RJ Sikkandhar’s jokes for his programme ‘Jigarthanda’ are influenced by life in general. He tells SOMA BASU how it’s kind of fun but with tremendous responsibility

He fires off sentences like machine gun rounds. I listen – and also watch him – bring passion and zest to airwaves in flat 45 seconds. His facial expressions, his mono-acting, funny one moment and serious the next, he does not seem to be alone inside the sound-proof studio.

“I am not,” says Radio Jockey L.Sikkandhar Sulthan, “I am constantly connecting with the listeners.” He is an unstoppable powerhouse currently hosting the two hour live evening programme titled “Jigarthanda” on Hello FM.

“I pack a lot of hot news in a cool way,” he smiles. And that is why the programme Jigarthanda – named after Madurai’s signature summer drink that cools the heart – has become synonymous with him over the last six years. “I am in a good graph,” he says gently.

The 31 years old Post-Graduate in Computer Application says he “goes with things as they come up.” Except perhaps one thing – when he decidedly chose to quit his job in a software company to live his dream of dabbling with the mike.

His father, Liaquat Ali Khan, Madurai’s well known theatre artist of yesteryears, initially opposed his foray into the field of performing arts. Unless you make it big, it will be a failed choice, the father warned the son.

And Sikkandhar only dreamt of one choice before him. “I wanted to be famous”, he says impishly.

Six years ago he walked into this job. His witty one-liners during the interview had the panellists in splits. Today his conversations on the radio are recognised as fun and informative, meaningful and entertaining that he needs no introduction. Add to it his height and good looks that make his fans swoon over him each time he goes out as an MC (Master of Ceremony) to host events.

“I enjoy this popularity,” says Sikkandhar, “but I know I still have a very long way to go.” He took to radio jockeying after a stint in the local TV channel Vaigai and briefly running an event management company. But the experiences he cherishes the most are those of working as a DJ at Hotel Brown Stars and Bike & Barrels in Chennai on the weekends and modelling on weekdays.

“Chennai was the best place for me as I got trained by DJ Humayun and also got plenty of modelling offers. The experience boosted my self-confidence and I knew I could be on my own,” says Sikkandhar, who now nurtures the dream of acting in movies. As a hero? I ask him. Pat he replies, “No, I will make a better villain.” “I am into body building and have also taken on goons in real life,” he adds.

It was a nasty experience that brought him back to his hometown. He says he was robbed of Rs.20,000 by two men in Chennai who promised to do his portfolio that would take him to Kollywood. It did not happen. Instead he traced them one day, bashed them up and recovered 50 per cent of the money. “After that I let it go because I believe in destiny,” says Sikkandhar, now trying to seek appointments with directors Arivazahan, Seenu Ramasamy, Pandiya Rajan, Suseendran and Amir with the help of friends.

“There is a right time for everything and I am waiting for that,” he says, “because I believe hard work pays.” He also wanted to be with his family after spending three years alone in Chennai. While he continues to do odd modelling assignments in Bangalore, Chennai and Madurai, it is the Jigarthanda show that makes him loved by all. Known for his personal and realistic approach to radio talk, Sikkandhar is the happiest when on a microphone listening and talking to the people.

“I want to help them in some way, small or big,” he says. Using his intelligence, humour and contacts, Sikkandhar is able to bring a smile on the faces of his listeners. When he started off he had no clue about what was expected of him. “All I knew was the title of my show and that I have this challenging and creative slot to plan, design, innovate and improvise,” he recalls. He spontaneously decided that like the local delicious refreshing drink, Jigarthanda, he would ensure his humour made the listeners forget their troubles when they tuned in to his programme and left them with a lingering feel-good factor.

Targeted at the youth, Jigarthanda gives a concoction of cinema and political gossip, current news and happenings, updates on technology and lifestyle products, public figures and movies, songs and interactive chats delving into people’s lives and problems. It also engagingly juxtaposes alerts about traffic accidents or blood donations, traffic jams or any social issue. Done on the spur of the moment, Sikkandhar speaks his mind through the 10 links adding a dash of humour even to his sarcasm or sorrow.

He recalls when his favourite maternal uncle expired, he went on air with his programme controlling his tears and emotions. Or when he had a sore throat and opened his programme in a hoarse voice, he was flooded with tips from listeners for easy and fast cure of his ailment. And when he was into his third link, two men landed in his office with steaming hot chicken soup for him!

Sikkandhar is overwhelmed by the concern and reactions of his audience. “I get goose pimples when a 75-year-old hugs me and says how much he enjoys Jigarthanda or a seven-year-old calls to tell that after returning from school, he switches on the radio to listen to me daily without fail. That is when I feel the responsibility of packing my programme with quality information and valuable suggestions. It may not always be fun but I try to deliver it in a light hearted manner,” he adds.

“Radio has become such an interactive medium now that popularity alone has no meaning,” says Sikkandhar. “I have to be responsible in giving something back to help the people.” As a child, this versatile RJ wanted to be a doctor and ended up getting trained in acupuncture, besides his other degrees. He also holds a diploma in Fashion Technology. “An RJ has to be well informed, only then can you be spontaneous in your show,” he says, adding, “all that I love to do and am able to do, defines me.”

Within a short span of time, a good RJ becomes the face of a radio station. “It is all about timing and spontaneity which comes from experience, maturity, ground work and home work,” says Sikkandhar. This local lad has his finger on the pulse of the city and its people. “I want to make a lot of difference,” he wishes.

Sikkandhar speak:

•This year has been lucky as he has already bagged three awards in a row – the Junior Chamber Award for Outstanding Person of the year, the SCOPE International Best Performer Award and the Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence. He was Mr.Madurai Runner-up in 2003 and given the Jigar Dost Award by listeners in 2008

•Outside the studio, he conducts and hosts Singara Singer, Ladies’ Day Out, Apartments Galatta, Kaloori Saalai, Solliadi, Max Kola Poati, 7up Dance Pattalam and College Fest.

•He has interviewed over 200 famous personalities including the world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand, Green scientist Dr.M.S.Swaminathan, ISRO scientist Dr.Sivathanu Pillai, IPS Vijay Kumar of Operation Cocoon fame and several movie actors