Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ameen Sayani and Binaca Geetmala

Having discussed radio and radio stations of interest in great detail, now it is time for me to discuss the most famous Indian radio personality of our times. And no prizes for guessing who it is. It is none other than Ameen Sayani, famous for his legendary Binaca geetmala countdown show. Of course there is more to him than just this show, as we will see in some other article.

Radio Ceylon had commenced its overseas service broadcasts in late 1940s/ early 1950s with radio transmitters left behind by British troops stationed in Ceylon during the second world war. Radio Ceylon's overseas service included transmissions in English and Hindi. For English transmissions, radio Ceylon recruited announcers from Sri Lanka and abroad.One of the Indians recruited was Hameed Sayani.For Hindi transmission, they obviously recruited only Indians, one of them being Balraj Dutt, later to become famous as Sunil Dutt, the well known Bollywood film star.

These services were mainly music based. English language music was played in the English service and Bollywood filmy music was played in the Hindi service.

As these services became popular in India( the main target for these broadcasts, especially the Hindi service), Indian advertisers began to advertise in these services. They also began to sponsor programmes.

Most sponsored programmes were naturally in Hindi, a language that was understood by a large population in India as well as in the other countries in the region. The first few sponsored programmes in the Hindi service were Ovaltine fulwari,Lux ke sitare etc.

While the radio Ceylon announcers were based in Colombo and presented their inhouse programmes live from their studios there, most of the English sponsored programmes were recorded in Colombo,and the Hindi sponsored programmes were recorded in Bombay and the tapes were then airlifted to Colombo for broadcast.For this purpose, Radio Ceylon had opened their agency at Bombay in 1951 and Hameed Sayani was made the head of production. These programmes were recorded in the technical institute of St Xavier's college, Bombay.

Ameen Sayani was a student of this college, and he would show interest in the recording process. He requested his elder brother to get him some work, but Hameed Sayani refused, stating that there were very few English programmes, which he himself was doing, and as for Hindi programmes, they could not be given to Ameen Sayani because Ameen Sayani did not know the language ! Yes, it was true. Ameen Sayani had fluency in Gujrati and English, but he could not speak in Hindi, though he could read the scripts of Hindi as well as Urdu thanks to his exposure to reading the trilingual( Hindi,Urdu,Gujrati) newspaper that his mother used to get published.

One of the Hindi sponsored programmes being recorded those days was called Ovaltine fulwari.One day, when the designated compere Mammohan Krishna(later a character artiste in Bollywood)did not turn up, the producer Mr Srivastava offered the job of announcement to Ameen Sayani, and that way, Ameen Sayani got his first break as an announcer in an Hindi sponsored programme and he became the regular presenter of this programme. His remuneration- one tin of ovaltine per episode! And that one tin of ovaltine ( a health food) per week was the secret of his health and energy- as Ameen Sayani would jocularly say later.

Binaca,a Ceiba Giegy company, which was sponsoring a weekly countdown programme of English songs already in the English service, decided to replicate the same in Hindi service too. They had a limited budget of Rs 125 per episode, and it was to be in the form of a half an hour weekly programme where some popular Bollywood songs would be played. It was not planned to be a countdown show that it would later become.

The format was that the presenter of the programme would play 7 songs within half an hour in a random order and the audience would be asked to rank them in the correct order of popularity.One listener whose ranking matched with the correct order of popularity would get a cash prize.

It was envisaged that the programme would attract about 50 letters per week from the listeners(because Binaca countdown show in English used to receive 400-500 letters a week), and the job of going through them to pick the winner was also in the job description of the presenter.

Ameen Sayani was chosen for this job, mainly because no other announcer was prepared to do this gruelling job for the meagre remuneration that was on offer.His remuneration this time was thankfully in cash(Rs 25 per episode out of that Rs 125 budget) and not in form of Binaca toothpaste. But when the first episode was broadcast and the letters were received, they did not arrive in trickes as was expected, it poured. Instead of letters in the range of 40-50, about 9000 were received ! Ameen Sayani must have felt like he was being taken for a ride by the sponsors, being made to do so much work for just Rs 25. He soldiered on nevertheless, and the programme became even more popular.

Next week it was 16000 letters, and it kept increasing, and one weak it became 65,000.After about an year and a half, the sponsors decided to make it a one hour show and a countdown programme for Bollywood songs. It was now no longer necessary for Ameen Sayani to wade through thousands of letters per week to pick the winners.

Ameen Sayani's remuneration was increased to Rs 100 per episode once Binaca geetmala became a one hour programme. And he got this amount for 10 more years.

The format of Binaca geetmala countdown show that was explained to Ameen Sayani ( it was similar to the format of English language show the Binaca hit parade),had Ameen Sayani thoroughly confused. But then he took pains to understand the format, and patiently explained it to his listeners,using the example of ladder and its steps ( seedhi and paydan) to explain how a song climbed up and down based on its popularity vis a vis other songs. It was like explaining the game of cricket to someone totally unfamiliar to the game. And within three episodes, the listeners became conversant with the format.

In the earlier days of Binaca geetmala,popularity of a song was judged on the basis of sales of records(from 40 record selling shops) and also based on farmaishes for these songs. But it was found that the farmaishes were being manipulated by interested parties like music directors and film producers, so farmaishes were discarded as a means of judging poplularity of songs, and it was replaced by listeners club, which became a very important part in ensuring the success of Binaca geetmala.

Ameen Sayani was also involved in radio publicity of many movies through 15 minutes ads on radio Ceylon, which mainly consisted of playing songs from the movies, but he as well as Hindustan Ceiba Geigy Ltd, the sponsors of Binaca geetmala were very particular that the sanctity and impartiality of Binaca geetmala ranking of songs should be maintained at all costs, despite Ameen Sayani being involved in radio publicity of several of these movies.

And there have been no suggestions that it was not the case. And that is why this programme became such a well loved and well listened to programme wherever the radio waves of radio Ceylon( broadcasting on 25 and 41 meter band) could reach. And these radio waves covered entire India sub continent, as well as Eastern parts of Africa.

Ameen Sayani was the presenter of this show throughout its 40 plus years. There were some occasions when he was unable to present a few episodes. For example, I recall a few episodes in mid 1970s that were presented by Manohar Mahajan because Ameen Sayani was not available. But otherwise, Ameen Sayani it was, even when he was not well. Like for instance, he lost his voice after going to a small place called Dhuliya. "There was so much dhool in Dhuliya that some have entered my lungs and I am unable to speak", said Ameen Sayani, and presented this episode in an un Ameen Sayani like voice.

Was Ameen Sayani happy with the ranking of songs ? Not always. He was a musically trained person, and he appreciated quality music. And it always bothered him when good quality music missed out from making it to Binaca geetmala, because they did not become popular with lay public. For instance, Ameen Sayani laments the fact that a song as brilliant as "Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare" (Chitralekha 1964) failed to make it big in Binaca geetmala.

Later on, things became worse, when some lesser calibre songs became so popular that Ameen Sayani would play them under "protest". For example, he made his disappointment known in no uncertain terms while playing "Aap jaisa koi" sung by Nazia Hassan in 1980 Binaca geetmala programmes as the top song in his weekly programmes. Things became even worse after a decade, when "Choli ke peeche kya hai" was becoming the rage. Ameen Sayani would not play this song, he would just mention that this song was the number 1 song for the week.

