Abinaya is an RJ for Suriyan FM (93.5), Chennai – the most popular regional radio channel in the city. The channel is owned by an Indian Media Conglomerate – Sun Group, and has a total of 10 broadcasting stations in Tamil Nadu! We got the opportunity to interview Abinaya through women’s exclusive, and she was willing to share her story on her rise to success as a popular radio jockey at Suriyan FM.
Here’s how it went down:
What were your earlier years like? What brought you to Chennai?
I was a very silent girl when I was younger. I never dreamed that I would be on air. I come from Coimbatore and I’ve done by B.SC in viscom and M.SC in Electronic Media. To be honest, I was always unsure of my career path like most individuals at that age. But when I finished my course in 2014, I began to weigh in on my options. I started out as an associate professor at Hindustan College – teaching writing, photography and marketing. This was an extremely fruitful experience for me.
However, I had to take a short break soon after this, due to my health conditions. I felt like I had lost track after this but fortunately, I managed to score an interview at BIG FM through a friend of mine. That’s how I took the big leap to Chennai.
How did you handle this change, what made you take it up?
The truth is not many of my relatives believed that a coimbatore ponnu (girl) could move to the big city and become a successful radio jockey – and that too for such a popular station like BIG FM. But I was extremely interested in the opportunity and I decided to take a shot at it. I went to the interview with my fingers crossed in August and I landed the job in September!
I spent a total of 2 years and 3 months at BIG FM.
What was it like to be an RJ for the first time? What were your best experiences?
The interview that was closest to my heart was the one with Vijay Sethupathi. I will always cherish that memory, especially because he personally requested me to interview him after we had a casual chat before the show went on air. I was thrilled that he recommended me to be his interviewer.
I also had the wonderful opportunity of working with Madhan Karky, Mr. Vairamuthu’s son. Madhan had joined the station as a jock and I was assigned to train him. It was a real blessing for me because I feel that we both learnt a lot from each other. During teacher’s day he playfully suggested that he should be wishing me as I helped him learn the ropes of the radio world.
I’ve also worked with Archana from Zee Tamil and this was another great experience! Together we worked on a show – Big matinee. I am thankful to the programming head and executive producer, Mrs. Bavithra and Anandi for giving me all of these opportunities and trusting me along the way.
What were the shows you worked on at BIG FM?
When I started out I was mostly interviewing celebrities. They loved talking to me because I always asked questions that they and the listeners could both enjoy. It was never my intention to hurt anyone on air. I made sure that I kept the atmosphere positive and upbeat.
92.7 BIG FM Tamil #KathiSandai @ our studios!! You are an inspiration Bhavani Devi !!Video Credit : PictureMakersPhotography (footages)
Posted by RJ Abinaya on Friday, August 11, 2017
Later on, I wanted to do a show on ‘Unsung Heroes.’ This mostly consisted of sports achievers, like Bavani Devi who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth games. I’ve also interviewed a body building professional, Mr. Senthil Kumar, who is a bronze winner. I spent one and a half years interviewing such unsung heroes. I feel that this show was meaningful to the public because they got to hear stories about achievers who weren’t just in the film industry.
#MrAsia2016 with us 92.7 BIG FM Tamil studios!! #BigCafe featuring #SenthilKumaran taking about BodyBuilding and also gives me dieting tips 😛 Tune in Sunday 10-12noon !! #top100
Posted by RJ Abinaya on Thursday, November 10, 2016
My stay at BIG FM was a great learning experience – from unplugged shows to on the ground shows, I’ve had a lot of fun experiences with so many good memories.
Why did you make the switch to Suriyan FM? What inspired this move?
I was really satisfied with my job at BIG FM but I wanted to explore the industry further. I knew, and we all know, that Suriyan FM is the most famous radio channel in Tamil Nadu. I wanted to see if I could get in on the action at Suriyan FM. I was extremely unsure of whether I would get the job but a week after my interview I had cracked the opportunity and they called me in to work with them. I was ecstatic!
What were your challenges and experiences like at Suriyan FM?
When I joined, they thought I could master the brahmin slang. There is a comedy sketch show called kissukissu Geetha that required a female RJ to portray herself as a comical brahmin lady. I honestly had no idea how to go about this. But I spent a lot of time watching movies and practicing the typical brahmin pronunciations. I soon got the knack of it and could confidently go on air with my new brahmin accent.
