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Rakesh and Pragya

Radio Jockeys | 30 Jun 2006

Our programmes are very interactive. We make the listeners feel very important. We are sensitive, patient yet humorous when talking to those who call in on our programmes. We try to keep our language simple, the kind used in our day to day lives. We don’t say anything that might make our classy listeners cringe nor anything that might have someone running for the dictionary!

They have the gift of the gab, play all the hit songs doing the rounds, give company to myriad people day and night, are even travel companions to commuters to and fro offices, colleges, etc. They are the RJs, aka radio jockeys.

With the second phase of FM expansion getting a very enthusiastic response from various players and nearly 300 new FM stations set to hit the air waves soon, demand for skilled radio professionals are on the rise. So much so that veteran radio professional Roshan Abbas has joined hands with EMDI to set up India’s first radio management institute to train hopefuls in various facets of the radio industry.

Perhaps the most visible – or rather audible – job is that of the RJ, with every FM station having their star RJs. One such pair is that of Rakesh and Pragya, the voices behind several popular programmes on Red FM Kolkata. The pair has today become household names in the Eastern metro. They have even penned a book titled, what else, ‘Radio Jockeying’.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Indrani Sinha, Rakesh and Pragya have much to share about what goes on behind-the-scenes in the studio, their journey as RJs, with some advice thrown in for RJ hopefuls.

Q. What made you choose radio jockeying as a career?

Rakesh: I had been doing stage shows as an anchor, performer, compere, and announcer. Then in 1994, someone suggested that I joined an FM station. I began my career as an RJ with Radio Network and worked there for six months, following which I joined Times FM and continued there till the end of 2002. After that I moved to Red FM. I hadn’t planned on radio jockeying as a career choice, but somewhere along the line I began to take it seriously and have gained popularity as an RJ.
Pragya: When I was in college, radio was ‘dead’. My father was posted in Shillong those days and I would listen to All India Radio Shillong everyday on my way to college. One day my father and I entered the AIR Shillong office building out of curiosity. There we met an official, who instead of shooing us away spoke nicely to us and asked me if I would be interested to read the news on radio. He suggested that I meet the News Editor and I grabbed the opportunity and went for an audition, which I passed. Thus, my journey in the radio sphere began as an English news reader. Initially I would read the news only on Thursdays, which was the regular news reader’s day off, but some time later I began working as a bilingual announcer with AIR Shillong. When we moved to Kolkata, I began working for the western music slot on Yuva Vani. In 1995, I heard that Times FM was looking for a Hindi RJ and applied for the post. At Times FM I used to host a programme called ‘Khaat aapke geet hamaare’ with Rakesh.
Rakesh: The Rakesh-Pragya team has been working together since 1996, almost 10 years now.

Q. Tell us something about your shows on Red FM?

Rakesh: We host ‘Chitthi aaye hai’, ‘Jeene ka funda’ and ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’.

Pragya: ‘Chitthi aaye hai’ is a request show. We get letters mostly from school children and teenagers and we play their requests.

Rakesh: ‘Jeene ka funda’ is a three-hour long infotainment show for all age groups. It is divided into several beats. We Indians swear by three Cs – cricket, crime and cinema. Since crime on radio is not a very positive thing, so we do not talk much about it… sometimes we touch on some political issues lightly, with perhaps a tinge of sarcasm. In ‘Cricket wicket ki baatein’, we give cricket updates, for which we keep tab on all records made and broken in the last 10 years.

Pragya: ‘Idhaar udhaar ki baatein’ covers the interesting bits of news, which may not have been covered on the front pages.

Rakesh: Our programmes are very interactive. We make the listeners feel very important. We are sensitive, patient yet humorous when talking to those who call in on our programmes.

Pragya: In ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ we play old Hindi numbers. But that’s not all, we also try and give some background information about the movies and the songs.

Q. Who are primarily your listeners?

Rakesh: Our listeners are both the masses and the classes. We give clean, balanced entertainment, which appeal to both.

Pragya: We try to keep our language simple, the kind used in our day to day lives. We don’t say anything that might make our classy listeners cringe nor anything that might have someone running for the dictionary!

Rakesh: Yes, we follow the middle path.

Q. How do you prepare for your shows?

Pragya: Apart from referring to the research done by IMRB, we also do our own research. We disguise our voices and call up viewers for their feedbacks. We also maintain our own library and keep updating it every 60 days. In the ‘Aap ne pucha hai’ segment of our programme ‘Jeene ka funda’, which is aired on Fridays, you can ask any film related question and we will give you the answer.

Rakesh: I always keep my ears open to new suggestions or a casual remark made by anyone, it could be a teenager I met at the shopping plaza, the guy at the petrol pump or even the fruit seller who sits below our office.

Q. What kind of music do you usually play?

Rakesh: As Pragya has mentioned before, in ‘Chitthi aaye hai’ we play listeners’ request. Otherwise we play popular hit tracks, both filmy and non-filmy.

Pragya: Yes, catchy hummable numbers.

Q. According to you, how different is RJ-ing from DJ-ing?

Rakesh: Both are very different in nature.

Pragya: A DJ has to mix music depending on the mood of the public, add an extra beat or rap to the music. We don’t mix music. Again, a DJ is only playing the music, but a RJ is required to have ready wit.

Rakesh: However, one thing that both of us have in common is that the understanding of what the public wants.

Q. What are the different roles that each of you take while doing a show?

Pragya: (Laughs) Now I take the dominant role. Earlier though, when I was new, Rakesh used to dominate me a lot. Then one day I just refused to say my lines according to the script and though Rakesh was a little irritated with me initially, it started our own style of presentation.

Rakesh: I am the bumpkin, a ‘buddhu’. I tend to forget everything and am making mistakes or rather slow on the uptake.

Pragya: (Laughs) And I am the educated, intelligent one.

Rakesh: I have to stick to this image to the extent that even publicly I am extra, extra cautious that nothing intelligent or contrary to my assumed persona passes through my lips. And though I am fluent in Bangla, I don’t utter a word in Bangla in public!

Pragya: We have a very divided fan following, a greater chunk of which likes me, the intelligent Pragya, and some who sympathise with the ‘buddhu’ Rakesh!

Q. You are playing the same music, and perhaps say the same things everyday. How do you avoid being monotonous?

Pragya: Any job tends to become monotonous after a point of time. It requires a lot of self motivation to keep the excitement alive, and we are no exception.

Rakesh: We are never satisfied, and at the end of each programme we feel that the next day’s programme should be better than today’s.

Pragya: We keep setting high standards for ourselves and try to achieve that. Both of us are forever trying to improve ourselves.

Q. Have you hosted any live shows? How different is it from hosting a show from the studio?

Pragya: In a live show, the host or the compere has to judge the mood of the crowd and play along.

Rakesh: In a live show, personal presentation is very important. As for a show from the studio, I can be sitting in a faded T-shirt and a pair of old shorts and say that I am as brightly dressed as the sun outside. Also, in a live show, one has to be very, very careful about hand gestures and facial expressions. No place for slip-ups or goof-ups as there are many eyes watching your every move.

Pragya: You taste the public reaction instantly in a live show, they can boo you out or cheer you, but in a studio-based show, we get the listeners’ reactions much later

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