That Vinij Lertratanachai was once one of Thailand’s hottest radio personalities comes as no surprise. He has all the attributes of a charismatic speaker—his mellow voice captivates and his presence is confdent, but never domineering. “I’ve always loved listening to the radio and imagining what the owners of the voices might look like,” says the 56-year-old. His favourite DJs included Viroj Kwantham, Vitaya Supapornopas and Prasert Pongthananikorn, all of whom he enjoyed observing their techniques and styles.
With his father’s record player, a microphone and a cassette recorder, the young Vinij would record himself hosting radio shows. He was thrilled when he got the chance to intern at Nite Spot Production, one of the most popular radio show producers of the 1980s. After graduating with a vocational certifcate, he was eventually offered a position as a radio show host. “I had to choose between that or furthering my studies. It was already something I was fixated on, so I decided to take up the offer because these opportunities didn’t come by frequently.”
Vinij began by hosting Night Spot’s Lok Suay Duay Pleng programme, which started to earn him a solid fan base that later helped to secure a move to Smile Radio. “Smile Radio was almost revolutionary. It was the frst to embrace the Western radio station format,” he tells us. It was also during his spell as a DJ that he discovered a new-found interest. “During the Nite Spot days especially— since it was also an offcial dealer for WEA Records and a promoter of many international concerts—I got to observe the makings of many shows. It was a live Stevie Wonder production that got me hooked on concert promotion and eventually led to the setting up of Fresh Air Festival.”
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With Vinij at the helm as founder and CEO, event promoter and organiser Fresh Air Festival has been behind some of the most talked-about productions in Thailand. “The most challenging project to me was the multimedia production for His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 82nd birthday,” he reminisces. Set against the majestic backdrop of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the four-dimensional visual, light and sound installation illustrated the great monarch’s story and attracted an audience of over one million during its run. “A more recent project I’m proud of is the offcial opening of the MahaNakhon building. The light show drew a huge number of spectators and was the talk of the town,” Vinij recalls.
Today, the radio personality turned businessman has interests in multiple ventures. Fresh Air Festival is one of the players behind theme park Dinosaur Planet and animation film Khun Thong Daeng: The
Inspirations. Vinij is also on the board of directors of The Standard, currently one of the hottest online media entities in Thailand, and CEO of Ultra Tiger, producer of combat show Ong Bak Live. For the latter, he and his partners have built a 1,200-seat theatre at Show DC to showcase their new martial arts and special effects-focused production.
On the family front Vinij and his wife, former silver screen star Penpisut, have two daughters—24-year-old Sailub and 21-year-old Siengsaw. Both are now juggling their studies with representing the Thai national equestrian team in show jumping. “I believe in letting them do what makes them happy. Most importantly, being athletes has taught them about discipline and diligence,” he says.
Vinij himself used to ride horses, dabbling in classical riding and trailing as pastimes. Currently he’s into cycling and recently had a go on a seabike. His serious hobby, however, is collecting toys and gadgets. “Sometimes they surprise me by being great inspiration for my work. They make me feel like anything, any special effect imaginable, is possible. On that note, with our effort put into Ong Bak Live, my greatest aspiration is to show off our talent and hard work internationally.”