Monday, January 13, 2014

THE TIME OF MY LIFE XVII...ENTERING THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA



Radio is a fascinating media. Inspite of the hype TV enjoys, it is radio that makes the difference to one’s life. In America, this media is used to its best advantage. Talk shows, counseling, news, views and Interviews, music. As people spend more and more time driving long distance to commute to and fro to reach their work places, the need to be in touch with the world around, increases. The All India Radio(AIR) uses this media effectively to reach out its family planning and other welfare programs to rural listeners. It is the cheapest mass communication tool. I enjoyed scripting and presenting programs for the AIR women’s. children’s and youth segments. Way back in the 70s, just after the dreaded Emergency was lifted, one of the victims of that dark era. Snehalata Reddy, had written a very powerful play, SITA. I played Sita in the Radio play directed by Prasanna , of the National Institute of Drama. The play takes a different look at Sita. It ends with her rejecting Rama for having put her through a chastity test and throws herself on the funeral pyre of Ravana, her abductor,  As the author had infused a sincerity difficult to dismiss as activist diatribe, I was so involved in the character that I broke down when we finished.
Even grandmother who listened to it on the radio was moved though she did not understand  English. For some reason, the play has not Caught the fancy of anyone who dabbles in women oriented works. I personally rate my performance in that radio play as one of my best, more because of the gripping theme and expression.
Of the hundreds of programs I did for the radio, some stand out for their subject value and some for the exposure it gave me, to issues I would have otherwise not reflected on.
There was the interview with Urmilla Deshpande, a popular model who promoted premium brands of liquor in skimpy bikinis, for calendars.  At that time ,women activists’(like they are doing today) were raising a hue and cry about exploitation of woman’s anatomy in ads. AIR Mumbai wanted to project the view of women modeling for such Ads. Outspoken and articulate, Urmilla made it clear that it was her body and no one was exploiting her as she voluntarily posed for the pics. She further said that she was willing to use her body as asset just like  a  singer user her voice or to a dancer, her face and hands, to communicate. If anyone touched her body without her consent, then she would call it violation of her liberty and raise merry hell. It made so much sense that I remembered it when there was such a furore over the miss world pageant.
The chat with Jaya Bhaduri ,was  a stimulating one. The entire AIR staff was gathered around the panel of the recording studio, their noses pressed against the glass, trying to catch a glimpse of her. We were to discuss about the stress of being a celebrity’ wife. Though she was one herself, she conceded her husband had a larger following and gave amusing vignettes of his role as husband. Her imitation of his voice and style was perfect, the great actress she is.  I still have the AIR contract form on which I got her to autograph!
I am enjoying my current role as Director, Corporate radio in Radiowalla.in…an internet radio platform started by my son Anil, who is equally sold on radio as the media of the future . He has the advantage of being technically qualified to handle the intricacies, besides a voice and that can capture the listeners’ interest.
TV is a difficult media though a glamorous one.  Besides a camera friendly face, a TV anchor must be comfortable speaking to a lens like it is a person . make-up also can make a difference-better or worse. My  modeling stint had given me the confidence but I still feel I do not have a camera-friendly face. My facial bones are not well defined and my complexion is kind of yellow . I have looked good sometimes and ghastly some other times. More of the latter. Beside my legendary appearance on the ‘ Janavani on DD’ I have compered live, several art shows, music and dance programmes, moderated panel discussion and interviewed celebrities
I remember the time a well known dancer cum photographer cum painter cum writer, had to be interviewed. Wife of a bureaucrat, she took offence when the security staff asked for her identity pass when she come for the recording .  To make matters worse, the make-up man was late.  She had the director of the TV station in dithers as her husband occupied a senior position in the state government and could affect his career .I kept my cool though my time as editor of my magazine was wasted during her tantrums. The director heaved a sigh of relief when  the recording was completed and she was happy with the ‘intelligent’ questions I asked ! This episode made front page news in a local tabloid which wanted my comments too. I declined to do so.
On the other hand, another bigwig’s wife, Gita  Srinivasan (her husband was chairman of the atomic energy commission ) was graciousness personified when I interviewed her about her trek to Kailas Maan Sarovar at the Indo-Tibet border. She had beautiful pictures she had shot and relevant Sanskrit verses to describe them. Later, National TV did a full length feature on her visit, using her brilliant visuals.
                                       On the sets of ETV for a programme on women and safety

Another interesting subject was Rukmini Varma, the great granddaughter of Raja Ravi Varma ,the well known painter of the previous century. Rukmini looked like a work of art herself. Her regal bearing and commitment to her painting skill made her viewer-friendly.
I loved acting in an Urdu comedy as the heroine who insists on taking part in a play and is frivolous about her rehearsals. Then there was a dialogue with a German children’s film maker, Gloria Behrens who spoke knowledgeably on what makes a children’s film tick. It was no fun getting a Minister who was representing India at the Beijing Women’s’ Conference, to spell out the country’s stand .She could not express herself to make enough sense. My favourite TV appearance is the one in the Video Woman of substance scripted and presented by me and produced beautifully by Rajgopal, from Chennai. It was telecast on National TV on International Women’s Day..in 1994.
I have big dreams of having my own talk show like the Oprah show. I admire her. I have the ideas and the talent. I need a producer who will believe in both and back me. Till then,  I am happy hosting my weekly talk show ‘It’s my lfe’ on radiowalla.in.I am convinced that if your dream makes sense to you and you have faith in it coming true, it will. Amen!