Public taste was changing, the golden era of Bollywood music was drawing to a close, and the deterioration in the calibre of songs that were becoming the top songs of the year were for all to see. Good as the songs may be, but finding songs like "mere angne me tumhara kya kaam hai" and "Choli ke peeche kya hai" as the top songs of the year is jarring to those who appreciate quality music. So Ameen Sayani was getting disillusioned in 1980s.

Finally, the TV revolution in India meant that the golden era of Binaca geetmala too was drawing to an inevitable close.Radio Ceylon ( it had become Sri Lanka broadcasting corporation in 1972) were no longer able to attract sponsorships as before. So the Binaca geetmala finally ended in SLBC in 1988.

It was then moved to Vividh Bharati, and there it ran upto 1995.During this time, it came to be known as Cibaca geetmala.

It can be said, therefore that Binaca geetmala ran upto 1988. Vividh Bharati's Binaca ( Cibaca) geetmala did not cause the same kind of following because times had changed, and masses had given up the habit of listening to radio in favour of TV watching.

I think Binaca geetmala ran its course, and ended at the right time,or perhaps it ended a few years too late.Personally, I find it painful to go through the list of binaca geetmala songs after the 1970s.There are good songs in the list of songs no doubt, but many dubious quality songs had begun to appeal to the audience in a big way beginning from 1980 onwards.

It goes without saying that this programme was a wonderful milestone in radio broadcasting history. Those who were lucky enough to have lived in that era and followed this programme, witnessed and helped create an amazing phenomenon. And this phenomenon may never be replicated again.It was too good to last. And we were lucky that it lasted that long.

PS. Ameen Sayani has given many interviews in which he has mentioned a few facts that have been discussed in this article. Some of the interviews with Ameen Sayani that are available on internet, where he discusses these items are-(a) interview with Kamla Bhatt ( of Kamla Bhatta show),(b) interview with Janib Ghazi(of Asia Broadcasting Network)and (c)one interview with Piyush Mehta ( Vividh Bharti announcer -available in youtube). Ameen Sayani has said more or less similar things in all these interviews.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Garibi Hatao (Remove poverty)

Twentyfive years into independence, the initial euphoria of gaining independence was wearing off. The ruling Congress party was facing threats from other parties. The party needed a new plank to rally its workers.

Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, came up with the slogan- "Garibi Hatao"( Remove Poverty).

The instructions were cyclostyled ( cyclostyling was the grandpa of photostating or Xeroxing) and sent to all ministeries.

Finance minister looked at the instruction and thought- "I will do a Robinhood and snatch money from the rich and distribute them to the poor." So, privy purse of rulers who had agreed to merge their territories into Indian union were abolished, dishounouring the agreement that Government of India had entered with them 20 years ago. The 14 biggest private sector banks were nationalised.

Health Minister received the instruction. The cyclostyled copy was not very clear and he could make out the words as " Garib Hatao" ( Remove poor). So he gave the instructions that Garibs should be hataoed. His minions tried to do it through various means- forced sterialisations, uprooting slums,depriving them of healthcare etc., but the efforts were only partially successful.

Railway minister looked at the instruction and ordered the Chairman, Railway Board-" Look, we have to Remove Poverty. Make sure that no poverty is seen in Indian Railways trains".

The chairman thought and hit upon an idea. Suddenly it was found that there was no poverty in the trains of Indian Railways. No one was travelling in third class any longer.Everyone travelled second class and above.

Everyone was mightily impressed, except me. I was sceptical. I tried to investigate the matter. I wanted to travel by third class, but I could not because there were no third class coaches to be found on any trains.

I asked a railway employee- "Where can I find a third class coach?".
"There are no third class coaches left" was the reply.
"But why?"
"We were asked to withdraw all third class coaches from service."
"Then what happened to those who travelled by third class ?"
"They now travel by second class."
"What happened to third class coaches?"
"Withdrawn from service".
"Where are they kept".
"No comment".
"How did you get so many additional second class coaches to cater to the erstwhile third class travellers?"
"No comment".

I looked this way and that,found that the coast was clear and slipped a one rupee note into the palm of the Railway employee. Looking at the note, he suddenly turned friendly and took me to a corner.
" I am telling this to you in strict confidence. Make sure that this stays between you and me."
"Yes, sure ,sure", I assured him.
" We have withdrawn third class coaches and we have replaced them by same numer of second class coaches".
"But where are the withdrawn third class coaches?How did you get so many additional second class coaches so fast".
"You are more intelligent than your age suggests," he remarked," A Railway dibba is not like a Machis ka dibba that you can buy 12 of them for five paise. Each new coach costs several lakhs of Rupees and only 600 of them can be manufactured per year. Here we are talking of replacing thirty thousand coaches.".

"So what did you do?"
" We converted the third class coaches into second class coaches."
"You did that? Good idea. That would certainly be cheaper than scrapping third class coaches and manufacturing second class coaches. How much did it cost you to convert them?"
" Make your guess, I will allow you four guesses"
" umm Rs one thousands per coach?"
"Rs two thousands?",
Rs three thousands?",
" No,"
"Rs five thosands?",

Exasperated, I asked, "O.K, now tell me how much it cost you to convert one third class coach into a second class coach?" "OK, kid, I will tell you, it cost two rupees".
"Two rupees" I was aghast,"are you sure?"
"Yes, I am sure".
"But how?"

He took me to a second class coach.
"see, this is a second class coach".
" Yes, I see".
"Now go inside".
I went inside and exclaimed, " but this is a third class coach".
" No it is a second class coach".
"What is the difference between this and the old third class coaches?"
"Look", he showed me the marking outside the coach," Earlier there used to be III painted over the coach to indicate that it is a third class coach. Now we have erased I to make it II. So now it is a second class coach."
Is that all?"
" Yes, that is all the difference between erstwhile third class and the modified second class coaches".
" So you are taking the public for a ride, calling this a second class coach."
"Do not feel bad, lad, the ticket for these coaches is same as that for the erstwhile third class coaches. To differentiate these from the existing second class coaches, we call these new coaches unreserved second class coaches. The existing second class coaches are called reserved second class coaches. Everyone, the public, the Railway employees, the Government- is happy with the arrangement. So cheer up, boy."

So,I learnt that there could be more than one method of Hataoing Garibi. Later, I found that this kind of thinking is called "lateral thinking" or "thinking out of the box."

In Calcutta, the top brass of Hindustan Motors were called for a meeting. Sethji said-" Look, we have been selling our Ambassador car for last 15 years at a fixed price. Now we have to increase the price."

Munimji- " But how can we increase the price?"
Sethji-" By telling people that we have improved the car."
Munimji-"But improving the car will cost money."
Sethji-" Do not be silly."
Munimji- " Then what do we do?"
Sethji- "Simple, our existing model is called Ambassador mark I. Let us add another I to it. Let us start calling it Ambassador Mark II and tell the public that we have upgraded the car involving considerable Research & Development at great cost."

That is how Hindustan Motors hit upon the idea of upgrading their car by just changing the numeral by I. They took their cue from Indian Railways. Indian Railways removed I to show progress. Hindustan Motors added I to show progress. It was that simple.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jhumri Tilaiyya- the town of farmaish senders

When one talks of Radio Ceylon, the first thing that comes to mind is Binaca geetmala and Ameen Sayani. What is the other thing that comes to mind ? It is the farmaishi programmes and the places from where the farmaishes would come. Small places whose names few people had heard of- Ganj Basoda,Mandi Bamora, Nanded, Gondia,Akola,Yavatmal.But the name that caught everyone's imagination was not these names, but a very cutely named place called Jhumri Talaiyya.

What exactly does Jhumri Talaiyya mean ? No one has any idea. Though much has been written about Jhumri Talaiyya, I am not sure if these writings have made us any wiser about this place.Let me try and address that.

I am not sure about Jhumri, but I am sure that the second portion of the name is Tilaiyya, not Talaiyya. Tilayya is a place located a few kilometers from Jhumri Tilayya on the Patna- Ranchi highway, and is known for Tilaiyya dam and Tilaiyya Sainik School.

Both Tilaiyya and Jhumri Tilaiyya are in Koderma district. This used to be in Bihar, but now,with the formation of Jharkhand state, this place is in Jharkhand and is located close to the Bihar Jharkhand border. Or one can say,drawing from our experience of say Delhi and New Delhi,or Hyderabad and Secunderabad- that Jhumri Tilaiyya and Tilaiyya are twin towns.

Those who were in school in 1970s and earlier and remember their geography lessons about various minerals, mica was one mineral that was used as an insulating material in electrical equipments, and India supplied almost the entire world requirement of mica. And almost the entire deposit of mica in the world and in India was found in the Koderma district of Bihar.

This mica mining is what led to the growth of Jhumri Tilaiyya which became the hub for mica business. The Sindhi businessmen, who came from outside and set the mica business became hugely rich. Jhumri Tilaiyya came into being because of mica. People were settled in Jhumri tilaiyya because of mica business. Serving the mica businessmen and workers was all that the people in Jhumri Tilaiyya needed to do.

The talk of Jhumri Tilaiyya always reminds me of the fictional town of Malgudi that R K Narayan created in 1930s. The description of Malgudi applies to Jhumri Tilaiyya as well, except that there was no railway station in Jhumri Tilaiyya.Jhumri Tilaiyya, the real town, had actually come into existence at about the same time when R K Narayan had created his fictional town of Malgudi.

As years rolled by and 1950s arrived, radio Ceylon came into existence and listening to radio became a good pastime for the residents of this sleepy little town nestled among hills.The radio Ceylon farmaishi programme "aap hi ke geet" caught their attention particularly well.

No one knows who was the first Jhumru ( Wow, I just coined a new term for a Jhumri Tilaiyyan) who sent in the request in this programme, but it appears that his request was successful and his name was read out by the announcer. In a small place where everyone knows everyone else, this fellow must have become an instant celebrity in his town. and this must have spurred on his fellow inhabitants to follow suit. Of course, like true small towners, they wanted to involve everyone else in their one minute of fame, so they would include the name of all their family members and friends, not forgetting to mention the names of their parents and grand parents too. And the announcers of radio Ceylon were kind enough to patiently read out all the names. In fact, the announcers took more time reading out the names than they spent in playing the request.

In those days,one judged the popularity of a movie by the length of the queue in front of the counter and the premium that the black marketers charged. Also the length for which the movie would run was a good indication of its popularity. Silver jubilee ( 25 weeks) and golden jubilee ( 50 weeks) in one movie hall were not uncommon for movies.

Similarly, the number of people who wanted to listen to a song could well have become a barometer to measure the popularity of a song. and there have been some suggestions that a few music directors may well have resorted to sending requests on behalf of Jhumri Tilaiyyans and others to artificially jack up the popularity of their songs. In those days, people could hurl accusations, but the trend of investigating such matters and coming out with a breaking news had not caught up. So no one knows if there was any truth in such allegations.

When Ameen Sayani was asked in interviews if he had been to Jhumri Tilaiyya then he replied in the negative. And that was a wise decision. People in that area were so starved of celebrities that even bit role players associated with Bollywood would be treated as superstars there if they ever found themselves in that part of the world. I recall that Paintal and Jalal Agha had come to Ranchi in 1970s, and more people had assembled to watch them than what you are likely to see in a rock concert. So one could well imagine what would have happened had Ameen Sayani gone to places like Ranchi, and indeed Jhumri tilaiyya.

Unlike Ameen Sayani,I have been to Jhumri Tilaiyya ( well, to Tilaiyya to be precise) a few times in 1980s while going from Patna to Ranchi and back. Assuming both to be the same town, I could say that it was a very small place, where people lived their lives cut off from the hustle bustle of big city lives. The fact that Jhumri Tilaiyya is not on the rail map also helped it maintain its isolation.

In fact, most farmaish happy places shared this in common with Jhumri Tilaiyya. They all were small one horse towns and were trading centres cut off from big cities. They were either not connected by rail, or if connected, it was the narrow gauge or meter gauge lines, not the broad gauge lines. Even if connected by broad gauge, express trains would not stop at these places. People in these places led unhurried leisurely lives.

Of course things have been changing of late. For instance,places like Akola,Nanded, Parbhani, all in Maharashtra, also shared the passion of sending farmaishes like Jhumri Tilaiyya . They were all small towns which were on the meter gauge lines, but they all now boast of broad gauge and they have become busy places. Of course,I have been to all these places, and in fact I saw it with my own eyes how the meter gauge lines were removed and BG lines came up in 1994.

I wonder if Jhumri Tilaiyya itself is the same any longer. But I can say that there are still small sleepy towns left in the country where one could go and experience an unhurried life style.Please go and experience it before such places gradually pass into history.
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Radio Ceylon Hindi service- those were the days

Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was called till 1970 tended to emulate India in many fields. For example it got Independance just after India. They too had a political dynasty ruling Sri Lanka just like India.Their lady PM imposed emergency in their country in 1970s just after the Indian lady PM did, and then revoked it,just after her Indian counterpart did,and ended up losing the general elections just like her Indian counterpart.

But there was one field in which Ceylon stole a march over India.It was in the field of radio broadcasting, where they did not look up to India.Good that they did not seek to emulate India in this field, because what the Indian I & B minister did to their government broadcaster ( he banned film music from being played in akashwani),if emulated, would have killed Radio Ceylon's Hindi service for ever. Instead, Radio Ceylon saw the marketing potential of playing the latest Bollywood filmy songs in their Hindi overseas service, and the rest, as they say, is glorious history.

Ceylon as a country was just as resource starved as India during 1940s and 50s, but they made good use of their resources, at least in the field of radio broadcasting. They got some good radio transmitters for free from the British troops stationed in Sri Lanka who left their equipments behind when the WW II was over. Radio Ceylon used these equipments to set up Radio Ceylon's overseas service, viz English service and Hindi service.

Soon, they saw the potential of playing Bollywood filmy songs in their Hindi service. They signed up announcers from India who came to Colombo and would broadcast from the radio Ceylon studio there. The earliest announcers that joined them included one person called Balraj Dutt, who would later on go on to become a big Bollywood star under the name Sunil Dutt.

