We Can’t Keep Talking About Empowerment And Feminism Without Actually Showing Them How: Malishka, Mumbai Ki Rani
- IWB Post
- September 12, 2019
Armed with immense wit and charm, Mumbai ki Rani aka RJ Malsihka hardly needs any introduction. Her effervescent voice is a staple wake up call for Mumbaikars and she is one woman who wears her heart on her sleeves. From tracing down everyday happenings of Bollywood to voicing the concerns of the junta, Malishka promises her listeners lots of action and takes up causes that affect the city, acting as an agent for change.
In conversation with this dynamic woman, we got insights into her journey of becoming an RJ, the campaigns that she facilitates, and her new audio series #MainBhi, which gives a voice to every woman who has faced sexual harassment, letting others know that they are not alone in their harrowing experiences and we mustn’t normalise them either.
So, Malishka, it’s been 13 years since you have been working as an RJ. When did you actually realise that this was the profession for you?
As a kid, I always saw my mother and aunts listening to the radio while working and I was very fascinated by the song being played on it and the way it made you feel. Though I don’t remember listening to radio jockeys in particular, I remember that the medium always fascinated me. So just when I came out of college, that was the time when private FM also came around and I feel it emerged only for me. Bhagwan ne socha hoga ab ye paida hogayi hai, ye kya karegi. Radio mein hi sabse best rahegi baaki jagah murjha jayegi.
I went for a couple of auditions and at that time there used to be long queues for auditioning. Ek din mein audition khatam nahi hote thay and the line would continue from where it was left the next day.
I remember, there was a day when I was left with some 10-15 people for auditioning and the organisers sent us back saying “it’s done for the day, we don’t want anyone to not come. So maybe you can come tomorrow.” And I was the only one in the crowd who made a noise saying “excuse me how can you do this? You called us and we’ve been here the whole day. Now that we are just the last 10 people you should take us up.”
So fire toh tab se hi tha mujh mein. Although sometimes I think of it and I am like, my goodness, girl, you were going for an interview and generally people are so reticent, but I just said what I felt. If it’s unfair then one should not keep quite, na. I told them you should finish all our auditions tonight. Though I would talk, I used to consider myself a little shy but it was a big surprise to a lot of people when they heard me talking on the radio. It all started with Win 94.6 FM, but it shut down in two years, after which I joined Red FM.
My God, you truly had the fire in your belly and everyone adores you for being such a bindaas person. So, tell me, like many other professions, is radio jockeying also a male-dominated field?
According to me, I don’t think radio jockeying was a male-dominated field ever. When I joined with 94.6, we had a kickass radio jock who was a woman and there were many others. I have never seen radio as a male or female-dominated field. I think FM doesn’t have the biases that other fields may have. There is also nothing like the best male RJ or female RJ. They shouldn’t even have such things and I remember once they did it but I put a ban on it.
Also when it comes to the pay it is not dependent on the basis of gender. It just cannot happen. The field is totally dependent on your kabiliyat, that is, if you can hook the audience with your skills. However, in some cases maybe a particular kind of show may require a woman or a man to handle it. Like if it is a show about women, then yes you will want a lady perhaps but if it is a show handling women fantasies then you may want a guy, for example. But we have had both. Our show Naughty Nights is done with a male and female RJ. To me, radio is a very woman-friendly profession. My programming editor, bosses are all women and I feel women have a particular DNA that is made very well for the radio.
Red FM has launched so many successful campaigns. What drives the creativity of your campaigns and which is that one campaign that is very close to your heart?
Over these 13 years, there have been so many campaigns that we have done. For me, the first thing I ever did and remains closest to my heart was coming up with Bajao for a Cause, which now Red FM does all over the country. I am very happy that it started with me because we wanted to say that the decision is hard hitting but it also has a heart. The main premise of it is that the whole city gets together to collects funds for one cause, which I select.
So to name a few campaigns, there was a commercial sex workers’ kids campaign, which we did a year ago. The aim behind it was to focus on the schooling of children born to commercial sex workers. It was a significant step taken towards providing basic education for future opportunities. Then we did a campaign for Make A Wish Foundation to champion the cause of the NGO which provides aid and support to children suffering from life-threatening diseases. The common theme running under all the campaigns is the upliftment of the society. It’s been a very enduring process. One feels so cherished and credible doing such things because people trust you and come forward with their issues as they know it will be put in the right place.
