Reacho Pune Exclusive: In A Tete-A-Tete With RJ Turned Artist Aditi Venkateshwaran

She's one of those who quit her job to travel. Find out more about the voice that once said 'Hi Pune!'

Venkateshwaran, Aditi Venkateshwaran, Pune RJ, Mumbai, Pune Theater Artists, Pinkathon

You heard her on radio for nine years. She made us help beat the Monday morning blues with her chirpy chatter. Now an artist, it’s been three years since she bid adieu to radio. And there’s so much to learn about life from Aditi Venkateshwaran. She dances, performs, writes, is an avid reader and a nomad. Traveling is something she holds very close to her heart. How many of us think of quitting our jobs to travel? Well, she actually did it. She believes ‘home is where the head lies’. Her journey is a real delight to know of.

Read on to know more about her, and trust me, it will make you want to rediscover yourself.

You worked as an RJ for 9 long years. What made you quit?

I started working when I was 19. I was pursuing B.Sc in Fergusson College, and my initial intention was to work just for a year or two. However, I loved the medium so much that I ended up working for 9 years. When I began, I thought RJ-ing was all about just talking, but it was a lot more than that. A four hours’ show required eight hours of research. I needed to constantly keep myself updated with things happening not just in the city, but across the globe.

Additionally, I also worked as a producer and music manager, and after a certain while, I just felt it was becoming too much for me. Being a dancer, there was a time when I was doing the radio for 10 hours and dancing for another 8-10 hours. It was almost like doing two full-time jobs at one time. I started feeling I was stagnated and felt the need to explore myself, to travel and to do a lot more of art. I felt I needed the inspiration to let go of myself and rediscover who I really was. That’s when I woke up one morning and decided to quit.

So was it an impulsive sort of a decision?

It was impulsive and at the same time, well thought of. When I told my boss I wanted to quit, she out rightly said no. It took her a few months to finally accept my resignation. When she asked me what had I planned on doing next, I had no answer. For all I knew was that I wanted to travel and that I wanted to take up vipassana. Even after quitting my job, I kept dancing and performing. I played one of the central characters in a Shakespearean play. So even after quitting my job with Radio, I was still working. 

9 years is a long time, and I’m sure you must have witnessed a lot of highlights in this long span. Is there any special radio moment that you would like to talk about?

It’s been so long since I was on air, that it feels to be a different life altogether. There are so many moments, but if I have to mention one, in particular, it would be the time when I was on air during the attacks of 26/11. It’s not easy to talk about deaths or attacks on radio. You have to be really sensitive and sensible, and you have to filter every word you say. As a public figure, you just cannot make anything sound serious or frivolous. You just cannot make something that’s so serious even more serious. Those three days were extremely challenging for me. People were troubled by the things that were happening in our neighboring city. At the same time, there was something beautiful about those three days. People were calling in continuously and the kind of sharing that was happening was really different. Life was normal for us, but everyone was shaken. I was on air for 3 days and did not go home.

When the last terrorist was arrested, I was so relieved it all ended, and also deeply upset that it happened. 3 days of continuously being on air made me zone out and went to grab a cup of coffee at a restaurant on FC Road. There, a girl walked up to me and told me that her family has been listening to the radio for the past 3 days. Her mother told her that if she ever wanted to be like someone, be like Aditi. I was overwhelmed and broke down. That’s when I realized how important every word spoken on radio is. That experience had shaken me. There’s a lot of other stuff as well. My interview with AR Rehman is something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my lifetime.

A lot of parents are against the idea of their children choosing to be an RJ. They do not take this field very seriously. Any thoughts?

When children tell their parents they want to take up acting or even dancing or some other form of performing arts, their instinctive reaction is out of fear. They might not support because they are worried about their child’s future. That’s a perfectly normal reaction for any parents to have. Our society does not treat the artists as they are supposed to be. And I’ll also go ahead and say that at times, artists themselves are not aware of how they should be treated. Any career option that’s not a regular one will always be challenged and even looked down upon.

When I first came to Pune, there were people who tried talking my parents into not letting me be here. And now, they are the same people who are full of praises for the work I’ve done so far. Ultimately, you need to know for sure what you are getting into. There’s a lot of effort you need to put in if you want to be an RJ. You need to read a lot, be updated constantly, interact a lot. If you really wish to take up this field, you have to be completely sure of it, because it’s no way an easy thing. It demands a lot of time, discipline, and hard work. It’s a great career, but extremely challenging.

Can you tell us a bit about theater?

My work essentially is physical movement and theater. I dance, I act and I’ve also stepped into direction now. I started with Kathak and went on to learn Contemporary. I recently directed this contemporary performance called ‘In transit’, which revolves around the things we see around the city and carry within us. Sometimes, I also teach. I really like working with children. A couple of months ago, I did this workshop with Maharashtra Fellowship of the Deaf. I feel the children are so open about everything. They are receptive and free and it’s wonderful to conduct workshops for them.

You mentioned physical movement, which brings us to Pinkathon. You were the face of Pinkathon and you promoted running, you inspired thousands of women in our city to run. All this was alongside Milind Soman. How was that experience?

Pinkathon in many ways has been a wonderful experience to me. I was always an athlete. I played basketball in school. Physical fitness was always a big part of my life, but I never liked running. Pinkathon was all about running, and it was also largely about creating awareness of breast cancer. I lost one of my dance teachers to cancer, which is why this cause meant a lot to me. Women in India have just about started thinking of their health, and this is particularly the elite class- people who can afford to go to gym or people who can afford to have the luxury to hire help to do the rest of their chores.

The majority of the women give huge importance to taking care of their husband and children. For them, taking care of themselves is never really a part of their upbringing. Milind is trying to break these barriers through promoting running. He got in touch with me during the first Pinkathon in Pune. And that’s when I took up training with him. This happened three years ago, but I still run. It was indeed a life changing experience for me because Milind gave me something that I had been missing out on for a long time.

You said you felt the need to travel. How did that happen?

I traveled randomly. I was in Kerala and Karnataka for a while, I went to Sri Lanka and then Ladakh. I went to Bhutan recently. I would get up and go anywhere I felt like and I stayed there for months. I traveled because I wanted to breathe and learn new things. It helped me connect with myself in a different way.

Finally, any plans of going back to radio?

I would love to go back to radio, but there’s a lot that’s changing. And at times, I have a few technical issues with the way the radio is structured, the way the shows are executed. If I have a really good offer, I would love to go back. Also, I feel I quit because there’s still a lot of radio left in me.  All in good time, perhaps

You are not from Pune. Can you talk a bit about your Pune connection?

I’ve been in Pune for the past 15 years when I came to study at Fergusson College. I was fascinated with the city, and I loved it. I was an outsider and was a little uncomfortable initially. But Pune is now home.

And now you know the story behind the voice that always cheered you up. Reacho wishes Aditi a lot more success, and of course, many more travels.

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Anusha Gajendragadkar (WRITER)

Anusha Gajendragadkar writes for Reacho. If you wish to get in touch with them, drop in a mail at