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Goooood evening, Delhi

Amitava Sanyal goes to Fever 104’s swank studios one hot evening and comes off feeling a lot cooler.

delhi Updated: Jun 21, 2008 23:31 IST
Amitava Sanyal

The first thing that strikes you when you step into Fever 104’s swank studios is a blast of chill. Outside, a muggy summer evening is taking hold of Delhi; inside, busybodies are wrapped in jackets and shawls. The temperature in this corner of the precinct is kept at a nippy 11 degrees, I’m told. Is that why it’s called Fever? “The temperature is maintained for the expensive machines,” explains a fleece-jacketed one, waving at the gleaming array of mikes, knobs, dials and screens. “You’ll get used to it.”

There’s a lot more I need to get used to over the next few days if I have to go on air. This isn’t going to be my childhood fantasy of saying in an officious baritone: “This is All India Radio.” This is adrenaline-drenched FM radio, and, if anything, it’s going to be a chirpy: “Hi, you are tuned to Fever one-o-four.”

What if the radio jockey (RJ) isn’t feeling particularly peppy one evening? Tuhin, who rules the waves for Fever during the evening primetime, advises, “Talk freely but give off a happy, engaging sense.” The dimpled-smile RJ lets on a secret: “Just stick a grin on your face and say whatever you have to — it’ll sound positive.” It’s like a smiley that helps digest a terse text message.

But one can hardly talk ‘freely’ —like other mediums, radio too has its taboos. Pralay, creative head of the Delhi station, lists out what’s off limits: basically, anything that could ruffle the listener’s sensitivities on the lines of race, religion and sex. And oh, the second -person individual is preferred over the plural - that is, address a single listener rather than the whole of saddi Dilli.

Then come the jargons. Why don’t we stage fiction — radio plays and such? “That’s because we are on the CHR format.” Eh? “Contemporary hit radio.” The music manager is ever mindful of the CHR tag. “Some of our programmes are heavy on hot AC.” Such a thing exists? “Yeah, hot adult content.” Station head Neeraj is kind enough to inform that, in case of a fire, the studio would get hermetically sealed — air sucked out and a gas spewed in — within seconds. Your life maybe expendable, the machines are not.

In this province of the spoken word, sign language, too, is invaluable. A particular flailing by Tuhin, encased in the soundproof sanctum sanctorum, would see Vidhi, his show’s producer, swinging in through the heavy doors. She nods at one of the introductions Tuhin and I have recorded, and tells me: “Your voice has a good base, but, ahem, maybe you could stick to English.” I gulp down my Bengali pride in face of the fact that 80 per cent of the Delhi station’s output is in Hindi.

Mindful of more not-to-dos than to-dos, I sit in one evening with Tuhin on the tight-knit Fever Hot 20 Countdown. Some of my ‘links’ (voice tracts between songs) are recorded just before the show; but some are done on the go, seconds before hitting the air.

I start with a view-from-the-swivelling-chair account of the 17th -floor studios, jig an inspired duet of Billo Rani with Tuhin, and shift to taking calls. It seems the toughest job is to infuse excitement into the voice of tongue-tied callers. A conversation with a contest winner goes thus:

“You know you’re getting a goodie box and couple passes to an exclusive club this weekend?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Hey, aren’t you excited about it?”

“Yeah, thanks a lot.”

“Oye yaar, is that it?”

“Well, yippeeee.”

The last bit, mixed with a jingly dhan-ta-raaaa, is what you would have heard had you been tuned in that evening. Nobody had promised there wouldn't be any gritty grind behind all the gurgling glamour.