Writer, lyricist, scriptwriter and radio broadcaster Neelesh Misra has left many with a sense of nostalgia with his storytelling on the popular radio show Yaadon Ka Idiot Box. The radio show is now in its sixth edition and Misra shares when he started with the radio he had “zero experience of storytelling and writing”. Also, it was never his plan to be a radio presenter until he met the CEO of Big FM while promoting his album with Shilpa Rao at the radio station.
Before the launch of the sixth edition of Yaadon Ka Idiot Box With Neelesh Misra, we sat down for a chat with the radio host. He revealed how he has developed a ‘rare, humbling’ bond with his listeners and how after co-scripting a couple of Bollywood films, he feels he is better of writing stories than movie scripts since it gives him more creative freedom.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
1. How is Yaadon Ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Misra Season 6 different from its previous seasons?
The effort is to stay true to the strengths of the previous five seasons and not to do away with them, but also to innovate further. So, the stories will be around relationships and everyday India. Also, there will be an effort to bring social consciousness. Because I strongly feel communicators have a big social responsibility to which they often do not adhere to. A lot of them use stereotyping of women, people’s skin colour or gender or the amount of hair on their head or how their eyes are made. These things are used as shortcuts for entertainment. Like you watch The Kapil Sharma Show, you hear rural Indians being made fun of. I cringe on them.
Our stories will never ever stereotype or objectify people like this. We want to talk about issues which are critical and we want to do it without being preachy. Also, another thing which will be important to me is, our stories will teach listeners how to become the other. And, by that, I mean how do you see the world from other people’s point of view.
2. What has kept you motivated to go ahead with the show for six seasons?
I think the kind of responses that people send to us is what really keeps us going. People open up and tell us how our stories are changing their lives. For example, there’s a girl from Kolkata who wrote to me and told me how her late brother introduced her to my stories and now that she couldn’t write to him, she is writing to me. This relationship is very personal and this is our fuel. You can be a singer, an actor, but this kind of relationship is rare and humbling.
3. Did you anticipate the kind of reception your show got?
Not at all. In fact, on the contrary, a lot of people at that time had told me that nobody wants to listen to stories in India. I was told that it is a brilliant idea but it will never work. And that’s how I started, I had absolutely no idea that people would like it. And within a week, students started sending messages on Facebook. Their hostel changed its dinner timing to be able to listen to our stories. People said ‘we leave our office late so that we are on the road at nine because we don’t have a radio at home.’ I realised that something unique had happened and we have touched a nerve of this nation which we didn’t even know existed. What started off as an experiment has consumed my life. And I’m grateful for it.
4. You have been a journalist, a writer or radio broadcaster, lyricist scriptwriter. So how did this transition on the professional front happened?
I think my life has been a succession of very interesting coincidences and accidents. And, I’m grateful for all of them. I’m grateful that I never had to do anything boring for a living. All of it was kind of storytelling only. From the time when I was a trainee journalist and then I worked with the Associated Press for nine years, travelling across the country, it was all storytelling. Then when I got to write five books, that was storytelling too. In my entire Bollywood journey, I tried to do storytelling through songs. So I think that was the time I matured in many ways. And then the radio happened. It has been a privilege to live many lives of a creator in a single life.
5. Today, digital platforms have taken over the way people have been consuming content. So how difficult is it to draw the attention?
When we were only on the radio, we were competing for attention with TV, with shopping malls and other sources of entertainment. Now, those diversions have increased in the digital era. So I think we just have to keep working harder. But, in my experience, our content has been sticky enough for people to listen to us. On my YouTube channel, every month close to 22 million minutes of content is consumed. Minimum of 2 million people come and listen to my shows every month. So I think digital and radio can coexist. Radio still has amazing reach.
6. You have co-scripted Ek Tha Tiger and Tiger Zinda Hai. How is scripting for movies different from writing stories for your radio show? Which one do you enjoy more?
I enjoy writing a story more than a film because the creative control is with me. A film is never controlled by a writer. A film writer just gives it a spine and others give it a shape. I’m not a great film writer at all. So I think I would like to do what I can do. I am working on a film script for myself. If I will like it I will peg it to people but it’s more to learn the craft.