Growing up during the 90s afforded our generation a luxury of having the best of both worlds. We saw the struggle of long-distance phone calls, and also were in the midst of the mobile phone revolution. We saw Doordarshan’s hypnotic animation and then the flourish of cable TV. And one of our windows to the world was the music videos which played on our TV.
That’s when MTV and Channel V found shelter within our living rooms, which had these spunky ‘young people’ called VJs (Video Jockeys) who always seemed to be raving about how life was lovely and exciting. One of them was this guy with spiky hair and a creaky voice. That was our introduction to VJ Nikhil.
He was just Nikhil for me and my friends, and he hosted this really cool show called MTV Select. Some of the most vivid recollections of that show was to see him juggle records, shoot hoops while talking to his callers. He talked about everything from his favourite music, pop culture to current affairs like a gentle breeze and he happened to have fun, meaningful conversations with most of them. And he just overall managed to keep the vibe of the show very hip. For us middle class kids, the life of a VJ was the epitome of a good life. Sitting in our living rooms coated with a dull distemper, we looked at the bright walls of Nikhil’s set with so much admiration.
The set resembled a young man’s bedroom, and we all wanted a bedroom like that. The one with bright coloured couches, with giant pillows, replete with a hoop in some corner. And the show introduced us to some of the best music – right from Backstreet Boys’ Incomplete video to the pop culture-explosion which was Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Introducing us to country singers, pop stars and underground rock bands from around the world, MTV Select (along with some other shows) played a principal role in shaping our taste in music.
Soon after, Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams was the first firangi cassette that I bought. Seeing him be totally casual with all his guests (most of which used to be Bollywood stars), made me hope for confidence ‘like Nikhil’ for when I participated in my school’s extempore competitions. He seemed to have an answer for most things, which is why most of us wanted to grow up to be like him.
In a time, when electronic music and turntables were just about becoming a thing in a newly-liberalised India, our very own VJ was one of the most high profile DJs in the scene. His ascension as a VJ coincided with the remix era, which destroyed a lot many classic Bollywood songs. And thank god for him, Nikhil never joined in. And even though that era has passed, I will remember the likes of Bally Sagoo and Nikhil Chinapa as the good DJs of my childhood.
Obviously, we grew up and our image of ‘VJ Nikhil’ broke. We saw how he wasn’t really the most ‘chilled out dude’ we thought he always was, when he said quite a few rude things during the Roadies auditions. But as I look back at that golden era of MTV and Channel V (before drivel like Splitsvilla and Dare To Date popped up) became a thing, Nikhil will always remain an integral part of the children who grew up during the 90s.
There are hardly VJs anymore today, and that’s something only our generation will cherish. No one will know the joy of making a song request, while VJ Nikhil sits on his makeshift commode and makes colourful conversation with us.