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Features |  19 Jul 2013 15:27 |  By RnMTeam

RJ Balaji: I don't follow any format

Having hosted one of the most successful shows on radio in Chennai, RJ Balaji has become a name synonymous with Big FM today. The witty jock anchored is most popular segment Cross Talk in his show Take it Easy for many years, until the recent incident with an Australian RJ prompted him to pull off the segment on moral grounds. Taking over the Musical Rendezvous segment, the jock explains the reasons behind the closure of the show and the state of programming in Chennai today.

Take it Easy started off as a laughter show and so was its USP. However now, the focus of the same is has shifted and has become an opinion based show. We do not follow any particluar format. I have an opinion on the local issues of the city and its impact on the people. Our conversation with the callers is very direct. 

It is a gradual but conscious shift. Humour works well on radio, but ever since I started giving opinions and made this shift, it has also been very well received by the audiences. Humour is still present in my show, but in a complete different way. We have gradually shifted from a single dimension show to a multi-dimensional show.

Cross Talk was supposed to be part of my show, but we stopped the segment after the Australian show led to a major incident. The only similarity between both the shows is that it’s a prank call show. Now I avoid making prank calls, thinking what if something goes wrong. Thus we pulled it off.

We had a few guidelines that were followed. We often informed the person that the prank will be aired at a particular time with his prior permission, taking down all the details of the caller and more. However, it’s not because of this incident only; I would have anyway stopped that segment.

Earlier there was no such thing, but now there is so I don’t think it’s morally right to then carry on with such a segment in my show. I always selected the calls and then put them on-air. Only if I found them funny they would be aired.

One call (not a prank call) that I particularly remember is when I called an old lady living alone, who was down with diabetes and was not talking to anyone. It was her neighbour who used to go and talk to her every day. Her neighbour called me and requested to talk to her, so I spoke to her and that lady was smiling and was happy for a week. I was happy I could make someone smile after a long time.

I know people were disappointed when I took off the segment, but they have also appreciated the fact that it has been pulled off air on moral grounds. It was great to see that people still supported Take it Easy and wanted it to continue.

Cross Talk as a segment did not become big only because of radio; it was made big through the internet as I used to upload the calls online first. In around 197 countries, people have heard it over one crore times.

Like Cross Talk was not a formatted segment, similarly my show now is also not formatted. I have not replaced that segment. Everyday all my different links will have different content with humour and opinion. I don’t follow any format.

I think the next level of radio should be something like this because the format has been over used. Most of the RJs become prisoners of these formats. I don’t know about other cities, but in Chennai most RJs think they are stars after they become successful. They don’t want to stick to radio, their next step becomes television and then films.

So everyone takes films as their ultimate goal and uses radio as an opportunity. the problem where people don’t actually innovate. Despite the famous RJs moving out the radio stations are not willing to innovate. I hear so many RJs saying I got 30-40 calls today. Even I get a lot of calls, but so many people calling you every day is not a big thing.

I don’t have to face competition because the quality of programming is not very good here. The RJs get into stations after college and are very lethargic.  RJs that have been there for a long time like eight years are really bored of what they do. More than bringing out their personality through the show, most shows now just involve doling out content and the show is over.

I feel radio pays much lesser as compared to the other mediums does to rookies which is one of the prime reasons that people get attracted to television. Also radio pays very less and secondly there are no good institutions or schools to train the people. I want the people to understand how radio works and then get into it rather than thinking it’s a cake walk. RJs need proper training and good salaries.

And once they start branching out to other mediums due to lack of money, radio becomes the least important thing for them. So I think radio stations should take it upon themselves to see that their RJ understands the medium and knows what should go on-air and they should keep them happy by paying them well.

My fans have loved me in many ways. Some of them even created an application for me. I don’t know much about mobile apps and technologies, so when they called me I was not sure what it was. Our team saw the apps, and there was one android and iOS app called RJ Balaji app. It offers all my updates from facebook and twitter, all the content I upload on SoundCloud and more. Within the first week of its launch, it was trending in Chennai.

The apps do not differentiate in content, but I do different content for radio and internet. Radio is very easy and spontaneous, but internet works in a different way. For people to download from the internet they need more content, so whatever I upload online has added content. We also integrate the on-air content into the applications which is being worked upon currently.

I really want to change this trend of people trying to become big somewhere else because of radio. I have made sure that people recognise me for the work I do on radio and not consider to be equivalent to a superstar. I want to be a radio jockey for more than 15 years which no one has done in Chennai.