Another show of mine at Suriyan FM is the Breakfast show between 7 to 9 in the morning. It’s called degree Capee (coffee). I understand that morning is the time when people need motivation the most, so I unravelled a lot of motivational content on the show. I also put in a bit of fun for foodies, being a major foodie myself. For instance, I would pick out ‘masala dosas’ and then talk about how the day is going to be for those who love masala dosas. It’s just a casual and fun way of keeping people feeling upbeat in the early mornings.
Another interesting thing at Suriyan FM is that we started posting online surveys on Facebook. We are the first regional radio station to do this. The subject would be on common, trending topics and we’d ask for the public’s opinion on a specific issue. We get around 500 to 600 votes a day, which is just amazing!
The most hilarious show I conduct at Suriyan FM is an anonymous prank calling segment. I am the first woman RJ to be doing this in Chennai. It was my idea to go ahead with this segment and although I was nervous about negative reactions from the people I called, I just went ahead and did it anyway. It turned out to be a lot of fun and now when I call a few people, they already know it’s me!
What are the things you love to do? What are your hobbies?
I love to travel! I recently visited the Andamans with my husband. I often make trips with my group of girl friends to let off steam, relax and have a good time.
I have to say I’m not interested in the digital world at all but I’m an avid reader. You can always find me reading a book in my spare time. I’m also interested in theatre performances. Apart from all that, I love to cook and my biggest love of all is food! I’m a hardcore non-vegetarian and you can often find me grabbing something to munch at Anjappar.
I also love animals and I have 4 dogs and 20 cats at home which is a whole lot of pets, but the more the merrier!
What’s your favorite song at the moment? And who would you say is your favorite artist?
Right now, I’m in love with the song Kadhaley Kadhaley and my favorite artist of all time is Yuvan Shankaraja. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him and talk to him. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life! I have immense respect for Yuvan’s talent.
How does you family feel about your success now?
My parents have always been supportive of me, regardless of what anybody else felt. My elder brother has also been a pillar of strength in my life. I owe all of my success to them and I am so grateful that they have stood by me through the years.
I’m married now and I have to say that even though it was an arranged marriage, my husband went against all odds and broke traditional norms by moving with me to Chennai, just so I could pursue my career. He has given me the strength and confidence to keep striving for more.
So I feel that they’re all very proud of me and how far I’ve come now from where I started. I am grateful every single day for all of their support and this is what keeps me inspired and motivated.
What would be your advice for aspiring RJs who want to get into the industry? What advice would you give for women specifically who want to be a part of the industry?
The thing about the media industry is you can never draw too many lines. A person’s reaction towards you depends entirely upon your behavior and attitude towards them. I have never experienced discrimination as a woman because I have always been positive with those who I work with. However, in unavoidable circumstances, when things get out of hand, my only advice is to be bold and stand your ground.
From what I have observed, this industry treats men and women equally. As long as you are bold and you learn to ignore the fear, you can conquer anything.
If you want to be a part of this industry, two things matter the most – First, your ability to trust in yourself and next, your ability to learn from feedback and constructive criticism.
When I first joined the industry, a lot of people made fun of my voice. I didn’t let that bring me down. I was trained by a very good sound engineer who helped me learn how to manage the different pitches of my voice. Now, I am completely confident on air. So it’s good to be open to suggestions always and to look at feedback as something valuable to your personal growth.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Five years down the line, I don’t see myself as an RJ. I’ve had an extremely wonderful experience being on air, and I have discovered a whole new version of myself. I use to be so quiet as a teenager and all of a sudden I’m here in front of the mic, talking everyday to lakhs of people! I am astonished at how life has changed. But I feel that in five years time, I would like to step down and hand over the mic to the younger generation. I would like them also to have a chance to explore their potential.
As for me, I might try something new in the media industry – such as production. I am extremely interested in dubbing as well so I will see how it goes in a few years time.
The most important thing that I have picked up over the years is that I love trying new things and as long as I am open to opportunities that come my way, I find myself in exciting environments that help me grow as an individual.
I am excited to see what the future will be like!
We, at women’s exclusive are thankful that Abinaya took the time out to talk to us, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors.