| 24 Feb 2024
RJ Sarthak's 'Ishq' with radio spans over two decades, the radio jock holds credit for many first-of-its-kind segments

For some RJing is a starry affair, for some a mere profession, but Ishq Sarthak aka RJ Sarthak is obsessed with radio and his job since childhood. Call him the radio veteran, an intriguing speaker, who has been entertaining radio listeners of Delhi for over two decades now, Sarthak’s ‘Ishq’ with radio is unstoppable.

His zeal for doing something in journalism led him to pursue done Masters in French Communication from JNU and a course in Fashion from NIFT. His appetite for knowledge didn’t stop here as he was an interpreter at the Rock Street Journal and a part of the launch team of Headlines Today and also worked with Times Now before actually pursuing a full-fledged career.

In an exclusive interview with Radioandmusic, RJ Sarthak, who is currently working with 104.8 Ishq talks about his obsession for radio, RJing, Ishq FM, his various first-of-its-kind segments and more.

What made you choose RJing as your career?

I always wanted to become a radio presenter though I didn’t really like the word RJ as it doesn’t capture what you do on radio. Ever since, I was kid, I was fascinated by radio. I was so obsessed that I used to copy tapes of American radio stations brought by my friends. 

Which was the first radio station you worked at?

My first radio station was HIT 95. It wasn’t English but soon after I joined, we completely became one. I was the first radio jock on the station and the only radio presenter for a very long time. It was like living a dream, though I continue to live, but this is where it all started.

You have also worked with All India Radio. 

My first radio show was in 1999 with All India Radio (AIR). This was the time when Private FM didn’t exist and there was only AIR and FM Rainbow present. Actually on AIR, we were taken up as casual presenters and we could do a maximum of about six shows a month. I used to do a show called JK Tyres Matchless Music Hour, which came on Tuesdays and was aired from 9am to 10am in the morning. I also used to do another show called Campus Rock. I also did a request show, Just For You, a jazz and a country show. There was a classical show also.

AIR was a great training ground because you were only limited by your own passion. As long as you were not using unparliamentary language or inciting wrong emotions, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted during your show. The journey was absolutely fantastic and that’s where I learnt most about radio and owe credit to it.

When the switch to 104.8 Ishq happened?

HIT 95 turned Hindi later and didn’t have the kind of Hindi, I like. So, I quit and HIT. During this time, 104.8 Ishq was looking for a morning jock and it’s kind of music, identity and feel attracted me. You could build an emotive show and really focus on the music as well.

You are known for many firsts on radio

I never thought it will be first, second or third. When you are obsessed about something, you are really focussed and do not care what others are doing. My mind is always buzzing with more to do and to make radio more exciting.

Let’s talk about your shows on Ishq FM

We believe that our listener is both the king and queen and interacting with them is of major importance. To do that, we have interactive segments every hour between 7am to 11am from Monday to Friday.

Morning Cuppa - Between 7 -8am, I do a segment called, Morning Cuppa, where I offer them a cup of tea. So, its arguably, India’s first segment where we use theatre of the mind to build a segment, where we are using food as an active ingredient for conversation. Through sound effects, through conversation, we make them feel like they are having a cup of tea with us on-air while it is actually happening in the mind.

Tech Tuesdays - We do every Tuesday between 9am to 10 am in the morning, where we have a tech expert, who talks about the latest technology news.

Friday Film review - For the Friday Film review segment, we get a film expert who reviews the film released that week.

Full Throttle - On Saturday, I do Full Throttle, which is probably India’s first automotive show on radio. It’s like a car and bike show. This is it’s second year and I don’t think anyone else is doing such a show on radio, where we review vehicles, talk about what is happening in the automotive world. We do an expert segment as well. It’s a two hour show and is aired every Saturday morning from 9 to 11 am.

Battle Of The Sexes – It is  one of the most popular segments on our show and in the city as well. Couples send us messages, mentioning about wanting to play. We then take them on air. We ask opposite gender questions to both man and the lady, playing the game. Through this, we try to bring out the spice in their relationship. 

