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Priyanka Sharma spends time with two popular RJs in their studio and finds what it takes to keep the listeners tuned in on the radio.
It is 7 am and radio jockeys Anant and Saurabh have been inside the Radio Mirchi recording studio for an hour already. Have they spent the extra hour brainstorming content for their four-hour morning show, now just about to begin? “We’re generally not in a mood to talk that early in the morning,” says Anant, suppressing a yawn, while his partner Saurabh is busy editing an Arvind Kejriwal soundbyte in the adjoining room. “If we weren’t being paid, we probably wouldn’t have woken up.” But as the ON AIR sign blinks red, the RJs put on a cheerful smile, one that immediately transfers to their voices.
Hi Delhi airs from Monday to Saturday, 7 am to 11 am, and features segments like “Jeene Ke Bahane” (tips for youngsters on making their day interesting), “Horrorscope” (scary forecasts for celebrities), “Good, Bad, Ugly” (three talking points from the news of the previous day), “Topic of the Day” (an exchange of views with listereners), “Mirchi Giraftaar” (interviews with personalities relevant to the topic) and “Mirchi Rap” (random items from city news, presented as a rap song).
Morning in the Mirchi studio finds Vikram Srivastava, the show’s producer attending calls from listeners and monitoring his mischievous jockeys — who can be a handful. “No producer can stay with us for too long,” says Anant matter-of-factly, while a commercial is aired. Srivastava offers a non-committal grin and gets back to work. The RJs have streamlined the content for today’s show the night before, in a conference call with Srivastava, butthey still have plenty to do.
It’s now 8 am. The RJs stifle yawns and rub their eyes. The first hour of the show has featured Anant and Saurabh’s own experiences from the day before — such as incessant commercial SMSes and annoying relatives who arrive unannounced. As the second hour begins, the RJs signal each other with a look and a nod. Having scripted the show for almost two years now, they uunderstand each other very well. During the show, one will finish the other’s sentences, as the show proceeds like a conversation between the two.
The day’s news is presented in an unusual manner. News and newspaper websites and Google are open on Anant’s laptop, and they use this to bounce input on current affairs off each other. They chat about Anna Hazare’s fast and the mania around Salman Khan’s new movie, Bodyguard.
They had a playful discussion on how to present the news to the listeners. Private radio stations do not have a license to read news on air, but this duo does so under the garb of satire and humour during “Mirchi Rap”. “We avoid sensationalism on any topic because it is a serious issue, it involves politicians,” Saurabh admits. Anant adds, “Politicians are more sensitive than a baby’s backside. We have to be very careful!” Still, they refer to actor Akshay Kumar as “Padma Shri Akshay Kumar” and recall Salman Khan’s several run-ins with the law. Their sarcastic humour does not spare anyone.
* * * * *
It’s 9 am. The music, soft and soothing during the first two hours, now shifts to faster beats to energise sleepy listeners. The station’s in-house weather girl provides the weather updates. “Mausum Mausi”, as she is called, is played by Saurabh. “Everybody has their aspirations,” says Anant, with a mock-tragic air. “RJs dream of goodlooking weather girls.” Budget restraints squashed that dream, so Saurabh became the “weather aunty”. “People loved this loud, intrusive Punjabi woman, typical of west Delhi as she uses her humour to convey a message,” says Saurabh. The message may be a moral lesson or a jibe at politicians. While Saurabh, in Mausam Mausi’s voice, presents information drawn from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) website, Anant strums the guitar on air. The trio is marketed as “Dilli ke 3G — Anant ji, Saurabh ji aur Mausiji”. With a claimed 5.5 million listeners tuning in every morning, Anant and Saurabh have become household names. (To maintain their popularity, the channel advises them not to use their full names.)
How have they managed to stay popular? “I try to presume [Saurabh’s] reactions, his comebacks and retorts,” says Anant. “We’re acquainted with each other’s style.” Saurabh adds, “We are very real. We won’t promote alcohol on air but if we admire a beautiful girl in a lighthearted manner, our listeners will relate.” “I wouldn’t want to lie tothe listener as it involves too much effort,” says Anant bluntly.
As the pre-recorded, freshly edited Kejriwal soundbyte informs listeners of his stand on the Lokpal bill, Anant is already engrossed in penning the satirical “Mirchi Love Letter”, a regular feature on the show. The letter will be voiced by Saurabh and put on air in the next 20 minutes. Speed, spontaneity and multitasking are essential if you want to sit in this studio.
The clock strikes 10. Jokingly describing the entire show as a “technical glitch”, the duo brainstorm the last 40 minutes of the show while listeners are treated to Shreya Goshal’s recent chartbuster and a preview of the afternoon show. There are no assistants to edit their bytes, write their scripts or fetch them water. “I cannot ask anyone else to think for me. If you conceive it then you should execute it. Else there is always a transmission loss ,” says Anant. Live updates on traffic from different corners of Delhi pour in by the minute, from citizen contributors.
The music is mostly Bollywood and the language Hinglish. “We need to give variety to the listeners even in the music department,” claims Saurabh. “If everyone plays Bollywood, it will be too boring. “The only differentiating factor,”he goes on, “is the RJ.” Anant counters: “But [the RJ] is also human. He or she has only about 10 minutes in an hour to make an impact… So we know what songs to choose and do not pick anything that is beyond our audience.”
How the show began is a tale worth telling. “Well,” says Anant, after a pause and several wicked grins, “there was a lot of beer involved.” The two used to do the Sunday show from 3 pm to 6 pm, Saurabh as producer and Anant as jockey, until they realised that it was a dead time slot. “Most of our audiences were taking their Sunday nap,” says Anant. “So we would visit a pub after the show to drown our sorrows and discuss our aspirations for a morning show, while lying on top of our cars.”
While the two are contracted to stay in the Mirchi office till 12.30 pm every day, they can spend the rest of the day as they like. They have a band called Atharva, and perform on the Delhi University circuit. Anant plays the guitar, Saurabh is the lead vocalist. How is it that they haven’t turned to TV or films, like former jocks Gaurav Kapoor and Roshan Abbas? “We are chained to our jobs,” laments Saurabh half-seriously. “Our bosses won’t let us go. They lure us back in with money.”
Is the competition from other stations making them nervous? “If the competition is increasing, so is the listenership,” says Saurabh. “The listener today is [valuing] the RJ for what he/she truly is.” “We don’t try too hard...” says Anant emphatically, “after all, we hate working hard.” And on that note, they sign off.