Ameen Sayani became the most famous name associated with Radio Ceylon. But in reality, he was not an employee of Radio Ceylon. He was a freelancer who worked for sponsors like Binaca.Ameen Sayani was based in Bombay and there he recorded sponsored programmes viz Binaca geetmala etc and their tapes were then flown to Colombo for broadcast. The inhouse announcers on the other hand were based at Colombo, and they were employees of Radio Ceylon.

Initially, the in house programmes of Radio Ceylon were nowhere near as impressive as their sponsored programmes.There were quite a few good quality sponsored programmes, but Binaca geetmala ended up as the most famous and the longest running sponsored programme of them all.

It was Vijay Kishore Dubey, recruited in 1954, who was entrusted with the job of improving the format of radio Ceylon's in house programmes. And what we grew up listening to in 1960s was a result of Mr Dubey's efforts. Dubey's efforts in revamping radio Ceylon were akin to Pt narendra Sharma's efforts in creating Vividh Bharati from scratch a couple of years later. While Pt Sharma, a respected man in Bollywood circles had the backing of Indian I & B ministry and the support of Indian film industry, Vijay Kumar Dubey did not have these luxuries. While Pt Narendra Sharma entrusted the job of creating signature tunes of various Vividh Bharati programmes to well known music directors like Anil Biswas, Dubey used readymade filmy tunes as the signature tunes for radio Ceylon's programmes. For instance, "Dastaan" movie's tune served as the signature tune for aaphi ke geet programme.

Another lasting contribution that Vijay Kishore Dubey made in programming was to make it compulsory to have a Sehgal song as the last song in the "purani filmo ke geet" programme just before 8 AM.

Vijay Kishore Dubey left Radio Ceylon in 1956 and he groomed Shiv Kumar Saroj to take his place. Other announcers who joined Radio Ceylon Hindi service included names like Manohar Mahajan, Dalbir Singh Parmar, VijayLaxmi etc. I do not remember who was the announcer ( may be Parmar) who tried to coin new Hindi words for standard English words. For instance, he would say "laghu tarang" for short wave, but gave up using this term when his enthusiasm did not rub off on the audience.

Like Akashwani, Radio Ceylon too functioned in three shifts. The morning shift started at 7 AM in the earlier days, but later it was made 6 AM. The first programme would be instrumental music of Bollywood songs,followed by filmy bhajans. then songs from one movie would be played in the "Ek hi film ke geet" programme from 7:15 to 7:30. 7:30 to 8 AM was for "purani filmon ke geet".The slot from 8 AM to 9 AM was for the farmaishi programme called "aap hi ke geet". This programme made places like Jhumri talaiya, Ganj Basoda,Akola, Nanded etc famous. In fact an entire article can be written on these places, and I intend to write one in the coming days. So keep watching this space.

9 AM to 9 :30 AM was the time when programmes like songs from one artist,or quawwali, or ghazals etc were played on different days of the week. 9:30 to 10 AM was the least popular one when classical music was played. It was also the time when school kids would be leaving for their schools.It may be difficult to imagine it today, but those days schools would start at 10 AM, not 8 AM as is the case these days.

When Vividh Bharati started in 1957, they not only had song based programmes, they also had news, which they relayed from the Delhi station of Akashwani.Radio Ceylon too decided to have atleast one news, but they did not have the resources to have dedicated staff for this Hindi news. So they hit upon a novel idea.The first sabha ( that is how BBC hindi service described it) of BBC Hindi service began at 6 AM and ended with a 8 minutes long news beginning at 6:20 AM. Radio Ceylon Hindi service started relaying this Hindi news. I am not aware if Radio Ceylon had taken any permission from BBC to do so, but I will not be surprised if it was done without informing BBC.Those were the days when terms like intellectual property, broadcasting rights etc were not yet coined.

This was a very good idea for Radio Ceylon because BBC was regarded very highly for its unbiased reporting and professionalism, unlike Akashwani news which was mainly government propaganda. Also, this 6:20 Hindi news was the earliest Hindi news in any radio stations that one could tune into.It was through one such BBC news relayed by Radio Ceylon that I came to know that India had beaten West Indies at Port of Spain in 1976 chasing over 400 runs in the last innings for a world record beating victory.

The afternoon programme of Radio Ceylon, which started at 12 O' Clock was not really any great shakes. This could be because most of their potential audience at that time were busy in their jobs. I do not remember whether this afternoon slot had anything for house wives. I vaguely remember that there was a programme in the afternoon where only female listeners were supposed to send their farmaishes. But I could be wrong.This programme ended at 3 or 3:30 PM, I am not sure.

The evening programme was prime time programme.It began tamely enough from 6 PM till 8 PM. It was from 8 PM onwards that sponsored programmes if any, were broadcast. There may have been sponsored programmes of 30 minutes durations on some of the week days. Wednesday was of course booked for the one hour sponsored programme Binaca geetmala. It was on this day that small time advertisers began to have 15 minutes sponsored programmes from 7:45 to 8 PM, hoping to cash in on the fact that most radio listeners had tuned in to Binaca geetmala at that time. This programme too needs a separate article, and I will come up with one article dedicated on Binaca geetmala.

Sunday was the day when there was no break between morning programme and afternoon programme and the programme that began at 6 AM would extend well into the afternoon. This day,sponsored programmes would be presented right from 8 AM onwards. The "aap hi ke geet " programme on sunday was presented at 1 PM, by which time there may not have been too much enthusiasm left among listeners.

Sunday sponsored programmes included programmes like "Polydor Sangeet Dhara" at 9 AM, presented by an announcer with a clipped voice and with a signature tune that went "tip tip tip tip, like a horse running on a canter."Tabassum ke chutkule" was at 10 AM ( or was it 10:30) where Tabassum would read out her stale jokes to Ameen Sayani. Once,Ameen Sayani actually complained that her jokes were stale. The quality of jokes definitely improved from the next episode, but she reverted back to type after a few weeks.

If I recall correctly then a slot was purchased by a Christian missionary oganisation too who would present their own sponsored programme at 9:30 and I remember hearing their prayer in Hindi "Vandana karte hain hun".

"S Kumar ka filmy muqadma" was also broadcast on sunday.

Advertisers not only presented their sponsored programmes, but there were small few seconds long ads too, viz the ad of Brylcreem who had signed cricketer Farokh Engineer to endorse them.The sportsweek publishers would give ads for their Urdu newspaper called "Inquilaab". Nowadays of course, both Sportsweek as well as Inquilaab have gone defunct. Ads of new films were played during the "aphi ke geet" and other such popular programmes. For a song lasting 3 minutes,the announcer would read out the list of farmaish senders that consumed more time than the duration of the song.And after every song, there would be ads.

Of course such ads were not played during the duration of a sponsored programme. For example, if S Kumar ka filmi muqadma was being presented, then only S Kumar's ads were played. Ads of movies etc were not given at that time.Producers of new movies also bought 15 minutes slots on sunday to advertise for their movies, and these programmes typically had Ameen Sayani exhorting the listeners to watch these movies by playing songs from these movies.

