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Interviews |  16 May 2009 10:56 |  By Nikita_Sharma

RJ Mantra - I am a VJ, I am a RJ and I am an actor also, official Thappa Lagake!!!

The guy needs an introduction no more. He's a theatre artiste, a voluble RJ, an impressive VJ and has the distinction of being the only subsequent RAPA Award winner in the radio industry.

Red FM RJ Mantra unwinds in a chat with Radioandmusic.com's Nikita Sharma on life as an RJ and beyond.

How was your experience as a debutant actor in Kunal Deshmukh's �Tum Miley'…?

It was not bad, considering it's my debut. But I didn't feel out of my depth as I have been doing television for so long  The one thing that I couldn't figure out was why filmmaking takes such a long time. And now I have figured it out - there are so many different angles and retakes for a single scene! And what an experience! The movie is based on the deluge that hit Mumbai on 26 July 2005. The scene of the floods in Mumbai was recreated. We have been shooting in five feet deep water.

It seems you are enjoying your stint as an actor…

Oh! I loved it. I love the feels of filmmaking. At times, I used to wonder when it would get over but, all said and done, I think I'll love to have more and more of it, over and over.

Was acting in films a natural progression?

I have always been an actor; I became an actor before I became a RJ or a TV host. I have been doing theatre for 12 years. Performing on stage is in my blood because my mother also used to perform on stage. So yes, it is a different thing now, I am a VJ, I am a RJ and I am an actor also, official…Thappa Lagake!!!

Isn't life getting hectic?

No… I think that there are yet more places for me to explore. There is much more I can do, apart from these three. But I am trying to take time out from my daily regular radio show and weekly television show. Yes, it becomes a bit hectic.

How deeply involved are you in theatre?

I am an ambassador for the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) who represent Indian talent on an international level. And I am already working for the UNICEF, the Spastics Society of India, and the National Association for the Blind. The play that I am recently involved with has a lead girl in it who is wheelchair bound, and we are going this play overseas.

Does this mark your contribution towards social causes?

Everything is done for a cause. So every time we do plays, the money collected goes towards the under privileged or for the �specially abled'. But then again, theatre is more of a passion for me.

Tell us something about Mantra as an RJ…

I am the first radio jockey of India as far as private FM is concerned. The first ever radio station that was launched in Indore by Radio Mirchi; that's where I have started my radio career from. So the first radio station ka bhi first radio jockey. So at a very young age I am already a veteran in the radio industry and that's how it started. I was a hotelier before that and apart from doing theatre, I used to be a regular hotel management guy, I used to work for the Taj group of hotels. From there, I shifted into radio and the rest is history.

What has been the reason for you to keep shifting radio stations?

I didn't!! In the ten years of my radio career, this is my third radio station. I was in Indore with Radio Mirchi, I worked there for around three years. I worked in Delhi at Radio City becuasen, before coming to Bombay, I wanted to see how a metro radio station works. So I went to Delhi where I worked with Radio City for three and a half years. From there, I wanted to shift to Mumbai because that's the ultimate destination of every artist; here Red FM welcomed me and here I am for the last three and a half years.

If not an RJ....

Right now,…I would have gone up to the Himalayas to find the ultimate truth.

What has been the high point of you career till now?

My shift to Mumbai and my first RAPA award.

What do you think is so extraordinary about �Mumbai local' that you triumphed for RAPA for two years in a row?

I think Mumbai has accepted an outsider very beautifully and that's what �Mumbai Local' is all about. �Mumbai Local' doesn't only relate to one small particular bunch of people in Mumbai. Mumbai is a multi-lingual city and for me Mumbai is the capital. Because I spoke everyone's language, everyone has started relating to my show and that's the reason the awards came my way.

After so much of exposure to television now, do you think an RJ needs a face?

I come from the old school which believes that radio jockeys should not be showcased because jocks are very mysterious figures. The most important part of an RJ's life should be how many different roles he can play because on radio nobody gets to see you, so they have their own imagination. Radio is nothing but �A blind man's television' that's what we call it in our industry. This means the blind man can imagine anything - so you should not disappoint him by showing off what you really are. And as far as people like like Tarana, Suresh Menon who are associated with radio and television are concerned, we have a different way of working. We don't work the way regular radio jockeys work. But for those who are hardcore radio jockeys, I personally believe that they should remain mysterious till they are on radio.

If given a chance what would be the one thing you want to change about the radio sector?

It would be the way people perceive radio-�as the poor cousin of television'. I really believe that radio is so much more powerful. Everyone who is involved with the radio industry should realise that they have responsibilities to make radio industry bigger than what it is now. I want it to be as larger as the leading newspapers or television.

Is your show on radio scripted?

I have a team that works for me but my show is never scripted. That's advised for the new jocks, but it takes away the spontaneous element. I know what I am about to speak so I never have a ready script.

Wouldn't you ever prefer to do a daybreak show?

I don't prefer any slot. I think this is an over-rated topic that daybreak shows are the most important time of a radio industry. Every slot has its importance and for me, the evening slot is more important as I have been doing it for a long time. I like speaking to people when they are through with their day.

Do you think radio jocks should be regulated for what they speak on air?

Yes, there should be a radio censor as soon as possible. There should be a television censor too as soon as possible. Everybody should be accountable for what they do or say. And I think the regulation should come from within the radio industry, not from some outsiders  I think radio veterans, radio jockeys, and radio programmers should be the ones in the regulation team.

Do you think by now you are a brand in yourself?

I work for brand Mantra; I work for this name that I have generated and developed for the last few years. So yes, brand Mantra is on television , it's on radio, it's in films and it is going to grow even bigger than what it is now.

Did the exit of RJ Anuraag Pandey (currently with Fever FM) from Red FM make you the prominent voice of the station?

I always believe that every individual has his own importance. I have been a national presence, I became as big in Delhi as any other jock could have been, I was as big in Indore as anywhere else and the same thing in Mumbai  I am not in the same league as any of the other jocks because they are city specific and I am a national jock. And as far as Red FM is concerned, I think they always considered me to be a very important part of their team and I think I am as important as any other jock on this station, not next to anyone.

Don't you miss your original self and to be known by your original identity.

Mantra is that one name that I'll be known throughout my life and I am sure of that. And I don't miss to be known through my original identity. Mantra has nothing in his life; he is not having a lone penny saved on his name! I am the father of Mantra; I have given birth to him. So, I don't miss him, there are fine people in my life who keep reminding me of who I really am.