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It's Leela! It's Stella! It's Priya Ganapathy!

She is the voice behind Radio City's Late Show, Retro Show, and the popular damsels, Lingo Leela and Sister Stella. PREM PAUL NINAN in conversation with Priya Ganapathy.

Priya Ganapathy: walking on air

SHE IS one of Bangalore's best-known voices. In fact, she has several voices. Her cheery RJ voice when she does her weekday Late Show and Sunday Retro show, and her hilarious take-offs on Lingo Leela and Sister Stella over Radio City, the FM channel.

Priya Ganapathy, former journalist, was once headed towards nutrition studies. But this vivacious girl with a sunny smile today finds herself a radio jockey with thousands of young fans.

As Miss Lingo Leela, who teaches the local argot in an accent you can cut with a chaaku, she did draw initial dark mutterings from Kannada organisations. This Kannadiga is funnier as Sister Stella, the Gulf-returned nurse, who plugs her favourite Melodies for Maladies. The accent, if exaggerated, is perfect, drawing chuckles from even hardcore Mallus.

Priya never planned her career, choosing instead to let life lead her. "It is the only way that seems to work for me," she says, even as she advises others against employing this policy as a formula to success. Never one to shrink from challenges and start-ups, this attitude has worked very well in her case so far. She was responsible for starting the student's page in The New Indian Express as a reporter there. She was also part of the launch team Radio City, where she is well entrenched, and having too much fun to think of any change in job.

Her day typically begins at 10.30 in the morning, and goes on into the wee hours of the following day. For the most part of the day, she is preparing for her Late Show, aired at 10 every weeknight. She works hard at sourcing the music, taking pains to ensure that the selection is varied and fresh. She makes trips to the music stations of the Star media group (of which Radio City is a part) to update herself on the music scene. Although her selection is scrutinised by the programme director, she admits that most of the music aired is reflective of her tastes.

When she is not preparing for her show, she is working on scripts for radio fillers with the rest of the team, as well as on the scripts for Lingo Leela and Sister Stella. Both are her creations, but she works on them with Velu Shankar, programme director. Priya is particularly proud of the two, and takes special care in grooming them!

She is known to her listeners by her three identities. As for the initial protests over Lingo Leela, she sayd: "It's all about the ability to laugh at yourself." Lingo Leela was Radio City's attempt to portray the `slanguage' that is so much a part of the Kannadiga culture in Bangalore. "In the end, I'm glad Bangalore's sense of humour prevailed. Moreover, people have really taken well to Lingo Leela."

Apart from scripting and sourcing music, she spends her time replying to listeners' mails. "People are really zapped when they see that I actually reply to their mails. It makes a difference to me, too." She does get some "psycho mails" too, but is not very perturbed by them.

For a good part of the day, she researches on subjects of significance to her show; these could range from music, to trends in the world around, to reflections on life. It is hectic, but she copes with the cooperation of her colleagues and the programme director.

She finally gets on air from 10 p.m. to midnight each day from Monday to Friday for the Late Show. On Sundays, she hosts the Retro Show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. This, she feels, is the best part of her day. "It is now that you're enjoying your music, your time, your space."

Relying on bullet points to aid her, without troubling too much about accents and intonations, she moves into the studio, and into real time, on air. When in the studio, in between the songs, she keeps up lively conversations with her listeners. It is this aspect of the "facelessness of radio" that she loves. It is gratifying, she says, when people take time off to call in or leave a message on the message board. "It is heartening when you know that there are people responding and that you have a good vibe coming through."

In her life outside the studio, she is Priya the flautist, sometimes jamming with the band, Document Done: "I'm not too old to rock-and-roll and too young to die. I'm having too much fun right now. And I never think about tomorrow."

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