It is not incorrect to say that Radio Ceylon Hindi service was a musical opium for the masses in India. They were totally sold out on Radio Ceylon, and this state of affairs continued till 1970s when Indian I & B ministry finally decided to allow ads on Vividh Bharati. TV revolution in India in mid 1980s finally sounded the death knell of radio every where, and that included Radio Ceylon ( which was renamed as Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in 1972) too.But it was good, rather great as long as it lasted.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vividh Bharati-an outstanding Radio channel

Ironically, just when Radio Ceylon was starting to broadcast Binaca geetmala in 1953,Govt of India took a diametrically and drastically opposite decision for the Govt owned radio.B V Keskar, the first I&B minister of independant India banned Filmy music from Akashwani in 1953. Binaca geetmala, as well as this Akashwani ban gave radio Ceylon a big shot in the arm.

Akashwani insisted on "educating" people through dull programmes, and radio Ceylon had no qualms playing latest filmy songs and also broadcasting ads. So the choice before the lay public was easy. The Indian audience took to radio Ceylon in a big way, and Indian businessmen followed by advertising their products in Radio Ceylon. In any case, Indian I & B ministry had yet to wake up to the potential of earning revenues through ads, they still insisted on earning their revenue through annual license fee on the radio sets. The annual license fee was Rs 10 in the beginning,( which was a huge sum in those days), and later it became Rs 15.

This ban on filmy music lasted for about one and a half years and the repurcussions were for all to see. The I & B ministry was forced to relax the ban on filmy music in 1955, and filmy music limped its way back into akashwani. But these half hearted measures were not sufficient for Akashwani to regain the lost ground.

Akashwani started an entertainment channel called Vividh Bharati, when Akashwani Bombay( alongwith Madras) became the first Vividh Bharati station on October 3, 1957.Govt of India had asked Pt Narendra Sharma to conceive this radio channel. He was designated as Chief producer, and it was he who drew up plans for the channel and even thought up the name "Vividh Bharati".

Announcers described it as-"'This is Vividh Bharati, panchrangi programme of akashwani". This was a tacit admission that the main channel of Akashwani was too dull and boring for lay public, and that was indeed the case.

Vividh Bharati was mainly a music based channel, but being a government organisation, it was nowhere as nimble footed as Radio Ceylon, its direct competitor. Radio Ceylon would play latest songs,whereas Vividh Bharati ( and more so the main akashwani stations) were always late in buying the latest records, thanks to the cumbersome procurement process that all government organisations had to follow.

By the time Vividh Bharati would get the hit records of 1958, it was already 1960. So there was no way Vividh Bharati could compete with radio Ceylon's Aap hi ke geet or Binaca geetmala, which always played the latest and most popular songs.There was another radio station that played latest Bollywood filmy songs. It was radio Goa. Yes, Goa did not become an Indian territory till 1962. But Goa radio did not have the same reach as Radio Ceylon so that quickly faded away. And of course, India took over Goa in 1962.

But being a government organisation hell bent on educating people, Vividh Bharati did take some unpopular but correct decisions that turned out to be masterstrokes in the long run.

For instance, despite knowing fully well that classical music programmes had few takers, they still began a programme that a populist broadcaster like Radio Ceylon never would. It was called Sangeet sarita, where a particular raag was discussed. A filmy song based on this raag was played followed by a pure classical song by a classical guru.It was broadcast in the morning.

Just before this programme, or somewhere in between, Vividh Bharati had a five minutes programme called Jharokha, where we would be informed about the programmes to be broadcast in the day.

Sangeet sarita ended at 8 A M and was followed by News. After news, it was the turn of Bhoole bisre geet at the time when Radio ceylon would be playing the latest songs in their aap hi ke geet programme.Incidentally, the bhoole bisre geet programe would actually play rare forgotten songs. In contrast, it was not uncommon for Radio Ceylon to play just 10 years old songs in their "purani filmon ke geet" programme.

Vividh Bharati would have newer ( though never the latest) songs played in their next programmes starting from 8:30 and going upto 9:30.

Afternoon session had that one hour long farmaishi programme called "manchahe geet".

Evening programmes included a classical songs based programme at 6:30, and it ended at 7, followed by a five minute Khel samachar.This khel samachar was started in 1975, and its English version, sports news was broadcast at 8 PM( though not on Vividh Bharati).

The time after the khel samachar was eagerly looked after by many.This was the time when the most brilliant master stroke of Vividh Bharati called Jaimala was broadcast.

The daily programme was a farmaishi programme open only to fauzi jawans who sent their farmaish by special mail available only to fauzis. You could not send an ordinary postcard claiming to be lance Naik Amar Singh or Subedar Ramesh Kumar and hope to have your farmaish entertained. The farmaishi posts had to come through APO ( army post office).Of course,everyone could listen to the programme, not just fauzi bhais.

And saturday's jaimala was actually special ( vishesh) and it was actually called Vishesh jaimala. This was a programme where a celebrity ( mostly from the film world, but sometimes cricketers too) would talk to fauzi bhais and play songs of their own choice. The same programme was also repeated on Sunday afternoon. However critical one could be of a government organisation,this special jaimala was pure gold. And now with passage of time, it has become more so.

7:50 PM( when Jaimala ended) to 8:10 PM was the time that various Vividh Bharati kendras filled with their own programmes. Then at 8:10 PM, there would be an half hour programme that depended on the day of week. I remember looking forward to the day of qawwali. I think one day was booked for ghazals too, though I am not so sure because I was not into ghazals in any case in those days. Indeed, 8 PM on wednesday were a walkover to Radio ceylon, when they would be broadcasting their Binaca geetmala while Vividh Bharati will be playing some old songs ( ghazals, if I remember correctly) at the same time.

8:45 PM was the time for the 15 minutes long Hindi news. After the news, "late night" programmes began. Hawamahal, with its signature tune had the effect of causing my eyelids to get heavy and I would immediately feel sleepy.This programme was at 9:30, which was regarded as too late in those days.

Incidentally, the theme tunes of all these programmes were created by eminent music directors viz Anil Biswas etc, when Vividh Bharati was set up in 1957. In fact, the first episode of Hawa Mahal was written by Pt Narendra Sharma, the boss of Vividh Bharati in those days. Old timers will remember him as the person who was a leading poet and lyricist in 1940s and he was the one who encouraged Lata Mangeskar during her struggling days. The government of India had made a sensible decision in inviting a highly respected film personality to shape the destiny of Vividh Bharati. This, plus the fact that many filmy dignitaries had started their career in Akashwani, and also the fact that most Vividh Bharati programmes were recorded at Bombay, meant that Vividh Bharati could count upon unstinted support from the film industry.

The programme that came next at 10 PM was Chayageet, that was a theme based programme, where songs were played on a particular theme. And the announcers did lot of hardwork in preparing and presenting the programme.

In fact, that could be said about all Vividh Bharati programmes. The presenters had passion for their jobs and that reflected in the quality of their presentation,which was of a high standard, and always very informative. In Radio Ceylon, it was not uncommon for the announcer to just name the singer before playing a song, but in Vividh Bharati, the announcers would take great pains to name the singer, lyricist and music director. and in programmes like Chayageet, Sangeet Sarita etc, they went into much more detail.

I recall the name of another programme called Rang tarang. It was a programme where poetry were read. I found it boring. I never seriously listened to it.

