When Ameen Sayani made a public appearance
Reminiscing about India's first RJ, and other delights from India's golden age of radio
We all remember listening to — or hearing our parents reminisce about listening to — Ameen Sayani’s avuncular, warm "Bhaiyon aur behenon" on Binaca Geetmala, where he gave his fans a countdown of top Hindi film songs, year after year. But before the ultra-popular radio show started airing on the Vividh Bharti service of All India Radio (AIR) in 1989, it used to be broadcast from 1952 to 1988 on Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in Asia, headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
And we learnt of the reason at the recent inaugural Jamshed Bhabha Memorial Lecture held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts. The lecture, titled What Ails the Arts in India, was delivered by Jawhar Sircar, a public intellectual, writer and speaker, who is also the former CEO of Prasar Bharati. Apart from bringing up key concerns about the many hurdles the fine and performing arts in India have to battle to survive, Sircar also wove in anecdotes in a pre-event interview to the NCPA’s in-house publication. And that's where the first RJ of India comes in. Turns out, BV Keskar, India’s Information & Broadcasting Minister from 1952 to 1962, founds film songs to be in poor taste, and decided to ban them from being aired on AIR. Binaca Geetmala’s broadcast from Radio Ceylon was then an act of subversion.
In a full circle of sorts, seated among the 1,000-strong audience at the lecture was none other than Sayani himself. The octogenarian doesn't make many public appearances any more, but we guess, when something’s got to do with the radio, airwaves come calling!
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