He is hailed as the man with the golden voice, and his inimitable style earned him fans across generations, but Ameen Sayani, whose body of work traverses a 65-year-long career, admits that he is guilty of having started the voice trend that he is still remembered for.
Legendary broadcaster Ameen Sayani at his office in Colaba. Pic/Satyajit Desai
To put things into perspective, Sayani took us back to how this epiphany occurred, “In early 1950s, All India Radio (AIR) had stopped broadcasting Hindi film music. It was a mad decision, which hit AIR very badly and Radio Ceylon, which was still finding its ground in the radio industry, came up because of that.”
Due to this decision, AIR had become dull. Their only focus, he tells us, was to be serious, which didn’t work well. “Ceylon, on the other hand, asked its broadcasters to have fun on the shows and create energy, of course, without being lewd or vulgar. So, I would do a lot of ‘dhoom-dham’ on my shows, I would be loud with a lot of exclamations, and I would keep modulating my voice. Somehow, that style became so popular that I shuddered to discover that several people were following it around the world and still do,” rues the Padma Shri awardee.
But the moment of realisation came when Sayani got married to Delhi girl Rama Mattoo. A few years after his marriage, his brother-in-law, Raj Mattoo, visited him. “During our chat, he shared that before I got married, one day, my wife had stumbled upon my radio show and didn’t like my talking style such that she requested my brother-in-law to turn off the radio.”
It dawned on Sayani that he was speaking like a “madman”. There was no need to yell on radio; “I can be soft and still be entertaining. I changed my style. But till today, I find lots of people using it, so I feel a little guilty about starting this,” he confides.
Sayani, who was initiated into the radio industry at a very young age by his brother Hamid Sayani, is set for a new radio show. Listeners can look forward to being regaled with nostalgic music and interviews hosted by the iconic broadcaster who has dug into his archives.
The elusive Sanjeev Kumar
One of the most unusual persons I handled was actor Sanjeev Kumar. He was very difficult to pin down for an interview. He came to see me on six occasions but never let me record. Each time, he would give some excuse or the other. Finally, when I was compering a big musical show in Pune, where Sanjeev was the chief guest, I got hold of him and we did the interview, then and there! He was very fascinating but eccentric.