Vividh Bharati was stated in Mumbai and Madras and gradually it was started in other major radio stations in the country too. In Ranchi, it was started sometime in 1960s, and it was only in the evening from 6:30 PM to 10:30 PM, unlike what it was in Mumbai etc, which not only broadcasted in three shifts, but had begun to accept advertisements as well, in line with the changed government policy which allowed advertisements in Vividh Bharati.It was caled "Vividh Bharati ki vigyapan seva" viz Commercial service of Vividh Bharati. It was only in 1975 that Vividh Bharati Ranchi too joined the ranks of "Vividh Bharati ki vigyapan seva", from merely being Vividh Bharati- Akashwani ka panchrangi karyakram, and the station started to broadcast in three shifts too.

On weekdays, there was just one or two sponsored programs, one of them at 8:10, and another at 9:00, I think. It varied from station to station. Sunday was the day when there were many sponsored programmes, right from the morning beginning from about 9 A M to 1 PM. Programmes had fancy names like "Modi ke Matwale Rahi" and "Saridon ke saathi".

One programme, that was broadcast on saturday night and repeated on sunday was "Patravali", where letters of listeners were discussed.The fact that most programmes were recorded in Bombay and a few sponsored programmes differed from station to station and were recorded by sponsors was a fact not known to many,so many listeners would write letters that pertained to a specific vividh Bharati station and to sponsored programmes,and would not pertain to programmes recorded at Bombay.

Some superb programmes were started after 1980s when people had switched over to TV, and these programmes have not received as much accolades as they deserve. In these programmes, a particular film personality was discussed. Many unknown facts about them were brought out, making use of interviews with the person recorded from time to time, as well as discussions with people associated with the person.

For instance,programmes like:

Ujale unki yaad ke, Aaj ke fankaar,Sargam ke sitare ,and (last but not the least),Sangeet ke sitaron ki mehfil- This last programme was presented by Ameen Sayani, It was definitely a much higher standard programme than his much acclaimed Binaca geetmala. It had rare recordings( from Ameen Sayani's past programmes on Radio Ceylon), and interesting anecdotes. It is a hidden gem of Vividh Bharati which has not received as much acclaim as Vishesh Jaimala, mainly because this programme has come up in the TV era.

But it shows one fact clearly, that the programmes of Vividh Bharati are of high standard and very well researched. TV programmes of comparable kind ( viz Chitrahar etc) stand no where. In fact the private FM channels too can only dream of such standards.

Akashwani ( including Vividh bharati) have an enviable archive of recordings not found elsewhere. Now a days they have offered CDs of some of these recordings for sale also, but they are making the same mistake as was made by the first I & B minister of the nation. They are only selling recordings of classical music. Great that these recordings are, you can never expect these CDs to sell much. On the other hand, if they decide to sell the recordings of vishesh jaimala, chayageet, sangeet ke sitaron ki mehfil, etc, then I can guarantee that Akashwani will earn nearly as much from these sales than what they earn from their ads. Is anyone listening ( or rather reading this) ? Please act fast before these invaluable recordings are consumed by dust and moth.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

All India Radio (Akashwani) stations in India

Having discussed radio, now it is time for me to discuss the radio stations in India. It is a vast subject, so my discussion of foreign radio stations ( viz radio Ceylon of Binaca geetmala fame) will have to wait for some more time till I am through with the topic at hand.

Before independance, there were very few radio stations in India. After independance in 1947, India became a republic in 1950 and the decade of 1950 was one when the nation building process, which involved building of infrastructure, was taken up in a big way.

Radio was under the ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B) and the organisation that looked after broadcasting was called All India Radio (AIR),a name coined by the English rulers. The Indian officials sought an Indian term for it and they came up with the word "Akashwani", which was taken from Indian mythology. Literally "voice from the sky", the term Akashwani finds much use in ancient sanskrit literature. Gods would often make announcements for mankind in a loud voice through the sky, and that is why it was called Akashwani. Quite an imaginative term, it was. And it caught on well. In English broadcasting, the term All India Radio was used. In native language broadcasting, the term Akashwani was used. For overseas service, even in Hindi/Urdu, it was called All India Radio.

Resource strapped as the nation was, every state was allotted only a few radio stations, one in the capital city, and others in other major cities.With time,gradually, more cities would be added on the AIR map. For instance, Bihar ( it included present day Jharkhand at that time too) had only three radio stations- Patna, Ranchi, and Bhagalpur. In 1970s, a fourth station was opened at Darbhanga.

The present day concept of earning revenue through sponsorship was unknown. The way Akashwani financed itself was through government funding as well as through annual license fee of Rs 15 on every radio set purchased in the country. Draconian it may seem now, but that is how it was in those days.

Radio was seen as a means to spread education and public awareness. It was not supposed to be a means of entertainment. In fact, the then I & B minister actually said so and banned Bollywood movie music from being played on Akashwani. And that is how it remained for quite some time on the main Akashwani stations.

What was left unsaid was that Akashwani was a very good means of official propaganda. And government really used it to the hilt for that purpose. The news would only be about the achievements of the government. Opposition activities were not given any coverage. I & B minister became a very important minister, a right hand person of the Prime minister.

The Akashwani stations typically broadcasted in morning, afternoon and night. The morning transmission would begin at 6 AM with a standard signature tune( sounded like an anthem). If you opened your radio station five minutes prior to 6 AM, there would be only noise, but at 5: 58 or so, the static noise will change tone, which meant that the radio station janitor had switched the power on. And then the abovementioned standard signature tune would be played.

The first thing you would hear was "vande Mataram" followed by the introduction by the announcer something like- This is Akashwani Ranchi on medium wave 535 m band at 561 KHz and shortwave 90 m band at 3335 kHz. The various radio stations were quite resource strapped in the matter of wavelengths in which to broadcast. After some time,viz 7:30 AM, the announcer would inform that now the short wave 90 m band was closing, and listeners on this band could continue listening on medium wave 535 m band.

If you had a multiband radio, different bands had different valves inside. If the valve of a particular band became defective, other bands would continue to work, only that band would not. As it was, in my radio, the medium wave valve had conked off so after 7:30, I would be unable to listen to the radio station and would miss the commentary of the hockey match which was so keenly poised at that moment.

Commentaries were special occasions, but a normal day had a staple diet of programmes, like how a typical housewife or a hostel canteen has a standard menu for different days of the week. In the morning, they had bhajans etc, and then there used to be a news, typically at every hour.The 7 AM news was a brief 2 minutes news.The most important news in the morning was at 8 AM.From 8 to 8:10, it was Hindi news, followed by English news from 8:10 to 8:20. As 8 AM would approach, whatever programme was on will meet with a natural or unnatural end, and the announcer would announce-" It is 8 AM. Now we will relay the news from Delhi, first in Hindi and then in English".At the stroke of 8, we would hear the sound coming from Delhi- pip, pip, pip-- 8 times, and then the news would begin. This protocol was followed for every news.

As far as I can recall, most programmes on morning were "dull". The morning transmission would end at 10 AM.

The afternoon transmission would start at 1 PM, with the same ritual ( the noise changing tone, followed by the signature tune of Akashwani). After a brief 5 minute news in two languages,the afternoon programmes began with a programme on Bollywood film songs. The I & B minister's ban on Bollywood songs had been lifted about one decade back).The songs were not current, but a couple of years old at least, but something was always better than nothing.Then there was typically a programme for housewives where tips were given on cookery,knitting and other such stuff.It was followed by the news at 2 PM, which was just as important as the 8 AM news in the morning. This time though,the English news preceded the Hindi news. I do not recall when the afternoon programme ended. It ended ataround 4 PM or so, and it varied from station to station.

