The morning drive to work is, more often than not, Radio time in the car.
The beauty of this medium is it can morph, chameleon-like, from non-intrusive but still subliminally engaging elevator music to the highly personal and engaging interaction that only the best programming strategists and presenters – in equal measure and that order – can make it.
Raw energy and an ever-vertiginous spiral of passion. Does this guy mainline on an adrenaline tank? I can’t imagine him still in the studio, and my ears have never ‘seen’ him down.
I’m a fan of FM Radio, and especially of retro music, but there are some presenters who, in spite of being on stations that air only new ‘music’ (for want of a better formal descriptor, after all, new ‘music’ is one-synth-box-automated, empty-of-strings and purely-artifical-sounding music full of wailing-nasal or guttural shouting males and shemale husky female, well, “singers’. Yea, I get started every time ‘new’ music comes up, sorry).
So, to pick up that thread. Even though I’m a fan of retro music and therefore follow and listen more often to presenters like Annu Kapoor, there are some presenters who, in spite of being on stations that air only new ‘music’, are personal favourite radio hosts. Malishka, Archana, Sidhu, Rohini (now, happily, she’s on the quasi-retro Nasha which plays only 90s music, which again, was a bad time thanks to Nadeem Shravan and mimic Kumar Sanu, but they still pick up the better music, and the quality of the programming is pretty interesting, with Ro Hi Ni thrown in 🙂
But in this piece, I want to share something about one Radio presenter who reaches out to and connects with millions of listeners each morning, making them mentally sit up by prodding them out of passive listening. Thanks to his on-air persona, attitude and style of delivery, he probably has just a few more fans than detractors (and this isn’t based on any numbers or research; it’s just my own presumption).
He keeps you engrossed and engaged, and filled – depending on whether you like or dislike him — with a sense of growing wonder or exasperation respectively. Such as, how can someone be so good, so fluent, so obviously super-intelligent as to be able to not just mentally craft such beautiful, complex sentences (even if likely mostly pre-recorded) but also deliver them instantaneously at the rate — I imagine — of 300 words per minute in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and God knows how many more languages!
Or how can he be so arrogant as to address you with a “tu” on air – God knows, ‘most others follow him, and I’ve heard some presenters descend to using the same form of address (‘Tu”). Now that may well be because he feels the familiarity of a ‘Tu’ marks a dil-se connection. But it does jar – did to me at least, like one morning quite some time back, when he was conversing with a Law Professor of Siddharth College, a Mrs Shidhaye. He spoke beautifully, from the heart, thanking her for gracing him by calling in, acknowledging her amazing, multi-faceted, worthy-of-complete respect life as a woman and a teacher of young minds.
But he kept addressing her as “Tu”.
Stuck out, that.
Then you also wonder how he can really lead conversations so well with callers, be so natural and completely unrehearsed (if he’s reading from a script — well nigh impossible, that — well, it’s a great achievement because it never really shows).
Another great thing about this completely engaging presenter? His brilliant felicity with, as I mentioned earlier, language. Languages, rather. His Urdu, Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi, of course, are perfectly spoken, like he’d have had four mother tongues. The nuqtas and his talahffuz in Urdu, the lovely cadences of Marathi, the sweetly conversed Gurajati and of course, the superfluent, even pristine Hindi, often delivered in supersonic staccato tempo, leave you wondering.
I do wonder if he’s pre-recorded some of those screaming-hurtling-speeding-Rajdhani-locomotive-speed stings; seems impossible to deliver at those speeds. But again, seems impossible to seamlessly fade them into an already quick conversation too. That morning I just remebered about the law professor…? It was a case in point. I forget one hurtler, but I remember it left me wide-eyed and startled with the perfect delivery. Maybe he is mainlining on a tank of adrenalin.
