Friday, September 19, 2008

The Radio's Gone Ga Ga

There used to be a time when the radio was the primary mass medium and its performers -artists par excellence- known for their dramatic flair as much as their oratorical skills. I have heard old timers reminisce about the mass hysteria generated by the broadcast of Wells's War of the Worlds...MacArthur's address after the surrender of Japan...And the speeches of stalwarts like Churchill, Nehru & Roosevelt, which infused strength and purpose into the marrow of their nations. Perhaps, it was the time of a generation that was particular about qualitative content as well as the form, structure and presentation of language. Quite unlike the modern day.
I do not know how many people actually listen to the radio these days.....I mean really, really listen........ I know I don't.
It is very rarely that I tune into the radio...Almost never in Chennai, where Tamil is the language of choice for the various FM channels and therefore, tends to seem repetitive and rather monotonous to my ear. I find the radio channels in Bangalore to be a lot more cosmopolitan in their repertoire. But even so, I only seem to tune in when stuck in a traffic snarl and have no means of entertaining myself.
Like last evening. It had been pouring cats and dogs since afternoon. The roads were jam packed. As I sweated it out with a hundred other commuters in the interminable traffic snarl, I mindlessly flipped on the radio and got FM 94. something.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been lost in my thoughts and oblivious to the prattle of the RJs. But yesterday, for once, my attention was caught by what sounded very much like alienese in fast-forward. A few minutes of concentrated effort revealed it to be the frantic babbling of a young lady who was frenetically racing through her English-Hindi-Kannada lines at Mach 1, pausing only to emit high pitched squeaks and rasping gasps at periodic intervals. Had I not known better, I might have imagined that the presenter was at the very least hyperventilating if not choking to death in her studio. I considered surfing for a saner and less disturbing channel , but from my driver's assurances that I would find nothing better on any other radio station, I gathered that alienese was the new language of the radio.
I must admit that I had to admire the RJ's ability to switch between languages without loosing the flow of thoughts. But my poor, tired grey cells were not up to the sustained decoding of alienese and so I decided to switch off until the music came on. But, as with all the good things in life, I had to wait. For right after the manic RJ, came a series of jingles which could only be categorised as noise and more noise. All right, I concede, some of them had some gibberish verse as well!
I counted to 10 hoping for some melodious reprieve but instead, on came a certain Mr. Ganta Singh who rambled ponderously on a telephone call to, of all things, a hair transplant center!!!
" Hay-lo, is this the blah-blah baal center?" [baal = hindi for hair]
" yes"
" Aaaah, I wanted to know if you use real baal or artificial baal?"
" real baal"
" So you use real baal...Do YOU have real baal?"
" Why are you asking me such questions??"
" But tell me, do you have real baal?"
" I do have real baal..."
"Have you seen the movie Saawariya?"
" Sawariya? Yes I have"
"The heroine in that movie had lots of baal...Her father also has lots of baal all over his body. Do you know how many baals are there in an over?"
The writers at FM 94.something probably thought this was amusing but my funny bone remained impervious to the charms of Ganta Singh. His banter was so incredibly moronic that it surprised me the Sikhs had not taken umbrage at the station's verbal caricature of their ilk and resorted to rioting on the streets.

Fortunately for me, the station decided to quit while it was ahead and finally came blessed relief in the form of music. But the pattern was set for the 2 hour drive back home.
Just as I would begin to unwind with the music, the manic RJ and her cohorts would pop up with their steady stream of rapid-fire nonsense. And by the time I alighted at my destination, I had heard very little music thanks to the likes of Chamrajpet Charles, the Sultan School of Speeches and the Zombie time keeper.
I must confess that, following on the heels of Ghanta Singh, Chamrajpet Charles with his Anglo-Indian accent and borderline lewdness was tolerable. But, the Sultaaaan Skooool of Speeches which followed Singh and Charles proved to be the final straw that broke my nerve. Contrary to its name, the School offered no tips what so ever on public speaking or declamation. The act comprised of a whole minute of heavy, hoarse breathing interspersed with an orgasmic voice which ranted inaudibly about rising hem-lines and dropping neck-lines!!!
It took me a scalding hot shower and a good whole hour of classic rock on VH1 to get over the trauma inflicted by Ghanta Singh and his tribe. As I lay in the dark drowsily mumbling the chorus of Radio Ga Ga, for the first time, I truly understood the sentiment which inspired this legendary song...
"....You had your time, you had the power
You've yet to have your finest hour ....Radio -- Radio..."
And until the finest hour arrives, I will most definitely be carrying CDs!!!


Ganga Dhanesh said...

I find listening to the radio quite interesting as it's often so wedded to the local language and culture; and that's the beauty of it! In Tvm, the RJ speaks with such a cute accent, ending almost every sentence with a roly poly 'ketto?' In S'pore, they speak unabashedly in Singlish...and it sounds so shweet:) As for the substance, well...i suppose well delivered gibberish is all people can take while stuck in traffic...the key word being well delivered, of course!

Miaow!!! said...

I think a lot of people just switch off mentally...Or, only play their choice of music..
I did a check with some friends and realised that names like Ulfat Sultan, Ganta Singh, etc just didn't ring a bell...
:) :)
I don't have a problem what so ever with the lingo used because as you said it does enhance the Radio Experience...But, one does need to hear without straining every nerve in the cranial region and plus of late, I just find it harder to appreciate shots at other communities like the Sikhs or the Muslims which is why I found Ganta Sing and Prof Ulfat Sultan to be an assault on my senses...
:) :)

Miaow!!! said...
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