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When legendary Ameen Sayani failed to clear AIR's Hindi audition test!

twitter-logoPTI | February 17, 2019 | Updated 14:17 IST

New Delhi, Feb 17 (PTI) Legendary Ameen Sayani started his career as an English broadcaster but when he went for an audition for AIR's Hindi section, he was told after the test that there are hints of English and Gujarati in his accent and he cannot be recruited. But Sayani was not someone to be disheartened and went on to become one of India's most loved radio presenters. Scriptwriter Rakesh Anand Bakshi has come out with a new book "Let's Talk on Air: Conversations with Radio Presenters" in which he chronicles Sayani's journey along with 13 other popular radio jockeys including Yunus Khan, Rohini, Mamta Singh, Sayema, Hrishikay Kannan, Anuraag 'picture' Pandey and Anmol. Sayani was born in Mumbai in a multilingual family on December 21, 1932 and further seeped in a 'Bambai ki khichdi Hindustani bhasha' (Mumbai's porridge of Hindustani language). "My early schooling was at New Era School, which used Gujarati as a medium in the primary standards, with more emphasis on the English language creeping in from fifth grade on," he says in the book, published by Penguin. He also started writing small pieces for his mother's fortnightly journal called "Rehbar" that used three scripts - Devanagari, Gujarati and Urdu. Sayani says by the age of 13, he had already become a fairly proficient broadcaster in English. He started participating in children's programmes on the English service of All India Radio Bombay and then progressed to roles in full-fledged radio plays, discussions and multifaceted narrations. Due to some health issues, Sayani had to be shifted in 1945 from his school in Mumbai to the Scindia School in Gwalior as a boarder to study for the Senior Cambridge examination, the book says. After independence and on his return to Mumbai, he rushed to All India Radio Bombay's Hindi section and announced, "You've known me for many years as an English broadcaster, but now that India is independent, I'd like to switch over to the Hindi section. Give me an audition, please!" They smiled and agreed. "I read my script with great confidence, but their answer was, 'You read well, Ameen, but in your accent there are hints of English and even Gujarati. So we can't accept you. Sorry!' I was heartbroken," recalls Sayani. However, there was hope. "When the British left Ceylon, they had donated powerful short-wave radio transmitters that had belonged to Mountbatten's South-East Asia Command to the people of Colombo. Ceylon took them and created commercial radio services in four languages: Sinhalese, English, Tamil and Hindi. The Hindi programmes proved to be quite popular," he says. "This was propelled to new heights when India's new Minister for Information and Broadcasting, B V Keskar, had for some unknown reason banned all Hindi film songs from AIR. Thousands of great 78-rpm records were disposed of. No announcer was allowed to smile and some of those who had excelled in their sections were transferred to unfamiliar sections about which they were quite ignorant! Within three to four months, AIR's listenership began to dwindle, and Radio Ceylon began to boom," Sayani remembers. It was during this time that Daniel Molina, an American living in Mumbai, saw a great opportunity to create a sole agency in India. He started an ad agency called Radio Advertising Services. To run its production wing, Molina recruited Sayani's brother, Hamid, who was not only a well-known name in Indian broadcasting but had also served as an executive in two of India's leading ad agencies. As soon as that happened, Sayani requested his brother to give him a chance in the Hindi section of Radio Ceylon. But Hamid told him to improve his Hindi accent as he had already been rejected once. Lady luck, however, smiled on Sayani as he got the job of announcer for the Ovaltine Phulwari programme. During this stint, he, one day, heard about the Binaca Geetmala programme which he grabbed with both hands and the rest is history. For Sayani, there is really no ideal way to speak on-air. However, he suggests seven Ss that will really help one become a better radio presenter - 'sahi' (correct), 'satya' (truth), 'saral' (simple), 'spasht' (clear), 'sabhya' (decent), 'sundar' (beautiful) and 'swabhavik' (natural and rational). The presenters Bakshi has written about in the book are those who "put a skip in my step, a smile on my lips and tugged at a string in my heart. Some of them were responsible for my returning to listen to radio regularly after a nearly 20-year vacuum". Sayani's shows began to be hosted on Radio Ceylon (which was broadcast from Colombo) in December 1952. Binaca Geetmala was the first of its kind show in India and was conceived, crafted and hosted by Sayani. It ran from 1952 to 1994, 2000 to 2001 and then 2001 to 2003, with variations in its name. Sayani has been aired on various stations throughout the world, from Vividh Bharati (All India Radio) to Red FM, Radio City, Big FM, Hum FM in the UAE, Spice Radio in the US, and the BBC in the UK. PTI ZMN RB RB

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