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Profile- Sunil Sahjwani: Making Big (FM) Bigger - Sathish - 11-15-2010

Sunil Sahjwani's responsibilities as national programming director, Big 92.7 FM, handling 45 radio stations nationwide, have begun in full swing.

Schooled in seven places all over Maharashtra, Sahjwani is an arts graduate from Jai Hind College, Mumbai. "The childhood city-hopping helps me understand city-centric consumer needs, today," he reflects.

<img src="" style="float:right; margin: 0 0 0 10px;" />Sahjwani's first job was in 1978, as production assistant at Genesis Film Productions, (founded by Prahlad Kakar). "I was delighted that I avoided joining my dad's business," he confesses. During his six years at Genesis, Sahjwani worked on over 500 commercials and worked with Mahesh Mathai and Jerry Pinto. He was made to do everything including mopping the floor! He reminisces that his salary back then was '400 per month. He laughs about how he mentally cursed Kakar back then. "I thought he was a devil but today I'm here, thanks to him," he sighs.

After understanding 'the science of cinema', Sahjwani moved to Far Productions (headed by Kailash Surendranath) in 1983 and was there for two years as assistant director. Stepping into the creative realm, Sahjwani learnt free-hand direction, pack or product shots and started directing commercials. "For the first time, I got to say 'lights, camera, action'."

Soon after, Sahjwani joined Neo Films as production manager for a year-and-a-half during which worked on the feature film, Ardh Satya, alongside director Rajkumar Santoshi. "Interestingly, all these three jobs were on the 6th, 10th and 8th floor of the same building," he smiles. In 1985, Sahjwani co-floated production house, Trilogy, creating commercials for brands such as Parle G and Appy. This was when Kakar helped him out professionally. Sahjwani says, "I understood the meaning of the term, Godfather." He also churned out independent features, five-minute capsules and corporate documentaries, the most memorable one being a film on the issue of abortion in India, for CNN.

Things changed in 1989 when he joined Percept Picture Company award for a commercial beating HTA (Hindustan Thompson Associates)," he points out. In 1992, Sahjwani launched production house, Bombay Talkies, with Fahad Samar and in 1994, started his own production house, Phase One, where he produced and directed over 50 TVCs (including Coke, Thums Up, Citywalk Shoes, and Close Up). The highlight this time was BPL Oye, a countdown show. In 1999, he shut down Phase One for his first 'corporate stint' at ETC Networks as programming director.

After a year, he joined Reliance Entertainment as vice president (creative) for yet another year. He then moved to The Times Group and launched Radio Mirchi. "Radio fascinated me," he shares. After three years Sahjwani made what he calls a restless move to Percept Picture Company where he donned the CEO's hat.

Being a self-confessed 'creative animal', in 2006, Sahjwani found his way back to the Times Group as chief creative consultant and went on to re-position Zoom as a Bollywood-driven channel. "Vineet Jain was a 'dream boss'," Sahjwani declares. Between his second stint at Times and his current move back into the Reliance office, Sahjwani freelanced for UTV Bindaas.

"My next target is new media - 3G and mobile content. Also, I aim to take Big FM from number three to number one. Mirchi - also my baby - is the current number one. Thus, I'll be competing with myself."

Source: Afaqs!