Ameen Sayani – The ‘Radio Man’ of India

February 26, 2024
One only hopes that the world of Indian music industry and the established big-time players do set up an award in Ameen Sayani's name

The other day I was attending a marriage function in Bangalore. In one of the rooms where I was sitting with the guests, a radio was humming in the background, though there was a DJ music being played and all the guests on the room where glued to music on their mobiles. However, this radio was humming on, playing Binaca Geet Mala. I asked the owner why he was still playing the pocket radio when music was now available in different forms and that too in customized format in the cloud. He said radio was a part of his growing up and it was a manifestation of nostalgia, which no other format could replace, and the present mode of communication via Radio does not have that engaging aura that Ameen Sayani used to hold and continues to hold through archives.

A week after Celebration of the World Radio Day (13th February), the voice which created an exalted status for airwaves through his weekly broadcast, Ameen Sayani breathed his last at 93 years of age. The voice which single-handedly positioned the Hindi film music in the psyche of the nation, when it was banned from being broadcast over the airways in 1961 by the then Information and Broadcasting Minister, Dr. B V Keskar, is one of the remarkable sagas of Radio broadcast for popularizing Hindi film music anywhere in the world.

Starting as a half-hour programme, such was its popularity that this Wednesday broadcast became an hourly broadcast within few years. I remember my grandfather had asked my father to buy him a new radio as his old radio was not catching the Binaca channel- yes that’s what he would call- and as a result his evening congregations every Wednesday had come to a grinding halt!

My grandfather used to sing the top song of the week and regale his audience after the programme was over and his favourite was the song from film SHARAFAT – Oye hoye Raja Jani, he would invariably sing this song after singing other songs. My father would tell grandfather to spend his time in doing pooja as he was growing old, but he would just laugh away and used to tell the magic of radio and participation through listening to this song programme was his pooja.

As he was staying in the village, the broadcast would be erratic, but still he would not loose his temper as he used to say- the announcer has such power that he lets you forget all your pains of the day and why is it not that this programme come daily? The only thing grandfather would do is, he would move around his mansion throughout the tenure of the Binaca Geet mala to catch the signal.

Single -handedly Ameen Sayani through his programme of Binaca Geet mala established songs of Hindi cinema in the psyche of the average listener and the popularity of his programme was manifest from the fan mails that he used to get and which he would read with great enthusiasm and candor. It was through his programmes that obscure districts like Jhumri Telaiya, Dhanbad, etc., got recognition and later on Jhumri Telaiya was used in quite a lot of movies as well to connote obscurity.

Even before gender sensitivity in broadcasting officially became a norm, Ameen Sayani had given it a place of eminence. His signature introduction- बहनों और भाईयों and not भाईयों और बहनों must have been one of the reasons which brought even lady listeners to his programme in droves. He was the first announcer who would first invoke the female listeners and then go on to address the male listeners. No other Radio broadcaster did it for years on end and it became his signature tune.

The yeomen service that Ameen Sayani did for the cause of Hindi film music is a feat which has not been emulated by anybody else in the reign of broadcasting in the world of Hindi music.

The regime of fan mails that Ameen Sayani created way back in the sixties and continued to do it for around five decades could only be replicated when Siddharth Kak and Renuka Shahane started hosting Surabhi. Ameen Sayani continued to have such a long love-affair with airwaves on account of the fan following that he had across generations.

If one gets a chance to visit an All India Radio Station, one would be greeted with the sayings of Mahatma Gandhi eulogizing the virtues of Radio- “I see Energy in Radio,” and its true manifestation was established in the voice of Ameen Sayani through his Binaca Geet Mala programme and one has to just go through the archives of this programme to see how captivating and engaging the voice of Ameen Sayani was and the way he used to weave his vocal prowess around the songs is a feat no other anchor has been able to achieve after him.

Ameen Sayani created energy in the humble instrument through his vocal prowess and one only hopes that some of the radio channels would broadcast his recordings to underline what a voice it was and what a National asset he was! One only hopes that the world of Indian music industry and the established big-time players do set up an award in his name which would be the ultimate tribute to the wizard of vocal prowess- the prose variety.

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