Do you also do ideation of your shows?

Most of the decisions about the show are taken by me, but it’s a team effort, everyone sits around and that’s how ideas happen. If you are totally honest with yourself, then there is no oneself who can take credit for an idea.

Do you write scripts of your shows too?

I have never scripted my shows. I believe in a totally spontaneous and non-scripted radio. Radio works when it becomes a passenger in your car. It’s a very lonely world out there and you are mostly alone. Radio’s purpose is, therefore, to be the person, who occupies the empty passenger seat in your car. This can only happen when somebody listening to you will invest time and emotion in the relationship between him/her and the radio station and they start believing that you are a person rather than just a voice. This only happens when there is conversation and you cannot script everyday conversations.

First ever radio jazz show

This was earlier on HITS 95 and Radio One. I listen to all kinds of music, but jazz has become an obsession for me since last five – seven years. Hence, I thought, why not try it on radio. It is currently a very hot genre, a lot of people are listening to it, and young people are even learning jazz professionally as well. There are schools that teach jazz professionally across the country, who have tie-ups with some of the best music schools in the world and they are sending people on scholarship etc. Hence, I thought of tapping into this and started the jazz show. But, on Ishq, we are sort of thinking about it, especially, the programming bit. But, yes, it was for the first time, jazz had a two hour dedicated slot on radio.

How supportive has Ishq FM been in your journey as a radio jockey and in your extra-curricular activities

Ishq FM is extremely supportive of everything that helps in honing the personality of the people that work with the radio station. At Ishq, it is not about, ‘Oh! Why are you are doing it?’ it is about, ‘let’s do it and see how it happens!’ It is such an encouraging thing because the kind of confidence that you gain from the support that you get from the people, who are taking decisions. The kind of freedom that you get to think is extremely supportive because you don’t have to be afraid but can think and act, which is a big thing,

If you had to list five things, which make your conversations lively and intriguing, which would they be?

I try and talk about the things that according to me are important and would resonate with listeners. I try and respect the listeners’ intelligence. By the mere virtue of being in front of the mike, you have an opinion that matters more than others, is a very dangerous trap to fall into. I try and not interpret what is happening or tell people to follow my interpretations, but ask them to make their own decisions.

Apart from Rjing, are you also involved in any other departments of Ishq FM?

Actually, everyone is involved in everything at Ishq because we want to do the best radio show possible. We all are very passionate about radio. So, it’s a small team that works together. Even if I am ideating about the show, others will always come in with inputs. We sit down, bounce ideas amongst each other. This is frequent with brand campaigns, scripts, and almost everything.

If you had to bring any changes in the current RJing in India

I don’t think there is need of any change. Everyone has a personality and everyone needs to bring that personality on the table, which they do.

Scope of RJing as a profession in India

It’s a double air thought because radio is such an intensely local medium that if you are in it for the glamour and to become a star then it won’t happen. Some people do, some don’t. Radio is a very incessant thing, every time you go on air, you have to say at least three things, which are the same every time like name of the station, show and your own name. You have to find ways to keep that interesting plus you have to be there every day. People think that we sit there and talk without thinking, which is not the case. We are the voice of a radio station and represent it, every time we go on air, which is a very big responsibility. For example, if you say something wrong without thinking, your station can shut down, a lot of people can lose identity.

Is it true that age matters for being eligible to be a radio jock?

To some extent it does, but radio is one of the professions where age doesn’t matter at all. You can’t dress up your voice. You are either good or bad.

Is it a financially sufficing job?

It is satisfying.

Any hobbies, you spare time for?

I host and curate a music stage along with a team at the Jaipur Literature Festival, annually, I have been doing it for four years now. It’s called the Jaipur Music Stage, where we also have Jaipur Music Stage Conversation, where we have songs by some of the best in the industry.

Any comments on the growth of radio?

There is growth, but radio has not developed the way it should have. It has nothing to do with age.

Lastly, any message, you want to give to the budding radio jocks?

Don’t try and be anyone else, but be yourself. If you lie about who you are, the mike, which is a lie detector, will always catch you!