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`Be your own person'

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SAME WAVELENGTH Rajasree Warrier and Rekha Menon
SAME WAVELENGTH Rajasree Warrier and Rekha Menon

They are as alike as chalk and cheese. Rekha Menon and Rajasree Warrier. Both of them became household names when they lit the small screen as competent and popular anchorpersons and hosts. They made their name on television when Malayalam channels were in its infancy. While Rekha charmed viewers with her non-stop banter and humour, Rajasree's clear diction and looks won her admirers all over Kerala. They anchored the same programme, Family Tele Quiz (FTQ), for some time. In a fiercely competitive world, these two became good friends and time has not weakened the bonds of friendship. The two, however, went on to choose different paths. Rekha is now in charge of events and public relations at U.S. Technology while Rajasree is now behind the camera, producing and doing research on music and dance. As the two friends caught up with each other, Saraswathy Nagarajan tuned in to capture the conversation.Rekha: When we met, you were already a star; a dancer and anchorperson. You started out when you were still a student. I however, was more interested in production, so I would often be behind the camera. Rajasree: You began with FTQ. You were always so lively and entertaining. I had to learn how to reach out to viewers, as the programme was telecast live. I am quite moody, so I had to make an effort to shake it off before the shoot began. Rekha: As soon as the make-up man began applying the foundation, I would snap out of my world. I decided I would forget whatever problems I had to give the viewers a good time. After all, many of them were calling from far-off places to participate in the shows. Rajasree: That is the right attitude. Rekha: But you had so many admirers and you were flooded with offers to act in films. Rajasree: Yes, but I was just not interested. Rekha: Otherwise we could have had a star in our midst. But, you used to anchor a serious programme on nostalgia. I am sure the viewers who watched it, did so only to watch you. Oh, yes, a viewer once did offer me a role. I asked him what the role was. He replied: `Of a beast in a jungle.' Rajasree: But seriously, I have never thought of films. I think I would have made a poor actor. If I were angry about something, I would find it very difficult to emote something else. Dance has always come first. I am now doing a programme on dance and art forms called `Saparya.' As I am a postgraduate in music, I am keen on doing research on music and so on. Rekha: But Raji, for many viewers you were the ideal Malayali girl... the way you dressed, spoke... Rajasree: Yes, people used to remark on that. Many people felt that my image was that of the `ideal' Malayali girl. For many of the viewers, we were part of the family. I had anchored programmes on Doordarshan and Asianet and all these programmes were meant for the family. There was nothing inane in it. Rekha: True, Family Tele Quiz, which both of us anchored, and perhaps, the first interactive show, was never meant as a mushy programme. Viewers came from all walks of life and age groups. Letters used to come from all parts of India. But there were hardly any mushy letters. Rajasree: Some of the letters contained suggestions, a few pointed out mistakes while many appreciated our work. Rekha: I can look back with pride on our work and tell my son, "See this is what your amma used to do." Rajasree: My daughter is a great fan of Rekha. She is always telling me "why don't you dress like her, speak like her.." Rekha: But Raji, if you were to come back to the small screen again, what kind of programmes would you like to host? Rajasree: Music or dance based... Rekha: I think we were really lucky. We were able to do various programmes - travelogues (India Vision), kid's programmes (Amrita TV), interviews... Now, most of the programmes are film song-based ones that revolve around dedicating songs for some one and SMS ing. Rajasree: One or two would be fine but so many at the same time... I wonder how that can be sustained. Rekha: However, in Tamil Nadu, the trend is different. There are excellent serials made by film stars, writers and social activists on so many topics. Kushboo and Revathy have made many serials. Reigning film stars host serious discussions. The only person who has managed to stay on for all these years is Pepsi Uma. But she does not focus on mush. Her callers include grandparents and youngsters. She has a niche of her own. Here, most of the anchors seem to have a trouble finding their own style. There is no dearth of talent. Rajasree: You have so many clones isn't it? They try to imitate your dialect, the way you speak... Rekha: It is so unnecessary. I am not putting on my accent or Thrissur dialect. I grew up there and so I speak like that, on and off screen. Rajasree: That is your strength. You are what you are. In fact, I feel that was the strength of our programme too. I remained true to myself and Rekha was Rekha. There was no attempt to ape each other. I think that is the bottom line. If you want to be in this field for some time, you should have a style of your own and be your own person.

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