Thursday, August 01, 2013

Floating on the Air Waves

Radio jockeys Akhil George and Tara of Red FM 93.5 talk about their experiences while on air

By Shevlin Sebastian

One morning, radio jockey, Akhil George, got a call while he was hosting his programme, 'Morning No. 1' on Red FM 93.5. It was a 65-year-old housewife, Meenakshi. “My son and daughter-in-law have abandoned me,” she said. “Ever since my husband died a few years ago, I have been living alone. My daughter-in-law poisoned the mind of my son and they went away.” Meenakshi, who stays in Vaikom, cried audibly on air for a while.

Akhil commiserated with her and told her things would get better. That one day her son and daughter-in-law will get reconciled with her. That it was important to remain positive and patient. That all was not bleak.
Meenakshi said, “Thank you. I feel better now.”

For Akhil, this was one of his more touching moments on air. “Many people called me later to express their appreciation,” he says.

Akhil had another moving moment. During the Delhi rape case he was discussing the topics for days together, just like the entire media.

One morning while he was on air, he told his listeners that everybody should pray for the girl. “As I was saying this, I saw on the news ticker that she had died,” says Akhil. “Immediately, tears came to my eyes.”

Usually, on air, radio jockeys rarely talk about a person's death, since it is an entertainment media. Words like 'vomiting', 'death', and 'dog' are avoided. “But I still felt that I had to inform the public,” says Akhil. “So, I said, 'Please forgive me, but I have just received the news that the girl is no longer with us'. And my voice broke. I had become emotionally attached to the girl. The listeners could detect that.”

Somehow, Akhil, still feeling dazed, moved to a song. “By the grace of God, I played the right one,” he says. It was 'Nejukulle Nenjeirruku', by AR Rahman, from the Tamil film, 'Kadale'. The translated lyrics went like this: 'In my heart/You are close to me/I don’t know/in which direction my day would be.'

When Akhil sits behind the controls, just before his show begins at 7 a.m., he feels excited. “I have never experienced any fear,” he says. “Instead, I always get an adrenal rush.” Initially, there are birthday requests by housewives and college students. The men come in during the 8 am segment when Akhil will introduce the subject of the day: this could be topics like whether escalators will be good for the South railway station, the state of the roads or whether the Oommen Chandy government has lost its image.
There are calls come from IT professionals, CEOs, retired people, auto-rickshaw drivers, elderly parents, and teenagers too.

Sometimes, it has put Akhil in an embarrassing position. There was one girl who was giving wishes for her parents and friends and lastly she said, “I see your show all the time. I love it. I want to see you face-to-face, hug you and give a kiss.” Akhil did not know how to react. He remained silent for a full five seconds.

I had to remind myself that there are other listeners,” he says. “They should not conclude that I am getting attracted to a particular person. People will think that I am a flirt.” So Akhil said very slowly, “Thank you.”
Asked about the qualities needed to be a good RJ, Akhil says, “He should be a good listener and keep his eyes open about what is happening in the city. You have to move around all the time. There should be a commitment and passion to the radio, as well as to society.”
The voice is also important. “It should be pleasant and clear,” he says. “But more than that, if I say something good and informative, then you will enjoy listening to me more. The voice, by itself, cannot be captivating.”

As Akhil speaks, RJ Tara is hosting a morning programme, in the 11 am to 3 pm segment, which is meant for housewives. So she talks about the concerns of women, discusses recipes, and plays requests. Tara has regular listeners who call and have a chat with her, in between songs. One of them is Mary, a housewife, who was afflicted by cancer and is making a slow recovery, as well as a blind lady.

Some call and say my voice sounds like [actress] Samvrutha Sunil,” says Tara. Maybe, that was why she got the opportunity to do dubbing for the heroines in the films, Amen and Aami (a segment of Anju Sundharikal).

For Tara the work is enjoyable, because when she sits in the studio, she can forget all the worries and tensions of the outside world. “It is an oasis of peace,” she says. “And I am being paid to play and listen to music. Isn’t that fun?”  

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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