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Interviews |  23 Sep 2008 18:46 |  By AnitaIyer

Jeeturaaj Unplugged!

Every Mumbaikar knows Jeeturaaj through the hoardings all across the city that go, Jeeturaaj jab bolta hai, akkha Mumbai sunta hai.... His heavy Mumbaiya accent is enough to wake listeners in the morning. I had my own reservations about meeting this popular RJ known for his weird ways, his trademark glares and often acerbic sense of humour. JR didn't disappoint, on first glance- there he was, dressed in a yellow and orange shirt with red streaks!

An orange stole tugged in the loop of his jeans; Jeeturaaj was busy taking telephonic bytes from the cast of �Rock on' amid all the network problems and arranging sounds. Crazily, he shouts in the studio tapping his hands 3, 2, 1 before starting the telecom interview as part of the brand activation. After half an hour we finally we settle down for the interview

Don't you think radio has become too commercial with oodles of brand activations?

Radio is full-on commercial; everything is tied up with some brand. There is a lot of licence fee that goes in buying a frequency and we need to recover through brand activations. There are brands yearning to advertise with radio as it is a powerful medium today so why not use it for brand awareness?

Isn't it a bit too much for listeners, with an overdose of stars every week before the film releases on Friday?

It depends on the way the RJs and radio stations handle and present the sponsored shows. Like we did for bachna ae haseeno - the whole interview was not played at all; it was a two minute capsule about what they think of Jeeturaaj. The bits and pieces became a very interesting conglomeration after being properly packaged into an entertainment filler. It is an intelligent thing where you do brand activation without letting the listeners know about it. These tie ups come in a packaged deal and believe me, listeners love it. It drives loads of listeners for the radio station.

How does it feel to be the face of Radio Mirchi?

Jeeturaaj is not the face of radio but just a voice of radio. It is such a responsible position, you cannot falter there; you have to be concerned about everybody who has tuned in. It is a great feeling where lakhs of Mumbaikars wake up to Jeeturaaj early morning. At the very same time, you are the brand ambassador for a radio station and I love every moment of it.

Any challenges of being a morning jock…

The show I do, �Hi Mumbai' is the brand driver show of Radio Mirchi, it is supposedly the show that decides the stand your radio station has, the listeners you have and the shows on your station. I start very early for that and refer to the happenings in the city. The first challenge is to get listeners to tune into radio. Early morning, radio is the last on the list of priorities. So my 7-8 am slot is very cute and pampering, where I wake the listeners into listening to radio.

Would your leaving radio Mirchi result in shift of listeners from Radio Mirchi?

Brand Jeeturaaj is so much a part of Radio Mirchi, it is powerfully engulfed with it. When you think of Jeeturaaj, you only think of Radio Mirchi. �Jeeturaaj' is a brand that belongs to Radio Mirchi and it has been created over a period of time which got created and became successful because of the sensibilities that go well with Radio Mirchi.

Jeeturaaj is �Radio Mirchi ki Jaageer'. Every RJ commands the power to carry his listeners with him with every shift but he has to be immensely popular to pull them. I don't think I am such a powerful brand that I can take the listeners with me. Listeners are not with me, they are with my brand �Jeeturaaj'. Leaving Radio Mirchi would mean leaving the brand �Jeeturaaj' as well and nobody knows me without it.

So that explains the blurred faces on the hoardings…

The campaign is intelligently designed and the face is hidden as Jeeturaaj is just a brand. If not me, there would be another faceless RJ continuing the show. I believe listeners have to connect with the jockey's voice and not face. I don't believe in making RJs into aspirational models, RJing is a salaried job, why make a model out of RJ? Listeners would never know and to a large extent, the face of Jeeturaaj would be hidden. The final agenda is every Mumbaikar can be a Jeeturaaj because is a pseudonym for being an aware Mumbaikar who is concerned about the city and its people. But it cannot be denied that hoardings help us get virgin listeners who are not even aware of the show.

So how long have you been Jeeturaaj?

Brand Jeeturaaj belongs to the Times of India group and the earlier Jeeturaaj also worked with Aakashvani when FM was still in its nascent stages. He met with an accident and I replaced him about six-seven months ago. I have heard his cassettes so, it is just a brand and anybody can be a Jeeturaaj. Jeeturaaj is a character with whom Mumbai connects big time, cries, wake up with him, they see their movies courtesy him, they grew with him. There are many college students who were listening to the earlier Jeeturaaj five years ago and still listening to me.

What were you before being a RJ?

I am a social worker working across orphanages in India. Once while collecting donations, I met a celebrity who said if you want to get money for your social work, work somewhere. I was working with an orphanage where they were paying me a menial amount and I was kicked with the thought of working and contributing towards the orphanage. Being a RJ gave me money, fame and the much required platform for my social work. So, you can say, �Hi Mumbai' is my claim to fame.