Another thing about him. He’s like the Wikipedia on Radio. Listen to his interactive tactics on any episode, on any morning, and you’ll see the thought that’s gone into each, and the value he adds by way of the useful information, uplifting feelings, and inspiring thoughts he infuses you with. An emotional voice in your backyard that connects with those who are the more privileged decision makers who drive or are driven both ways to and from work in cars, is a significant connection for social change. What he does is keep them engaged, informed, and entertained. He’ll dart from preachy to funny to serious to wacky, but his style of delivery is always emotional. Even though he can be so off-putting as to refer to himself in the third person, and to you with a ‘Tu’ (yeah, I’m stuck on that!) he is a truly gifted presenter, speaks super confidently, straight from the heart. Everything he does on-air is imbued in passion.
For instance, that morning’s conversation with the Law College lecturer was part of an interactive contest seeking to celebrate beautiful, noble woman-hood in tandem with the holy 9-day Navratri festival (oh ok, so it was during last year’s Navratri, and I had posted this on another, free wordpress blog then). It was the first day of the Navratris. He came in with a beautiful link that hit the sweet spot of devotion for Goddess Durga and respect for Women. Now if it was a producer who thought of the concept, wonderful, but it might well be the man himself. Of course, show producers research and keep topical, festive, other info ready for their presenters, and are the most hardworking hearts, brains and bodies behind every show, but I can’t imagine him letting anyone take charge of the direction of his show. A loose canon that’ll always win.
Oh, one more great quality he has is the great art of conversing. He is not an uddghoshak, but a supremely gifted conversationalist. He chats with you. He propounds a lot, sometimes, but it doesn’t seem put on; rather, it’s a passion-overflow. He can draw his callers out easily, make them shed inhibitions, put them at their ease to converse and want to share what’s on their minds. And he does that without trying to steer the conversation towards any hidden agenda. He can be bristlingly righteous — and therefore misunderstood to be haughty — humble, polite or warmly chatty, and at times, arrogant as well. And that arrogance is from fiercely owning a thought or an idea. But it is laudable that even through his Look-Ma-No-Hands style of speedy delivery, his honesty and sincerity shine through constantly. That is wonderful. You don’t just happen to be and remain an iconic on-air presenter-connector for so long on one of the most demanding, professionally run, profitable and respected Radio Networks in the country for nothing.
Obviously you know who this presenter is. And perhaps also why I don’t have a picture of the man; if you don’t know that, well, here’s the thing: he’s notoriously camera-shy, keeps behind his glares and hat. In fact, years ago, when I was editor of Exchange4Media Group’s Impact magazine and had started a section called RadioTalk, I wanted to feature him in a profile; asked him for a picture, which he flatly refused to give. Said, just use glares and a hat. But then, that’s Jeetu Raj for you. He was adamant. Unfortunately, I was too. And guess who gave? The profile.
It didn’t run.
So, having listened to and liked many radio presenters – loathe the word jockeys – I must say that for Jeeturaaj, for his humungous talent and great expertise, knowledge, passion and empathy (and not for his Tu-tadaak, as we Hindi-bhaashis like to put it): immense respect. Keep up the good work. Tu achcha kar raha hai, Jeetu! (couldn’t resist that 😉 Laga reh! Keep enthusing, inspiring and sometimes irritating, but always engaging, entertaining and even informing and educating them all.
My friend Prashant Panday, MD of ENIL, which owns it, had told me a couple of years ago, that in the early days, Mirchi had discovered a now-popular radio ‘jock’ who’s out with a scimitar out to cut everyone down to size (not this words). She was very talented, and even though a Mirchi talent hunt had discovered her, “we did not hire her,” Prashant told me, “as we found in her a fitment issue with the values of our brand. She is extremely talented, but she just didn’t have a fit with our brand.”
“See, we are a sunshine brand, a happy brand, we add joy to your life,” Prashant had said. “We don’t take people’s pants off or create a hype or tamasha on every occasion. We have a certain defined brand personality and our jobs fit our brand personality. When we defined our brand name Mirchi, our Chairman said: ‘Once you have tasted Mirchi, everything else will feel bland’. So we just aim to come up with something that adds sunshine to the tense lives of listeners.”
And for years, now, weekday mornings, all charged up and sparking, bristling with energy and passion, Jeeturaaj has been doing just that.