Evening programmes started at 6 PM and went upto 11 PM. This was the prime time, and it had many programmes. The first programme was what many city slickers disliked. It was for farmers, where agriculture experts would give tips on agriculture. This was followed by a programme which was sort of like a "chaupal" where people gather under a tree and discuss various matters. I do not recall what this programme was called, but it had a lady, nicknamed Sugiya bahan talking in rural dialect and a gentleman talking in Hindi, discussing various matters, including replying to letters, and playing folk songs.

I found it a down market programme, and disliked it ( I only liked Kishore Kumar singing latest R D Burman songs those days), but now that I think of it, it was a very well conceived and executed programme, and it certainly connected well with its target audience. I am sure other Akashwani kendras also had similar programmes for their local audience, but i doubt if any of these programmes came near the above programme of akashwani Ranchi.Sugiya bahan, a city dweller in real life became a legend in Ranchi and the areas surrounding it. She was sort of like the Ameen Sayani of akashwani Ranchi to her target audience.

The night time at 8:45 was the time when the major news bulletins ( lasting 15 minutes each) were broadcast in Hindi followed by English, and in case of certain stations, followed by Urdu news of 10 minutes duration. so people not interested in news had to wait patiently for 40 minutes for news to end.

Most programmes were stand alone programmes broadcast by one station for its local population. But there were programmes that were broadcast by several stations.The most obvious of them all were the national programmes that were broadcast by one station ( typically Delhi) and relayed by all other stations, viz national news, sports commentaries, address to the nation by President/ Prime Minister etc. The announcement for a national programme typically did not mention the source station, it just said- "This is Akashwani".

Then there were pradeshik (regional) programmes, viz pradeshik news, that was broadcast by one station and relayed by all other stations in the state.For example, in case of Bihar,if the originating station was Patna,which was the case for 7:30 PM pradeshik news, the news reader would say- "This is Akashwani Patna, Ranchi, Bhagalpur.Ab aap Anant Kumar se praadeshik samachar suniye( now listen to the regional news by Anant Kumar)".This Anant Kumar had a booming voice. Later, Akashwani Ranchi too came up with its own Pradeshik samachar and the news reader would say- "This is Akashwani Ranchi ,Patna, Bhagalpur." The protocol of seniority was strictly mantained. Name of the host station came first, followed by other stations in the state in the order of seniority, which in case of Bihar was Patna > Ranchi > Bhagalpur. there were only about 80 odd radio stations in India by the turn of 1970, which became 100 sometime in the middle of that decade.

In 1950s, when the then I & B minister had banned filmy music from Akashwani, the demand for such song based programmes were met by Radio Ceylon, and that station should have thanked the honourable I & B minister for acting as their inadvertant promoter.By the time Akashwani realised its folly it was too late and Radio Ceylon was firmly in the driver's seat as far as popularity of its song based programmes ( Aaphi ke geet,Binaca geetmala etc) were concerned. To atone for their mistake,Akashwani started a dedicated music based channel called Vividh Bharati.This deserves a separate post, and I will come up with a detailed post on Vividh Bharati later.

As a child, I had the opportunity to pass through Akashwani Ranchi centre quite a few times,and I would wonder what it was like within that premise, which was of course out of bounds for public. And I was very much part of the common public.

Now, I have been to the Akashwani premises of a few Akashwani kendras ( Chhindwara, Jabalpur,Mumbai etc) and I know people there who would happily show me around the place if I wanted, but I no longer feel the same curiosity that I felt as a child.These days Radio is no longer regarded as highly as was the case 30-40 years ago.My daughter has participated in Children's programme in akashwani Jabalpur( Children's programme is broadcast every sunday on all Akashwani kendras) and she has been to Akashwani Mumbai quite a few times, but she does not attach any importance to that.I guess one does not appreciate things that one gets easily.

Things have changed, and now a days we have private radio stations (called FM channels) and they are growing in popularity. But I doubt that they will ever recapture the glory days of Radio, which ended in India in 1980s with the advent of TV.But now that I have had enough exposure to TV in India, and I have seen the declining standards of majority of their programmes,I am yearning to go back to the days of Radio.
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Monday, July 7, 2008

Radio in India in 1960s

I have been holding forth a lot on Binaca geetmala. But I have not yet talked about the medium on which this programme was broadcast i.e. radio. Also, I have not talked about Ameen Sayani, the presenter of Binaca geetmala. I will talk about Ameen Sayani in future. At present, I will talk about radio in India in 1960s and 70s.

It is difficult to imagine today, but there were hardly any sources of information ( and indeed entertainment) for the masses till 1900. It was in the early decades of that century that radio was invented and radio stations were opened. In India, radio stations were first opened in 1920s and its spread over the country was quite slow in the beginning. There were very few radio stations in India at that time.

Radio sets themselves used to be bulky as they used to contain vacuum tube valves ( not solid state components like transistors and ICs, which were invented only in 1950s and later). In addition to being bulky, they were expensive too. A radio set occupied pride of place in the household that was fortunate enough to have them. Money was not the only constraint. Electricity was another constraint. battery operated radio sets ( transistor radio) were non existent because transistor itself was yet to be invented.

Now a days, with the benefit of hindsight, we take many things for granted. For instance, we are told that India became independent on 15th August 1947 and people all over the country celebrated it. The reality was, many parts of the country were blissfully unaware of this occurence. My father, who was a school student and lived in a village, used to maintain a diary in 1947. ( had I been more aware of the value of antiques, I would have preserved that diary, but it was not yet antique value in 1970s when I stumbled upon it). This diary had an entry somewhere in september 1947 that India had got independence sometime in August. when questioned, my father told me that no one was aware of the fact because they had no means of communication within 15 miles of his village. And same was the case for everyone else in that area. The nearest radio set was 15 miles away and it was through that radio set that a vague information about Indian independance slowly trickled down among people there.

Also, one could not have a radio just like that. One needed to have a license to own it and pay license fee of Rs 15 per year ( Rs 15 was more than one day's pay for a salaried person), just like one needed license to own a gun. The license book was the size of ration card ( another coveted document) and needed to be kept in safe custody.In fact, one needed to have a license for owning a cycle as well, and the metal token given as license needed to be fixed on the cycle.Cycles were checked by traffic police for license plate and night lamp, the way they check scooters and motor cycles now a days.Yes, cycles were required to have night lamps compulsorily, Horn/bell called ghanti, were also compulsory items on a bicycle those days.

Having completed all formalities and having arranged for all requirements like electricity etc, the radio had to be installed. It was a specialised job and the radio seller would depute his trained personnel for the job, who would install the aerial.Yes, it was called aerial, not antenna. Now, this aerial was not like a thin rod that we see today. It was more like a fishing net rather than a fishing rod, and needed to be spread in an expert way as if catching the radio wave was like catching fishes. There were people who would not bother installing the aerial as it was too cumbersome to first install and later maintain. One could get reception without aerial too, but not of the same quality as with the aerial.

