Monday, September 17, 2007

From Rs.50 a day to a hugely successful radio jockey

By Papri Sri Raman, Chennai, Sep 17 : From a small town into a million hearts and record books, it has been a roller coaster ride for radio jockey N. Dheenadayalan, known to his listeners as Dheena or Speed Dheena.Growing up in the 1980s in Salem in western Tamil Nadu, for young Dheena Mumbai was as distant a dream as Memphis."My schoolteacher mother knew Dheena was not really academically inclined," the young man tells IANS with a smile.Like in every ordinary Indian household, 'to do something in life' was the constant din for Dheena and his brothers. All their goals were pre-set -- be it engineers or doctors. An entertainer wasn't a profession at all.His poor results in school were not good enough to push him into engineering college. So he enrolled for a B.Sc course in mathematics and got into a college, "probably because there were no takers for a math course", he says.He tried for an engineering college again. "It was a bad patch in my life, I was not quite sure where I was going. But it was a great learning process."His life changed when he did get into the Adhiyamaan College of Engineering at Hosur.It was "my hostel warden Krishnamurthy who first tapped my hidden talent", Dheena recalls with gratitude. He would entertain his fellow students, mimicking Tamil Nadu's great stars, Sivaji Ganesan, MGR and others. Dheena can mimic anyone he wants to. His interpersonal skills too are amazing.The warden told him he had to perform at the college function. "I had never been on stage... My hands shook as I held the mike..."After a while, the encores began. I forgot to shiver. Sivaji Ganesan's and Rajnikant's lines poured forth from my lips without a tremor."That was in the early 90s."It was a journey. I still use mimicry but, today, I use it as a pickle, not the main meal," says Dheena, one of the most popular radio jockeys on Big 92.7 FM.After graduating, Dheena came to Chennai in 1996, to work as supervisor for a company that made gas cylinders, for Rs.750 a month. "I learnt all about stress tests and heat checks!"It was at a friend's sister's wedding that he got his next chance to perform."Shankar's Sadhaga Peravaigal (musician Shankar's troupe) was performing. My friends insisted that I do a mimicry show on the same platform. Shankar noticed me and offered me Rs.50 per show with his troupe."So Dheena began shuttling between checking cylinders and performing at temples, weddings - wherever Shankar performed. Every show meant Rs.50 and food every day. Soon this became Rs.100 per show."But a good job still remained the ultimate Indian dream, soon I was off to Pondicherry to work for a plastic company at Rs.5,000 a month. It was hot inside the plant, we had at times three-day shifts, if someone else was absent!"Looking for an escape, Dheena became a salesman for hi-tech dentists' chairs, going from door to door. But he neither had smart clothes, nor did he know English!It did not take him long to realize that the artiste in him cried out for a break. He bought some branded clothes, went for a speakeasy course in English, and began selling SIM cards.Dheena took up a talk show for yet another musical group for Rs.500 per show. He was soon being paid to compere at events.When the Sun Television group called for radio jockeys as they were setting up a Tamil FM station, Dheena applied. They appointed just four out of 100 applicants. Dheena was offered a three-year contract and sent to Mumbai for training.Suryan FM and Sun Music gave Dheena the chance to find his true calling. "Talking to people, chatting up, making people laugh, listening to their stories, presenting music."At the end of his term this year, Dheena moved to Adlab's 92.7 FM, going on to become one of the most popular Tamil radio jockeys.From Aug 20 to 24, for 92 hours and seven minutes, Dheena compered a marathon chat session with his listeners joining in, the longest chat on Indian radio, setting sight on a Guinness record.
--- IANS