Chennai RJs open up about their thoughts about the profession, what more it needs and the listeners that keep them going.

Life on the airwaves Sub-standard content doesnt sell say Chennai RJs
Features Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 13:36

Some make us laugh, some entertain us, some give us company when we are stuck in traffic and some give us advice on love and life. Your favourite RJs are not just the voice, but also the soul of the medium. And yes, they are more than just the music they play. As one RJ said, "People can listen to music on their phones or mp3 players. They come to radio because of radio jockeys."  

While the medium of radio has evolved tremendously over the years, what largely seems to have remained unchanged is the role that radio jockeys play. 

With the advent of digital media, some are even considered influential personalities. 

Here's a peek into the lives of some of those familiar voices from the south that you’ll probably listen to today.

Sandeep aka RJ Sandeep- Chennai Live, 104.8 FM, hosts 'The Drive' from 6-9 pm 

Compared to most of his other colleagues in the radio fraternity, Sandeep is relatively new to the profession.

It has been close to five months since Sandeep started working as a radio jockey. But that's not his only job. By day he is a finance professional and by evening he transforms into RJ Sandeep on 104.8 FM, entertaining listeners driving back home from work. 

Sandeep's foray into radio wasn’t planned, but followed up on his interests in theatre and music.

"I have been involved in theatre and music for nearly eight years now. I also used to do voice overs, dubbing and emceeing. Chennai Live was looking for a person to replace an existing RJ (who was moving to another FM station) and I auditioned for the part and got through," he says. 

Sandeep is used to the occasional how-do-you-juggle-multiple-careers together queries. "My day job," he says, "pays the bills and keeps me grounded. But my other interests fuel my passion."

In fact, he feels working in radio has only made him more efficient in his day job. "I have limited time to finish my work and don't have the luxury to slack. And so my speed at the job is blistering. Also radio is like a stress buster for me," he says. 

What Sandeep likes about radio, and also considers an "advantage", is that the medium creates opportunities for him to meet a host of interesting people, a range that isn’t just limited to meeting celebrities. 

He once received a call from a listener who said he was a taxi driver. 104.8 fm is an English radio station, and when the listener told him he only understood Tamil and not much English, Sandeep was surprised to receive his call. Even more so, when the listener told him that he regularly tuned into their shows. 

"'But why do you listen to us?', we asked him. And he said that he listened to us to learn English. He used to pick up certain phrases like "awesome" and "wonderful" and used it to converse with his customers."

"It is heart-warming to see stuff like that. And it is the relationship that we make post the 15-minute interviews that I savour most."

Sanobar Sultana aka RJ Sano- Fever 91.9 FM Chennai, hosts 'Lose Control' from 5-9 pm

Before she entered the world of radio eight years ago, Sanobar worked as a print journalist for a brief period.

With a background in microbiology and Environmental Science, Sanobar wanted to become a journalist reporting on the environment. However, she quit the job after a year. “I was unhappy (with the job)," she says. She even worked with an environmental consultancy where she often felt “like I was Govinda trying to do corporate work. I was way too colourful and happy.”

And that is how she began searching for a medium through which to express herself. She focused on training her voice in order to become a voice-over artist and landed herself a job in radio.

“The best thing about being an RJ,” she says, “is that you are basically handling several roles together — you are the director, scriptwriter, hero and villain.”

What she doesn’t like about the medium, however, is the restriction on certain topics from being discussed on air.

"Radio has a thumb rule: RSP (Religion, sex, politics) cannot be discussed. But why can’t we discuss politics on radio? You think we are dumb? That for me is heartbreaking,” she says.

“The Prime Minister conducts ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on radio. We too can get candidates to come and talk on radio during elections and that can make it an inclusive election,” she adds.

Sanobar calls Chennai a “very unforgiving city”. According to her, “they have very high standards, are well read and informed and won't tolerate substandard content.”

In her close to a decade long career, the city has embraced her and given her some equally fond and crazy memories.

One Sunday morning, Sanobar decided to talk about mangoes on her show, of the various childhood memories attached to the king of fruits. The next morning she had a box of mangoes waiting for her in the office. “A listener sent it to me that year and several more years after that. All because I triggered someone's happy memories," the RJ popularly known as RJ Sano says. 

However, one thing that irks Sanobar to the core is the “myth” that an individual needs to be talkative to become an RJ.

"My BP shoots up when people ask me if I am talkative. Being talkative is not a qualification for becoming an RJ. If you have a personality and you can bring it out on air efficiently and speak well I think it might just work,” she says.

Shivshankari Bhaskaran aka RJ Shivshankari- Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, Chennai, hosts 'Rewind Raagam' from 11am-2pm

Eight years ago, when Shivshankari (30) auditioned for a job as a radio jockey, she thought she had done a "flop thing". 

So as soon as it was over, she hired an auto and left. 

"But they called me back. And the first thing I thought was that I already had taken an auto and would now have to pay double for returning. So I asked them if I could come tomorrow," she chuckles. 

Shivshankari paid the "double", went back to the radio station's office and finally returned with a job in her hand. 

While starting afresh in a field where one has no previous experience might sound difficult, Shivshankari had an additional hurdle to cross. 

She would be hosting a show which was previously presented by another, quite popular, radio jockey.

"The show was hosted by RJ Shiva and he had his own fan following. He was, in fact, a celebrity," she says adding that she was initially skeptical about how the audience would respond to her. 

She started out with a show on love, where she was "Dr Love", "solving and sharing love ailments of people".

Today, Shivshankari says she has an audience that ranges across all age groups equally. 

Reminiscing about one of the most touching experiences she's had as a radio jockey, she talks about a 50-something listener who once called her. 

"The man's children were demolishing his old house. He said the house was the only memory he had of his wife, who was no more. He just wanted to share it with someone. It was quite emotional for me," she narrates, adding, "People see us as a family member or as friends.”

Also read:

Life on the airwaves: Bengaluru RJs on what it's like to have a 'steamy affair with radio'

Life on the airwaves: Hyderabad RJs share tales of their passion for radio

Life on the airwaves: Kerala RJs on conquering dreams and winning over listeners

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