Swapna, the regional programming head of Big 92.7 FM tells Neeraja Murthy about her career switch to radio and why she loves challenges in life
The phrase ‘Old habits die hard’ fits well with Swapna, the regional programming head of Big 92.7 radio station. “After taking over as the programming head, I was giving some sound bytes to a television channel. After speaking for a few minutes, I turned the mike over to the reporter to get her comments not realising my stint with TV was over. I am the one to be grilled and not vice versa,” she laughs as she recounts her earlier days. Swapna’s journalistic career began with the Telugu news channel TV 9 when she stumbled upon a chance to join a news agency. “In July 2003, I got an offer to do a programme for Smt. Bhagyashree on ETV 2. However, I met Raviprakash, who offered me a trainee’s job at his news agency. Since I was not from a journalism background, I was eager to learn and excited to know the life of a newsperson,” she says. And, when she learnt the basic things requisite for getting the story, she found mad energy being in front of the camera.
Shara Mamule, her first series on the channel revolved around the civic nuisances in the city. “We dealt with different issues ranging from parking woes to people attending to nature’s call on the roads. It was a very different experience and I knew I found my calling,” she says. Her base on the channel expanded and she was soon seen reading news on primetime. And, when assembly elections in 2004 were announced, she was ready to take on the challenge. Says Swapna, “My new show was called Leader Tho Oka Roju, wherein I interviewed politicians and brought to the fore their different facets. I did my homework well and was constantly learning on the job too.” Interestingly, the first guest who featured in her programme was Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the then opposition leader, and the last interview captured a day in the life of former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.
There was more on her plate, workwise. Close Encounters has been a high point in her journalistic career. “I interviewed around 160 celebrities for Close Encounters and the guest list was a mix of actors, directors, sportspersons. The show scored because of its appeal and some candid question and answer session.” Another programme Young Tarang hit a right chord with the youngsters and she broached subjects which were hitherto considered taboo. “The college students spoke their minds fearlessly. Young boys and girls gave their opinion on topics like pre-marital sex without inhibitions. The show on youngsters who took to naxalism but have come back to the mainstream was also a different experience,” she asserts.
However, this better-known voice of television was hungry for more and decided to change horses midstream. “I knew I could handle more. I do miss TV. But radio is no less fun,” she smiles but admits, the initial days were a bit of ‘culture shock” due to the unfamiliarity of the medium. “I was known as the action-woman and suddenly I found myself sitting at one place trying to co-ordinate and handling people. It was tough but my inclination to learn made things easy.”
Affinity to radio is in her genes, thanks to her grandmother, who was popular as Radio Bhanumati on All India Radio, Chennai and her mother Jyotsna, who cast a spell on the FM listeners with her programme JAPA 4. Swapna has also dabbled in Carnatic music and ran a music school in Seattle. Here in the city, she also gives concerts but lack of time has made it twice-a-year affair. As a single parent to Anirudh and Amrutha, Swapna says ups and downs are part of life. “It’s all about perspective. If we change attitudes, there is nothing in life which can pull us down. ”
The phase at Big 92.7 FM too has been successful as she has been made the regional programming head of four centres including Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram. There’s plenty to be done and she’s not complaining. “It’s a cut-throat environment and the challenge will be to connect positively with a touch of humour,” she says. For this fiercely independent former journo, to experience is to grow. “I have my own goals and aspirations and once they’re achieved, I set new ones,” she signs off.First take
Swapna on celebrities, who appeared on her shows.
Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy: Humane like any one of us.
Renuka Chowdhary: A bindaas person
Nagarjuna: Absolute charmer.
Priyamani: Overtly friendly.
V.V.S. Laxman: Cannot talk anything beyond sports.
Venkatesh: A very closely guarded person.
Ramgopal Varma: Cares a damn about making mistakes.