What drives the creativity of our campaigns is the right attitude and the intent behind it. When you are doing something, you can figure out why you are doing it. So for example when we did the song on potholes, the intent was very pure. We were going through so much and somebody needed to voice it. We were watching the effect of the issue everywhere, be it television or newspaper but we weren’t doing anything about it. But after that, if a political party comes around and tries to screw the intent saying that she belongs to some political party, or if people come and say that she is just doing this because isko apni badhai karni hai that’s not what the whole thing was. It doesn’t matter what people say if your intent is right and if it gives you a lot of courage, it is all okay. I know what our philosophy is and our aim behind the campaigns is to make a change.
Every day when I go on air, and if I feel I have changed a few perspectives or few people’s lives in any way that is better for them, that keeps me going. With all these campaigns we’ve had a lot of learning and it’s a huge driving force for us.
So what has been that one experience in your career where you felt that the line between failure and success was very thin, but only a little push was needed to achieve your dreams?
It was when I had to audition for Tumahri Sulu. So our producers were keen on having me to do this film but when I went for my audition, my director was not there. When he saw it later he was not completely convinced that I could be the girl that he wanted. So my producer called me again for another audition which was to be in front of the director and he explained to me the story so beautifully that I could play that character according to his vision.
So that whole thing, that I went back and gave another shot was that thin line between success and failure for me. I have always wanted to act but if I didn’t push myself back then it could have been the end of my dreams. With this film, I actually spurred my dream of acting more and I really want more screen work. If Tumhari Sulu wouldn’t have happened for me, it would have been quite heartbreaking.
Social media trolling has become quite pronounced in recent times and every now and then we see celebrities fall prey to it. How do you deal with it?
I have learnt to disassociate myself from other people’s opinions. How can they comment on me when they don’t know me? They are looking at me through a prism. People have negative stuff to say about everyone but we need to stop feeding the negativity.
However, having said that, if there is a troll which needs to be addressed, I do respond to it so that I can send out a humble message out to the public and quell it there. I get a lot of comments on social media and I reinforce the positive comments by responding to them, but the negative ones I chose to delete, block or don’t respond to. It’s definitely upsetting sometimes, but I have learnt to deal with the trolls and if people say something and if I feel that’s not me then I don’t care.
So you have come up with a new audio series #MainBhi. Is it an attempt to expand the narrative of #MeToo movement from the workplace to households?
We thought about this series way before #MeToo started. My intent behind it was to take the movement to the grassroots because people just started to believe that all this only happens with people associated with media or heroines. I wanted to give every woman a voice.
We just can’t keep talking about empowerment and feminism without actually showing them how. The stories in the series revolve around sexual harassment faced by women at home and outside. People need to know that such things actually happen to every woman. No woman can say that she has not been teased or molested. The aim is to empower women to speak up because when you do that it lets others know that you are not the only one and secondly people around us get vigilant. Men need to know what all things happen with women so that they can raise better kids. The series is an attempt to create awareness.
Does the series also aim at removing the stigmas associated with reporting?
Yes, we talk about how important it is to report such things. The Red Dot Foundation Group started a flagship program Safecity that provides a platform to create awareness about street harassment and abuse to get women and other communities to break their silence and report their experiences. So we talk about this initiative and we want women to understand that there are safe zones where they can report, which is beyond telling the family and police. It is very important to tell someone what you have gone through so that something can be done about it.
In your opinion, is the #MeToo movement helping in bringing about a change?
The movement has helped many to come out with their story. Surely men are very scared now and they are going about saying what has happened. I would like to them that figure out how to be a good man rather than saying what has happened to women. But there are men who are accepting that they messed up and are willing to change. People need to learn to respect each other. Things may take time to completely change, but it surely can’t be like this has happened and now you take it or leave it. I am sure things will change because a lot of women and men are raising their voices and we need to keep talking about it to create awareness.
This article was first published on March 18, 2019.