Having gone through all the hassles successfully, now it was the time to actually use the radio. The process went something like this- switch on the main switch on the switch board, then rotate the designated knob clockwise, which would cause the radio to get switched on. Now wait for the radio to get started ( the way we wait for computers to get booted today). after a minute or two, the valves would start functioning and the radio was ready to be used.

Front of the radio set would be glowing like the screen of present day laptops and there were many numbers and words etched on the front panel of the radio.If car engines are described in terms of their cylinders, then the radios were described in terms of bands. Typically, a radio set would have three or four bands ( smaller and cheaper sets would have lesser number of bands, expensive bulky sets would even have seven or more bands). One of the bands would be called medium wave band, rest would be short wave bands. In rest of the world, like say England, they even had long wave band, but that was not the case in India.

After switching on the radio, one needed to select the band. If the radio had say four bands, one of them would be medium wave band, then the rest were short wave bands, typically marked SW1,SW2 and SW3. SW1 would have areas marked like 9M, 13M ,16M, 19 M ( which would indicate wavelenth in meters).Personally, I never found much use of this band in India, because none of the radio stations of interest broadcasted in these wavelengths.

SW2 was the band that was of most interest. It had 25 M, 31 M and 41 M marked in it. 25 M was special because that is where radio Ceylon ( later Sri Lanka broadcasting corporation) used to broadcast its Hindi service programme. SW3 had 49M upto 90 M marked on it. MW band had marks from 135M to say 900 M.

Adjacent to the meter marking, there used to be marking for frequency in MHz or KHz.And these readings were inversely proportional to the wave length values.
Higher the meter value, lower the frequency, and vice versa.Radio stations would announce the meter and frequency periodically like " This is the Hindi overseas service of Sri Lanka broadcasting corporation broadcasting on 25 m at 11928 khz and on 41 m at 7220 khz." The AIR ( All India Radio)stations would be more steadfast and announce their wavelengths upto two decimal figures. I soon worked out the formula which was (wave length in m) X (frequency in khz) = 300000, where

300000 was the speed of light in km/ sec.

Some high end radios even had names of certain important radio stations written on the radio on the relevant places for guidance. Different radio stations on the same meter band would broadcast on slightly different wavelengths / frequency, but the tuner in the radio was a manual knob which tended to shift imperceptibly, and as a result the tuned station would often get detuned, and in prime time, viz night time, too many stations jostled for space for the same wave lengths like commuters in a Bombay local train, and if you lost your station, then getting that station back was purely a matter of chance.

Many a times I have missed out listening to the interesting portions of Binaca geetmala because of this reason.And if the weather was cloudy, then the broadcast would be more disturbed than Indian batsmen on a green wicket.Every lightening thunder in the sky would cause disturbance in the broadcast. Even under normal weather conditions, there was considerable noise, which human minds could filter,but not recording machines, if one decided to record radio broadcasts. Of course,recording machines were exorbitantly expensive at that time. All this disturbance in sound was because the broadcast was on AM ( amplitude modulation). On the other hand, TV broadcast have always had their audio as FM ( frequency modulation). That is why TV audio is always crystal clear.

Another thing about those radios. The radio looked like a miniature multistoried building,well lit up. And the vacuum valves glowing inside ( another way to classify a radio was on the basis of how many valves it boasted of)kept the interior of the radio cozily warm, and mice actually found the radio sets as their ideal home, full of lighting and warmth. So,the radio not only looked like a building, it also acted like a housing complex for mice. When these bulky radios gave way to small transistor radios, the biggest losers were not mankind but these mice. Just as the era from 1950s to 1960s was the golden era of Bollywood music, it was the golden era of housing for mice. And these mice kept radio mechanics gainfully employed.

Being a radio mechanic was considered a sign of brilliance and this job was considered second only to the job of a locomotive driver,if I am allowed to
exaggerate a little. And there were books like "build your own radio". People who could actually build their own radio were regarded as geniuses.

With all this discussion on the hardware of the radio ( the term hardware incidentally stood for a shop dealing in hammer and tongs and paints and nails),I will discuss the software ( another term not yet invented at that time ) next, viz the various radio stations and their programmes.
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Bollywood songs for kids

Every one, including kids hum Bollywood songs, even though most of the songs are not exactly meant for kids. But there have been some wonderful songs for kids over the years, which have become perennial favourites of kids ( and their parents). Here is a list of some of these songs:

Song 1: Dhire se aaja ri ankhiyan me (Albela 1951)

Song 2: Aja re aa nindiya tu aa (Do bigha zameen 1953)

Song 3: aao bacchon tumhe dikhaye jhanki hindustan ki (Jaagriti 1954)

Song 4: Chanda mama door ke (Vachan 1955)

Song 5: Chunchun karti aayi chidiya (Ab dilli door nahin)

Song 6: Nanne munne bacche teri mutthi me kya hai(Boot Polish)

Song 7: Chuk chuk chuk chuk rail chali (Sone ki chidiya 1958)Singers-Asha,Lyrics-Saahir Ludhianvi,MD-O P Nayyar

Song 8: Nanhi kali sone chali (Sujata 1959)Singer-Geeta Dutt,Lyrics-Majrooh Sultanpuri,MD-S D Burman

Song 9: Nani teri nani ko mor le gaye baki jo bacha (Masoom 1961)

Song 10: Nana munna rahi hoon (Son of India 1962)Singer-Shanti Mathur, Lyrics-Shakeel Badayuni,Music-Naushad

Song 11: Dadi amma dadi amma maan jao (Gharana 1961) Lyrics-Shakeel Badayuni,MD-Ravi

Song 12: Hum bhi agar bacche hote (Door ki awaaz 1964),Singer-Rafi,Lyrics-Shakeel Badayuni,MD-Ravi)

Song 13: Gudiya kab tak na hansogi(Dosti 1964)Singer-Lata,MD-Laxmikant Pyarelal

Song 14: Hum ko man ki shakti dena (Guddi)

Song 15: Chanda hai tu(Aradhana)

Song 16: Chal chal chal mere haathi(Haathi mere saathi)

Song 17: Rona kabhi nahin rona (Apna Desh 1972)

Song 18: Sunlo sunata hoon tumko kahani (Andaz 1971)

Song 19: Mummy ko papa se papa ko mummy se pyar hai (Andaz 1971)Singers-Sushma Shreshtha,Asha,Rafi

Song 20: Mera raja beta (Anuraag)Singer-Lata,MD-S D Burman

Song 21: sare ke sare gama ko lekar (Parichay) Singers-Kishore, Asha, Lyrics-Gulzar,MD-R D Burman

Song 22: Lalla lalla lori(Mukti 1977)Singer-Mukesh,Lyrics-Anand Bakshi,MD-R D Burman

Song 23: Masterji ki aa gayi chitthi (Kitaab 1977) Singers-Shivangi & Padmini Kolhapure,Lyrics-Gulzar,MD-R D Burman

Song 24: Mere paas aao mere doston ek kissa suno (Mr Natwarlal)Singer-Amitabh Bachchan,Lyrics-Anand Bakshi,MD-Rajesh Roshan

Song 25: Lakdi ki kathi (Masoom 1984)Singers-Gauri Bapat, Gurpreet Kaur, Vanita Mishra,Lyricist-Gulzar,MD-R D Burman

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