Priya Ganapathi, former RJ, also the unforgettable lilt of Lingo Leela (the slanguage teacher) and Sister Stella (the ‘Gelf-returned’ Mallu nurse) remembers a night in the studios when her playlist was so exciting that she decided to not pack up. “I loved the playlist so much that I broke the rules and did an eight-hour talk marathon, chatting with insomniacs and people on the night-shift and playing their requests till the morning jocks walked in and certified that I was mad,” she grins.
Those were heady days. FM had just arrived in India and even so many years later, Priya as a path-breaking RJ, remains unsurpassed because of the content she created and the audience connect she enjoyed. She recalls, “My RJ career began in 2001 when I joined Radio City, India’s first private FM station. In retrospect, we had a first-player advantage. So whatever came thereafter was compared with our station. At one point, almost all the stations sounded the same…same songs, RJ talk with decibel levels to blow your ears. For me, the focus was music. The jock’s personality shapes a show, makes that vital human connect and keeps one hooked. But station policies have undergone a sea-change and presenters are chosen accordingly. So, as long as a station has a cheery RJ putting a smile on a listener’s face, it’s fine.”
She refrains from being too critical of the new RJing trends but says, “Radio is a fantastic, powerful and personal medium. Thirteen years of FM, and we barely have niche content. Now, it’s a one size fits all policy.”
Today, Priya is a travel writer but she still remembers, “listeners dropping by with flowers and cakes, interviews with musical legends, tons of fanmail, stalker fans waiting to take me out at midnight, sobbing alone in the studio after the last Retro Show when the station went Hindi, organising Radio City LIVE to promote local bands!” She adds, “I still get messages on FB and Twitter from old time listeners and it feels great.”
Her own connect with radio though is tenuous now. She says, “While driving, I scan stations and if I hear fake accents, recipes, spelling classes, endless ads or inane drivel, I switch to my trusty CD. Then, it turns into a long drive of uninterrupted ambient dub (like Ott), blues, jazz and funk or classic and retro rock. I also trawl YouTube to unearth music I’ve never heard and when I discover something fantastic like Asa, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Absofacto, Toco etc., I regret that I can’t share it on air anymore!”