Don't you think you are too blunt while reviewing films in Mirchi Bioscope?

Oh! I have been threatened for my off-the-cuff reviews. There were two big competitive movies releasing on the same day and personally, brand Jeeturaaj developed a liking for a movie. We had tied up with the other film and when I went to interview the other guy; he brushed me the wrong way. Mirchi Bioscope can make or break movies, one reason for Jab we met becoming a superhit could be that it was recommended by Jeeturaaj. Kaal failed because Jeeturaaj ripped it apart.

You shows are scripted or impromptu?

Everything is scripted, there are very few moments when it's impromptu. Otherwise everything is lined up, planned up before the show. Being spontaneous is not a requisite for becoming a RJ and there is hardly any space for spontaneity! Today jockeys are trained, you don't need to have a voice, spontaneity, and linguistic skills… you just have to be certain that you want to be a jockey.

You believe going through training institutes is essential for becoming a jock?

Jeeturaaj is not a trained RJ but created by Radio Mirchi. I went through the training module in Mirchi and they made an RJ out of me. If you seriously plan to have a career in radio, it is good to go through a radio institute, it will at least get your profile right. But it will never train you to be a successful radio jockey, it will only train you about radio ethics but not what you do once you are on air and here the station comes to your rescue.

All these institutes mushrooming around are money minting businesses because there is demand of it and many youngsters are getting into it. It is a live medium and success of a RJ depends on the very moment he goes live. Imagine what a kick! I am speaking right to hearts of lakhs of listeners; I will never be able to express the feeling.

In your show Don V/s. Don you have tried to do something unconventional…

We are the only one making stars out of gubernatorial offices where we went to officials at high position of power. I have actually taken appointments to meet these officials and waited for hours. There were times when I have actually slept waiting for these guys as I start my day early.

If this works, it will give birth to a different kind of radio in India and if listenership response is considered, it's working. We have listeners calling and presenting questions for our guests.

It has been a great experience to interview profiles like Sanjay Barve, BEST General Manager Uttam Khobargade, the Dabbawalahs' Head of Mumbai President Raghunath D Medge, Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation MD PC Sehgal, Mayor Dr Shubha Raul, Laxmi Tripathi, Head of Eunuch's Association; Prasoon Joshi and many more.

It's a kind of citizen journalism…

Absolutely! It is citizen journalism in a very subtle and informed manner. We had Bittu Sehgal on air and we had so many listeners asking about the �Project Tiger'. It is kind of creating awareness rather than just being a stupid jock. As news is not allowed on the FM space, this is a small way of venturing into the news territory.

As you are hosting the prime time morning slot, do slots really matter to you?

No, that is for the company to decide. I am ok with any slot given to me and every hour would be as exciting for me. Be it afternoon, morning or night, I have my own set of listeners and I will get my listeners in any slot. If I have a night hour, I will make it into a morning slot and I can handle any slot given to me now.

Can a RJ make a difference when all the stations sound more or less the same?

Only an RJ can make the most important difference and I don't either believe in the school of thought that all radio stations sound same. There are some radio stations which are very cheap who in the name of entertainment create humour at the cost of others. Like calling up people at their homes and making fun of them. I am entertaining people without doing that.

Can RJs be successful in creating social awareness?

RJs are very powerful tools of communication; companies should use RJs to forward their tasks because a listener who believes in that RJ will also follow that RJ. I remember we got entire Mumbai activated for helping a blood soaked lady. We had somebody helping with hospital numbers, ambulance numbers, police control room. Imagine the amount of trust that the listener has in Jeeturaaj because rather than calling for an ambulance, she preferred calling on air.

After Radio Mirchi's campaign, �Mumbai bolta hai, Jeeturaaj aata hai', people started calling me with their problems like MSEB problems, MHADA not giving them our flats, traffic cop's wife who cried because somebody condemned the traffic cops, a visually challenged student who had no law notes for his exams and a listener actually providing the notes. So I went on air and the response was phenomenal.

So in these cases does music go for a toss?

Music continues for the passive listeners who don't care what happens around them in the city. Music continues but during the times I go on air, I help the listeners, there are times I managed to save a life. In reality, Mumbai saved the life and I was just acting as a platform. It is a connect built over a period of time by Jeeturaaj and a RJ can do that.

Radio must be music or talk oriented…

I believe radio should be only music, nothing else. Incidentally, listeners are connecting with RJs who are talking, and we play lot of music with three songs back to back. I have listeners who call and complain to say that we should reduce music and increase talk. So, talk radio might come up in a big way in some years.

What would you like to do after radio?

Why after radio? Radio has just begun. I see myself still as a more powerful, mature RJ with more Mumbaikars listening to me with more responsibility. I don't see anything beyond radio with so many challenges yet to be made. Radio is just opening, abhi toh shuru hua hai aur kya kya karna baki hai…

Pics by Mitesh Bhuvad