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Where have all the VJs gone?

As channels choose to air reality shows over music videos, find out what happened to the breed of chatty, music-obsessed anchors.

tv Updated: Jun 03, 2012 17:32 IST
Nirmika Singh
Nirmika Singh
Hindustan Times

If you grew up watching MTV and Channel V in the ’90s, you will easily recall shows like Most Wanted, Select and After Hours. Of course, favourite shows also meant having your favourite VJs (video jockey) — that breed of TV show host who could talk a thousand words a minute, and who always had an opinion on music, whether it was the latest indi-pop or the greatest international hits.

That was before the advent of reality shows that virtually took over music channels. As for the VJ, he/she either moved on to other things (Bollywood, DJ-ing, the works) or stayed on as hosts on reality shows with a healthy dose of testosterone, expletives and often inane ‘tasks’. The sharp-talking, music-loving VJ? We reckon s/he’s been forced into retirement.

End of an era
“I think VJs stopped existing after the ’90s, when channels stopped airing music videos,” says Luke Kenny, who began his stint with Channel V in 1995 and was one of the first male VJs on Indian television.

The era also made people like Cyrus Broacha, Malaika Arora and Nina Manuel household names, with a massive fan following among teenagers and adults.

Shenaz Treasuryvala, charmed millions with her effervescent personality on MTV Most Wanted, receiving elaborately crafted letters with song requests from fans of the show. She says, “That was a different time, when people watched our shows to know what was cool and what was not. School and college kids watched them and talked about what we said, did and wore.”

Now the term ‘VJ’ is being used for anyone who hosts a show on a music channel. When Gaelyn Medonca, 23, was selected from a nationwide VJ Hunt on MTV two years ago, she was well aware that playing videos and discussing music trivia was not part of the profile.

“Till now, I haven’t hosted a single music-related show,” Gaelyn says. “I’ve mainly travelled to college campuses and festivals for my shows. And though I don’t sign out as VJ Gaelyn on my shows, I’m still introduced as a VJ at events, because people still consider hosts on music channels as VJs.”

The reason the tag stayed on is because it was replicated from international music channels and shows. So their Indian counterparts chose youngsters in their early twenties —
bubbly, articulate and spontenous — as the faces of their brands. Calling them VJs adds to their profile. It means, somehow, that the person is more than just a presenter, and that he/she personifies the qualities that the channel stands for.

Net killed the videostar
The Internet, perhaps, more than the changing nature of the channels, might have made the VJ obsolete. YouTube, and not the TV, is the new medium for music videos. And if the success of a Kolaveri Di is something to go by, the Internet is where the fate of a new song or video is now decided.

Naturally, even music channels have to adapt their formats accordingly. Kenny, who is the programming head of 9X0, a new music channel, agrees. “On my channel, there won’t be any VJs, because people like to watch their videos without interruptions.”

Gaelyn adds, “If VJs are hosting reality shows these days, it’s because viewers want to see these shows. But I wish I could’ve been around when iconic VJs took calls and received letters to play music videos.”

The top guns
Shenaz Treasuryvala: MTV Most Wanted
Cyrus Broacha: MTV Loveline and Bakra
Luke Kenny: Luke’s After Hours (channel V)
Malaika Arora: MTV Loveline