“I didn’t like the swipe card concept”
Benita Sen, Jalandhar
Freelance Journalist & Children’s Writer
“The newspaper used my piece without changing a word but never paid me a paisa. I was too polite to ask for the princely amount of Rs. 100,” recollects Benita of the time she started freelancing in the early 1980s.
Her book, ‘Yakity Yak’, was nominated for The Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2010 and two of her stories have been selected by Oxford University Press. She was the only freelancer selected for a bootcamp on reporting cancer. Her articles have been picked up by national newspapers and magazines like Hindustan Times and Good Housekeeping.
She works on a flight, a train, park or a café and some of her best works are done after the world is asleep or outdoors. “I didn’t like the swipe card concept that ties you down to fixed hours of work. I work far longer hours as a freelancer but it is at my own command,” she says.
Compensation: “Freelancers are still perceived by many in the industry to be independent only because they are less worthy of being employed full-time. It would be better if you can insist on the commissioning cheque and get the employer to commit in writing when the remainder is to be paid. I have also learnt that a good amount of polite haggling can earn you a heftier cheque.”
“Word of mouth publicity”
Aparna Nadig, 25, Mumbai
Freelance Dialogue Writer
Surfing TV channels on an idle Saturday, Aparna Nadig stumbled upon ‘CID’, a popular crime investigative serial on Sony, and realised, “Even I can write dialogues”. She approached the ‘CID’ creative team who liked her work and gave her shows like ‘Aahat’ and ‘Surya the Super Cop’.
In the last four years, Aparna has learnt that there is no better form of publicity than word of mouth. Before writing independently for TV, she honed her skills with Manu Rishi, script and dialogue writer and assisted him in films like Chance pe Dance, Aisha, and LSD.
“I love talking. So writing dialogues for fictitious characters comes naturally. I use various styles to render sharp dialogues.” Working with TV industry means no fixed leave and timings. “I usually get screenplays by 8 p.m. I write throughout the night for a shoot planned at 9 in the morning. It is like running in the Olympics with the lantern while the other runner is waiting eagerly for you to reach!” she reveals.
Compensation: The industry does not pay well at first. “Initially I was never paid for my work. It was the love for work and not money which kept me going. If you get popular, you might get Rs. 45,000 per episode,” she reveals.
|Dance Musician Venkateshwaran (right) exchange notes with a musician
“Music is more than a hobby or job”
Venkateshwaran K, 28, Delhi
Freelance Dance Musician
“If I do a three-day show abroad, I can easily make the same amount that I will earn while juggling a regular job,” says Venkateshwaran, a PGDM graduate. He quit his managerial job within three months to chase music, his genuine love. Today, with mellifluous, resonant voice, he enthrals classical dance audience. Recently, he flew to Sri Lanka to render his voice for “Vara”, an art film. He sang three dance tracks for popular dancer Geeta Chandran. His hobby became his strength. “I was lucky! When I decided to switch to freelance, I never ran pillar to post for assignments. It came to my door,” he says. The years of Carnatic music training and regular performances paid off. It was during his college days that a couple (Kuchipudi dancers) spread the word among other dancers about him.
There is a shortage of South Indian musicians for dance performances in metro cities, which has worked to Venkateshwaran’s advantage. He regularly sings for Swapna Sundari, Padma Bhushan awardee; Allora, Ananya festivals; visits Malaysia twice year to sing for a dance academy; and other dance recordings and performances.
“Unlike solo singers, I have to stick to the music script, repetitions, time and rhythm as per dancer demands. I have to camouflage if a dancer misses a beat. This requires a good understanding with the dancer, orchestra team,” he says.
Compensation: He is able to make about Rs. 35,000 to 45,000 per month. In the dance world there are lean seasons as well. “May, June are dry periods. The work starts picking up from July and December is peak which lingers on till April,” he says. His work never stops, however. He composes songs and goes for studio recordings. In free time, you may be prone to additional stresses. If not managed properly, you can break your career as well.
He is currently busy preparing compositions for a dancer to sing at Royal Hall of Queen Elizabeth, London, next month. “Music is now much more than a hobby or job. It has a magnetic presence which is in every atom of me,” Venkateshwaran signs off.
“Voice in demand”
Munish Jolly, 37, Delhi
RJ & Sports Commentator
He has a distinct voice; a roar to signal a goal and a muffle to describe a miss. “I have presented shows round the clock. Be it morning or midnight, I must sound full of life.”
His career as a sports commentator started with cricket after he impressed some officials of All India Radio, Kolkata whom he met on a train journey. Cricket has been an abiding passion for Munish who played for university, state-level and Ranji Trophy. He now gets freelance assignments as a sports commentator on various platforms (radio, venues). He has so far commentated for the Hockey World Cup, Commonwealth Games, ICC Cricket World Cup and several other Test and one-day matches.
Apart from doing commentary, he has cracked FM Rainbow auditions and worked on Track 10, Hotline (interactive show), City Lights, Rainbow Genius, a quiz show.
“The biggest challenge for a presenter is to correctly punctuate. A lot of people feel that sounding casual is all that is there to broadcasting. It is important for a commentator to be balanced. He should not be critical for the sake of being critical.”