This week on Friendly Fridays we got a chance to interview RJ Sayema Rehman of the uber popular late night show Purani Jeans on Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM. She has been hosting the show since 2003 and that too during an unfavourable time period of 9 pm to 12 am. Even still, Sayema has managed to build a healthy and extremely loyal fanbase. Her deep voice, perfect inunciation and sense of humour, has allowed her to build strong relations with her listeners.
ED was proud to have had a chance to meet her and pick the brains behind the voice. Let’s hear what she has to say.
ED: First off, you have to tell us of one really awesome fan moment and one weirdest fan interaction.
Sayema: I don’t usually do contests, because it’s a night show and I just want people to sit back and relax. See my aim is very simple, last 3 hours of the day, so try and connect with yourself. And most of my interaction is through Twitter and Facebook, since I don’t want to open my phone lines only to a select few. But there was this one time where a caller would just not accept that I am actually Sayema and the weird part was that there was no way to prove to him. So perhaps not awesome, but it was a little funny.
And weird might not be the right word for the other interaction as it was more scary than weird. So one fine day I got a hand written letter, which was written in red ink, but towards the end it said that this is not ink, but is instead blood.
So that was definitely the scariest one yet.
ED: How do you deal with chepu listeners who refuse to hang up the phone?
Sayema: Actually I don’t want to call some of my fans chepu, as the world of radio can hypnotise you. So they fall into the trap of entering a world that we try and create. So radio is a very one on one medium. A good radio jockey will only speak to you. Not a chepu moment, but there was once an IIT student who came to me with a psychiatrist’s prescription that said he was hallucinating. And his doctor had told him to come meet me and learn that I don’t just talk to you. So I had shown him all the equipment and the reality of what I did, and for 6 months after that we were in touch on mail and it was working and helping him. Perhaps if I hadn’t done that then we would have stayed ill for life.
ED: What do you do change the society?
Sayema: Just as I said above, you asked the scariest moment, but there have been fan moments where I was on the edge and thinking whether I was doing the right thing or not.
One moment was where I had done this campaign called ‘Purani Jeans Campaign’. So basically whenever we donate or giveaway we do so with old clothes that we don’t need anymore. But this time I wanted them to part with their love, I wanted them to part with their favourite pair of jeans. So in order to put in incentive towards the campaign I added that if you collect more than 100 pairs of jeans I will personally come and collect it from you.
So there was this doctor from Meerut who collected almost 600pairs of jeans and in the afternoon I got a call from his brother where he told me that he had met with a fatal accident and had passed away. But just before passing away, he had asked his brother to ensure that the jeans reach me.
So those are the moments you realize you have so much responsibility on shoulders that you don’t realize.
ED: As a Muslim, do you feel any kind of divide between your surname and being an Indian? Do you think that your surname sometimes takes a higher prejudice than you being an Indian?
Sayema: No. Never. Not at all. I have never felt it. Sometimes comments from one or two people who say that ‘this was expected from you’ I know what they are referring to.
But I feel, its just the times. It is almost like that, ‘if you don’t subscribe to my views and you are against it then you are anti-national.’ Then it doesn’t really matter whether you are a Muslim or not. So your name has got nothing to do with it.
ED: If you were to interview MSG, what would your top 3 questions be?
Sayema: I would only ask him one question-
Have you ever eaten chowmein with MSG?
ED: How do you deal with ethical dilemmas?
Sayema: See the thing is you can’t make me do anything that I don’t approve of. And I can be very sarcastic while still keeping the respect intact. So I can probably make fun of that person without them even realizing it.
ED: Your biggest celebrity moment? Which celebrity gave it to you and how did you deal with him/her?
Sayema: So there are 2 celebrity moments I had that I really remember well.
One time was when I was invited to KBC as an expert. And I was standing and waiting for the shooting to start and Amitabh Bachchan came up to me and I said ‘hi sir’ and he put both his hands on mine and said ‘ you are Sayema from Purani Jeans, right?’
The other one was during Dilip Kumar’s 93rd birthday, and just to tell beforehand, my dad once upon a time used to love Dilip Kumar. So I had tweeted to him wishing him a very happy birthday and it was almost like a mujhe mere baap ka khawab pura karma hai.
And I wasn’t really expecting much because itna obvious tha, it is Dilip Kumar after all. But at 8 o’ clock at night when I looked at my timeline, there was a tweet from Dilip Kumar saying jeete rahin, sehatmand. And I thought ab saari jayedad meri hogi. See dad, I got a tweet from your favourite actor.
ED: How do you deal with operating a show on emotional days?
Sayema: By talking about it. Agar stomach ache ho raha hai then I just talk, if it is something else, then too.
But if you are having a very difficult day then you have to assess. So I have this segment called Meri Diary Ka Ek Page, and it allows me to an opportunity to write, think, analyse and understand on how to progress with that emotional upheaval.
The 2nd way is that I can talk about it. I have really spoken a lot about my emotional circumstances on my show.
ED:What is your guilty pleasure show? And you have to take a name.
Sayema: Guilty pleasure? I am so away from screen, I just don’t watch TV at all.
But my guilty pleasure is the weirdest of videos that people put up, because every bloody phone has a camera, where… they think they are looking really good but in fact they are looking… horrendous. And then I have to see the 2nd video too because they are sooo entertaining.
ED: Will nudity become normal in India, like it is abroad?
Sayema: Nudity as an object of beauty, I don’t think will ever be normal in India. We will never be okay with it. Because we are trying to exist on such extreme spectrums, that either we have a section in our country which is like fully covered or we have a section protesting to just take off all clothes.
We just don’t know how to be absolutely okay with our bodies. That sense has not come in.
And with that another chapter of Friendly Fridays has come to a close. We can say with absolute surety that it was such a joy to have been able to conduct this interview and talk about so many different things.