RJ Balaji On His New Spotify Podcast Naallanaa Murukku
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RJ Balaji, actor and director of Mookuthi Amman speaks to Baradwaj Rangan about his new Spotify podcast ‘Naallanaa Murukku’ and what motivates him to constantly find new platforms. Edited Excerpts…

What is this need to constantly find new platforms? Is it because of your restless nature? You’ve done direction, commentary and been an RJ…

There’s an interview of Shah Rukh Khan from a while back where he says that he’s the most restlessly peaceful man in the world. I could probably say that I’m the second most restlessly peaceful man in the world. I find happiness in doing these things. I feel alienated in a comfort zone and have never done such things. I’ve been an RJ… I got my offer letter in 2006. I’ve been an RJ for 15 years. But somewhere the medium gives me space to speak about the things I want to. You can’t do it in others’ films or even in your own film. 

I could speak about politics or other issues in LKG or Mookuthi Amman, but not everything. I enjoyed doing radio. But I think people have moved on now. You have to be listening when I speak. I don’t know if people are glued to appointment mediums. Now, everything works on convenience. I thought this was the right time when Spotify came to me. When a global leader like them wants to launch in Tamil, I thought it was the right time to be a podcaster which is essentially what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. 

You mentioned that Spotify approached you. Did you have a few ideas in your mind?

We have been talking for quite some time. I never try to do something that’s totally different. I do the same thing again and again but in a way people enjoy. In the last fifteen years, I’ve been doing a lot of stage shows in schools and colleges, and I’ve been doing standup. In all of these, I know only three games. But each time I do it, the jokes and the spontaneity make the difference. 

This show is called ‘Naalana Murukku’. It will have the same things that people have known and liked me for — one more time. 

What’s the show going to be like?

It’s not something like ‘Koffee With Karan’. By 2010 or 2011, much before ‘Why This Kolaveri’ and when crosstalk was viral on the internet, the content on the internet was a bit innocent. There’s a lot of negative content that gets a lot of traction. It’s very scary. I felt this is a medium where I could speak about good things in a funny way (but not preach). There’s a lot of content around us and we don’t need celebrities. I want to keep it simple and approachable. 

The reason to name it ‘Naalana Murukku’ was because ‘Spotify’ and ‘podcast’ are alien words to us. The first option we had was ‘The RJ Balaji Podcast’ but it didn’t feel right. Before the lockdown, I didn’t know how to use Amazon Prime or Netflix. I always thought Sun TV, Raj TV and Vijay TV were the right things for me. So, I wanted the name to be accessible. I wanted to talk about things that everyone likes in an accessible way. 

Give me an example of a topic you’d discuss…

Humour is my USP, so everything will be treated with humour. There are a lot of small things. For example, when actor Vivek lived he did a lot of good films through cinema and outside it. But a few people tried to bring the vaccine into the narrative about his death. Maybe those videos trended on social media for a day or two but the impact it had on people over fifty who live in small towns and even in cities has led them to be hesitant about vaccination. I want to speak about a lot of issues like this. We think only youngsters are consuming content but even relatively older people are always on their WhatsApp groups.

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