Ayesha Adlakha is a VJ who says that she became one entirely by chance. But when the opportunity presented itself, the native of Delhi wasn’t one to back down. During an internship with Nickelodeon, she realized how it’s possible to be creative and professional at the same time.
She says, “It drove me to believe that Viacom was a great fit for me, a great stepping stone to learn the business aspects of this industry before I started my own production house. So, when Viacom 18 came to my college for recruitments, I sat for it. It was one of the only two recruitments I sat for. After a strenuous and very dramatic selection process that spanned across months, I got selected into 2014’s Graduate Trainee Program and became a sales trainee for MTV’s new channel- MTV Indies. It was all about independent music and subcultures and I was all about that.
I have a need to experiment and it fulfilled that.
During my year as a trainee, I kept being asked to be part of MTV India’s promos, host their press conferences and also do an entire show on motor sports. I have a need to experiment and it fulfilled that. So alongside my sales career was budding an unpaid entry into anchoring which I hadn’t trained or planned for in my wildest dreams. It was fun though and every time I was in front of the camera, I learned something new about me.
Once the show got over which was a total hurricane of an experience. And it will take me a lifetime to unravel and understand, I stayed on as a VJ with MTV. I become a FACE for the voice of the youth instead of just an actor. In my head, this was my way of changing the world by talking directly to the future of our country and the generation that will soon be in power.”
Ayesha says that there are many challenges involved in the profession. The biggest one for her was to find a balance between what is required of her and her values.
After expounding on her exciting journey, Ayesha says that there are many challenges involved in the profession. The biggest one for her was to find a balance between what is required of her and her values. “The industry expects you to sell a lot of your soul and you can either deny it, swallow it or find a mid-ground.” For her, to do things that her friends and family back home would disapprove of was a huge deal breaker. She had to find a way to do her job without hurting the sentiments of those she cares about. She still continues to struggle with this.
“Then there is the issue of presentability. Being groomed 24/7 was never on my list of worries but now one has to look the part all the time. Everyone is always watching you, not just on social media but even when you step out to get an auto-rickshaw. How you treat people becomes very important. I’ve become hyper-aware of that.
There is no end to the responsibility that comes with being a presenter and nobody talks about it.
People talk, people exaggerate and I am a representative of a powerful media house. There is no end to the responsibility that comes with being a presenter and nobody talks about it, it’s an unspoken rule. What you say and do on social media becomes another identity attached to you unto itself.”
She adds that there is close to no preparation to be a VJ. No rehearsal, there’s no training. One gets briefed and then you’re up on stage! She tries to do her homework and learn as much about the topics the shows deal with but beyond that, it’s all on one’s ability as an MC to be quick on your feet and keep your wits about you. Even when there is a script, she usually reads it a couple of times, understands the gist of it and then wings it!
Is there a glass ceiling between the genders when it comes to her profession?
“The entire country senses the glass ceiling that exists. This isn’t specific to one industry. While we’ve come a long way, there is still so much more we can do.”
“The entire country senses the glass ceiling that exists. This isn’t specific to one industry. While we’ve come a long way, there is still so much more we can do. Even in the west, male actors get paid more than female ones and only recently have female actors been matching the salaries of their male counterparts. I think we’re on the right path but so much more needs to be addressed and I’m looking forward to a time where everything is gender agnostic.”
Her advice to aspiring VJs is to work on creating their unique selling points. “Don’t neglect social media. If you want this job, you have to be known, seen and trusted as a voice. So build yourself up like that. It no longer matters if you’re in the right city or have the right friends. You need a smart phone, you need to put yourself out there in a big way, garner some loyalties and the universe will respond.”