| 07 Feb 2013
Censorship is really important, but I think at times the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting goes overboard on things that we can say and things that we cannot. I am sure guidelines are required, but somewhere the guidelines are really stringent. It really curbs a lot of creativity and a lot that you as a person would like to put out to make a difference.
Suren and Meera host the drive time show ‘Sunset Samosa’ on Radio Mirchi. The duo embarked on their radio journey almost five years back and is known for their tongue-in-cheek humour. Through their show, Suren and Meera take on the current issues faced by the aam janta in their own style. The pair believes that while RJing looks glamorous, it is a form of journalism and thus, needs to have certain aim and direction with a bit of freedom at the same time.
In their conversation with exchange4media’s Saloni Surti, Suren and Meera speak about how RJing has revolved over the years, content trends across the radio space and what RJing means to them.
Q. How do you think RJing has evolved over the years? RJs were initially voice of the radio station, in a later stage they also got a face. Where, according to you, are RJs now?
Meera: I am very old school. As a person, for me radio is all about the content and the personality of the RJ, very little to do with one’s visibility. But considering that we are in an industry where your voice needs to have a face, to an extent it is important.
Speaking about evolution, I came to the city in 2001 and I used to listen to the radio at that time because I had no television. And the RJs at that time were, I would not say frivolous, but ‘halka’. It was a go with the flow, talk about the music sort of a format and eventually it evolved to Bollywoodisation and now social.
Now, the sense of responsibility among RJs has really gone up because somewhere you understand that not everybody has a platform to voice their opinions and I think it also depends on the RJ. Still there are RJs in the field who are not as conscious about the fact that when they speak, a lot of people are listening to them. I think consciousness sets in when you realise that whenever I open my mouth there is a purpose, even if it is to bring a smile on the listener’s face or to bring some sort of change or to make your listeners start thinking and questioning themselves. There has to be a purpose for every action. An RJ needs to stand out, and this has been happening over the years.
Suren: In 2001-02, radio got privatised and people could just come in as radio players. Till that point of time all we had was All India Radio, which had very monotonous radio presenters. When they opened shop, I am sure at that point of time even the radio players were clueless as to what part to take and probably employed the trial and error method. The beauty about Mirchi is that they were the pioneers; we knew that this is the part we go towards. From when Meera and I joined in, that is 2007, to now, the world has changed. Now, I feel lucky that in 2013 I am a jock who already has five years of experience under his belt. A lot of people who might come in now might find it difficult to cope up or speak their mind. The boon of being a five-year old is that I can get away with a lot of stuff which new RJs might not be able to and the bane is that you are not allowed to commit mistakes.
In the present world we are expected to be on social media and have a public identity. We personally do go all out, but we are subtle on it. We believe that radio jockeys have radio faces.
Q. Do you think due to the increasing commercial pressure objectivity of the content is lost?
Meera: It is the responsibility of the jock and programming head as to how to work best with clients to bring out the best content. You have to trade very carefully. Thus, whenever a business deal comes in, it does not come in directly. It has to follow a process, and when it reaches us, there are a million questions that we ask. We try to work around that mandate.
Suren: Advertisers come to Radio Mirchi for reaching out to the listeners. Between Radio Mirchi and listeners comes the role of Suren and Meera. Meera and I decide how the commercial content will go to the listeners. We add a number of elements like humour, emotions, etc., to make it unique. So, how you do something that makes it different is important.
Q. One thing that you would like to change about the Indian radio industry…
Meera:Censorship is really important, but I think at times the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting goes overboard on things that we can say and things that we cannot. It is a little tough situation because I would like to believe that I am a responsible person and I will not say anything that will create a wrong situation. I am sure guidelines are required, but somewhere the guidelines are really stringent. It really curbs a lot of creativity and a lot that you as a person would like to put out to make a difference.
Q. Do you think radio as a medium is leveraged to its optimum potential in India?
Meera: This is something that clients need to think about. There are some clients who go beyond the normal 30-second advertisement spot, but most of them do not. Radio is not only about client mentions. There is a very strong connect that brands can start making with RJs as a brand. We are ready to rise up to the challenge, but are the clients ready?
Suren: The concept of taking risk has not seeped in yet. I have never heard a commercial radio station even relay a concert. What I mean to say is that there is so much that we can do. Clients need to have confidence and media planners need to help marketers build that trust.
Q. How much of a role do you play in the scripting and designing of the show’s content?
Suren: Every jock has a very important role to play in the scripting of the show. However, each jock has his own way of functioning. So when it comes to the content part of it, Meera and I are very thorough as to what will go on the show. We pre-decide on what topics we will speak about and our stand is very clear before we go on air.
Meera: It may seem like it is off the cuff, but we plan beforehand as to what are the topics that we will deal with and what we bring is as far as opinions go. He brings in his opinion as Suren and I bring in my opinion as Meera. We do not bring our programming head’s opinion or a specific script writer’s opinion. We do make a few pointers, but there is no scripting as such where we decide who will say what or when. Considering that Suren and I have been around for five years, there is a portrayal of the radio station, so whatever we do is in line with what the radio station is about. For five years Radio Mirchi molded us, now we pick our own content, we have the Mirchi DNA in us. Thus, as RJs we are very much active in the scripting and designing of the show.
Q. Can you share the process of how the show is produced?
Meera: We sit together everyday at 3 PM and decide what goes on the show. Till then, we have an idea of what the city is talking about, what is happening with the youth or what personally happened with me which the city should know about. By 4 PM we have decided on the content.
Suren: We radio jockeys are like journalists, but of a different kind. We are part of the society and we are a mirror to the society. The difference is that when we do a show as the mirror to the society, we should have some sense of responsibility. Secondly, we are creative people, so you can’t push us to do something if we are not keen on. When we are sitting between 3 PM and 4 PM, we decide what the show will be like, but the hour from 4 PM to 5 PM is very important because that is the time when we assimilate, de-stress and get back into the zone of being happy and all calm. We need to be in the happy zone before 5 PM because people listen to us and expect us to be fresh.
Preparing for the show also includes technical things like bytes, audio, etc. 5 PM to 9 PM is when the show is on air. Post the show we create a snippet, which is a highlight of the show. That ends the process of that particular day’s show.
Q. What, according to you, makes you two such a good pair?
Suren: Everybody has a USP, our USP is us. We transform what we get and present in our style. We get serious when required. You know that you will take something back when you listen to Suren and Meera. If you get down to knowing us, you will realise that we are as different as chalk and cheese. Our differences in personality make us what we are. In personal life I don’t know, but opposites on radio definitely attract. The more they are different, the better, it is because there is a uniqueness. You do not want to listen to somebody who just agrees to what others say. There might be some people who agree with Meera and some who agree with me, the beauty of this is that everybody gets to hear everybody’s opinion. The individuality that we bring to the show is our strength.
Q. Five qualities that an RJ should have…
Suren and Meera: Good listener – An RJ has to be a good listener to listen to what the city is saying, what the people are saying and be in sync with what is happening.
Sense of communication – An RJ should know how to deal with a particular situation. You cannot be just one person all the time. You need to communicate well, no matter what the situation is.
Temperament – As an RJ you have to be moderate with a strong sense of opinion. You cannot be an extremist or a radical. You have to be a common, normal, aam human being.
Sense of music – The medium is about the music. Everybody has to have deep and good knowledge of the music they are playing.
Multi tasking – An RJ should have the ability to multi task. To play songs, manage the console and talk to their audience at the same time.