Radio Ga Ga

Anjali Jhangiani
Saturday, 16 February 2019

Chatting up Rakesh Anand Bakshi, who has tuned into the world of radio presenters in his book — Let’s Talk on Air: Conversations with Radio Presenters

As a young soldier, in the Royal Indian Navy (1944-1946) and the Indian Army (1947-1956), Anand Bakshi would dream of the day his name would be announced on the radio when he heard songs of Mukesh and Mohammad Rafi. When he got his break, to write songs for the Brij Mohan film Bhalaa Aadmi (1958), there was no looking back. His son, Rakesh got hooked on to the radio only because his Daddy’s songs were played on air. 

“From the ’70s to today, hearing Daddy’s name being announced on the radio was fascinating! Often on Vividh Bharati and private FM channels, four-five songs of Anand Bakshi played back-to-back at least once a week. I understood nothing about how the sound of human voices and music emanated through the radio and this was mystifying to little eight-year-old me,” says Rakesh, who launched his latest book titled Let’s Talk on Air: Conversations with Radio Presenters on World Radio Day (February 13) in Mumbai. 

Inspired by his childhood fascination, the book features exclusive interviews with the legendary radio presenter Ameen Sayani, and other popular radio stars such as Yunus Khan, Rohini, Mamta Singh, Sayema, Hrishikay Kannan and Anuraag ‘picture’ Pandey to name a few, about their profession and their lives. 

Rakesh first stepped into a radio studio in 2002, after his father’s death, to speak about the famous lyricist’s work in films. Then it became a regular feature to be invited to speak for his father’s birth and death anniversary specials on TV and radio. “After my first book Directors’ Diaries: The Road to Their First Film (2015), I was featured on Radio One, Fever and Big FM. It was the first time I was on-air for my own achievement and it felt great! The experience made me tune into more radio shows,” says Rakesh, as he recalls the first friend he made in this industry. 

“RJ Arvind (Radio One Kolkata) went on to become my first friend in the radio industry. Through him I understood the real significance of radio. His show featured regular people and their everyday struggles. He would talk to the callers about their problems and play their favourite songs — songs that saved them from taking their own lives and provided support through their pain. Hearing this made me realise that being a radio host is an immensely responsible and interesting job and life,” he says, adding, “As I met more presenters across different stations, I wondered: How did these radio presenters arrive at this profession? Did they all become presenters solely because they loved the songs they played? Or was it because they liked to talk to people? What does it take to become a radio host? I thought many dedicated radio listeners would like to know how their favourite presenters started their journeys.” 

The book answers all these questions and can pose as a guide for those interested in making a career as an RJ. “With an ongoing explosion of online media and radio stations in smaller cities and towns, there must be many today who want to be in their chair and on their mic. I asked myself if there was a way to offer aspiring radio presenters multiple perspectives on their dream profession, so they can make an informed choice. The presenters I have written about are those who put a skip in my step, a smile on my lips and tugged at a string in my heart,” says he. 

But where does radio stand in the age of the internet and social media? Rakesh asked many RJs that question and though each one had a different theory, they were all positive about the future of radio. 

“I believe every place in the world has its own acoustic signature, as postulated by the neuroscientist Dr Seth Horowitz. In the same way, every radio station and RJ has a unique acoustic signature. Who will survive will depend on the listener’s answer to the question, ‘What should I listen to today?’ Also, with an explosion in visual media, by evening I don’t even want to look at my phone. My eyes get exhausted looking at stuff and I wake up wanting to listen rather than to see stuff, so radio and audio podcasts are my way to get information and entertainment using my ears rather than eyes,” says the author.

It took two years for Rakesh to complete his interviews. “The RJs are great communicators. Some of them leave their posh studio to share chai and gup-shup with the security guards of their glass towers to remain in touch with what’s happening on the ground level, and not just on social media. Their audience includes everyone from those in Olas or Audis, men hanging out at a paan shop or ladies in nighties busy making a family meal in the kitchen, and the crowd in public transport. They have something for everyone,” says Rakesh, emphasising how really great presenters refrain from making jokes in bad taste. 

“Good radio is the theatre of the mind. Radio stars are just like the listeners, with similar fears and joys. They are not very different off-air. Most importantly, the legends of radio, like Ameen Sayani saab, Anita and Hrishikay are dependable people. They always returned a call or message. They make you also feel good about people and the world. I have lovely friends and family, but no one can be with us most of the time, we all deserve our space, radio rescues me then. The music, the lyrics, and sometimes what the RJs speak about evoke thought and emotion,” he adds.

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