bollywood or prefer their regional film music?

Kannada and Telugu people are from the same planet as Maharashtrians, Punjabis and Gujaratis. Music cuts across barriers and knows no language. Artists like A R Rahman, Bappi Lahiri, Falguni Pathak and Daler Mehndi have nationwide appeal. Do we wonder why?

Q. What is the level of innovation that goes into Sparsha and Spandana?

The highest. The kind that is required to any radio station to retain its listeners.

Q. You are an RJ and a programmer. What do you enjoy more and why?

I joined WorldSpace as a Programme Director, looking after and putting together two stations. There are aspects of both that have appealed to me over different times. Right now I find myself thinking more as a programmer, since I host just two shows. But the thrill of hosting a live show is unparalleled.

Q. How do you keep your idea bank updated? ? Do you believe that sometimes there is too much demand for fresh ideas?

There is no such thing as too much when it comes to ideas. So if you think of something clever and out of the box, you know whom to call. As far as keeping the idea bank updated goes, fortunately we have an efficient team and you can never keep a good idea down.

Q. How much of acting skills come handy while RJing? On a day when you don’t really feel upbeat, how do you do the pep talk with people?

I don’t think you need to be an actor on air. You need to be real. You need to be yourself. That’s why radio is called an intimate medium. On days when I am down, I look forward to my shows because things change when you are in front of the mike.

Q. What is the level of radio jockey talk that helps the listener to stick on? What is too much and what is too little? What are the programming instructions given to a radio jockey?

It depends. There are days when you have a caller in distress and time takes a backseat. On other days, meaningful content must be delivered succinctly. But as a rule, at WorldSpace, we try and make sure there is always more music than talk.

Q. What do you prefer more — hosting a retro Hindi music or latest Hindi songs? So while hosting the show is it a combined effort with Seetal Iyer?

Luckily I am able to appreciate both. I am passionate about current movies, music and the trade, which makes hosting my countdown show much more fun. We don’t host any show together, but since we work together we bounce off ideas and work as a team.

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