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CHENNAI : Be it school or college, every class I studied had around four to five students with the name Balaji. Being a middle bencher I always had an identity crisis. Now when my profession stands as an initial in front of my name I feel proud,” says Balaji Patturaj, who is best known as the host of the BIG FM 92.7 Cross Talk (Take it Easy). It’s been 12 years since he started working as an RJ. Balaji has expanded his horizons into films, stand-up comedy, IPL commentary and as a Samaritan for social causes.
“Radio has been stagnant for the last 15 years. At a personal level, I’ve been trying to give variety to my audience through numerous shows. But radio continues to follow the traditional pattern of morning news, mid-noon ladies show, afternoon cinema reviews, evening contest shows and night love shows. Since we do not have the license to discuss politics, the Internet that came much later took over us. I believe that radio needs to be re-invented,” he shares.
According to Balaji, the target audience is not the same anymore. Listeners have a myriad of options for consuming news due to competitive mediums. “If I can connect my phone and listen to songs without any ads or disturbances then what makes FM special? Even tea shops use an MP3 player. They’d rather purchase a television and watch the news live,” explains Balaji, further adding that radio does not have an exact measurement to keep a count of its listeners. “We have the IRS (Indian Readership Survey) and RAM (Radio Audience Measurement) but neither of it gives an authentic data. This year’s data would be six months old,” he adds.
Has the popularity of YouTube channels and other platforms opened up avenues and minds of the youth to pursue radio as a career? “The years 2012-2016 saw many aspiring youngsters considering RJ as a profession. In many films, protagonists have played the role of radio jockey, making it a desirable job. In the last six months, the youth has been curious about IPL commentary too.
Youngsters are aware, they just need to be inspired,” he explains. Balaji, however, feels that the younger talents are not treated well in the industry, resulting in huge attrition. They move on to other jobs which pay better. “Even if I want to upload a video content, more than 10,000 people are fighting for the same spot. Only if I read 10 things, I can omit eight things and form an opinion based on the two things I know well. This job comes with a lot of responsibility. I use social media as a tool to voice my opinion and if it’s wrong I will apologise. There is nothing embarrassing about it. We live in a world where ‘ignorance is bliss’,” he says.
Balaji was always interested in politics. While talking about his latest political satire and experience as an actor he says, “Being an RJ will in no way help you in acting since these are two different roles. There is a general conception that radio jockeys keep jabbering and converse fast so it took a while for me to come out of that zone. I had to learn to be silent and understand the essence of every scene. But the confidence as an RJ has helped me perform better in any field and trust myself,” he says. His upcoming political satire LKG is also a socially conscious and a political entertainer. “I’ve never felt bored of my job. If I don’t perform well I’ll be the first person to know. My only goal for the next few months is to write an engaging script for LKG. So there is more to receiving an award and that is to maintain consistency. Everything fell in place because I did my job well as a RJ,” he says.
Staying away from trolls
In an era of memes and trolls, Balaji prefers to stay away from negative comments. About four years back, his only advice to his students was to read news and keep themselves updated, but not anymore.
● Hello Coimbatore
● Evening prime-time show
● Take It Easy
● Night Show
● Film reviews