Television

Private FM – the new Indian teen: Down memory lane

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A few days ago former radio jock and friend Vasanthi Hariprakash mentioned on her Facebook page that Radio City Bangalore (Bengaluru), that private FM radio in India had completed 13 years (started broadcasting on July 3, 2001) and hence entered its teens. Of course, Hariprakash or Sunshine girl as she was called, was an RJ on that very popular and only FM radio station in the country at that time, though not since its inception.

How time has flown with changes galore in radio broadcasting in the country. Let me reminisce as an avid listener in this report ….

Times of war stand out in a growing mind. My first vivid memories  of radio are those as a five year old boy - my uncle and my dad started sobbing at the news that came in from Tashkent – the man of peace – our then prime minister Lal Bahadhur Shastri had passed away there.  A few years later in December 1971, the excitement in my aunt’s voice as she breathlessly announced that Pakistan had called for a ceasefire of hostilities. I remember the negative comments that my fellow listeners doled out whenever we heard of Yahya Khan, Bhutto, Nixon and Kissenger on the radio during the days leading to and including and after the 1971 war. I remember vividly my friends cheering Mujibur Rehaman as All India Radio announced his arrest by the powers that were in Pakistan.

How times have changed since then – I remember as a growing up boy in Mumbai glued to the transistor, as the small radio receiver with medium wave (MW) and short wave (SW) bands was colloquially known as. Radio was the only form of communication (one way) that most people of my generation grew up with. There was no television, no internet and no mobile phones.

The voices of Amin Sayani and Hasan Rizvi are still very vivid in my mind. Binaca (later Cibaca) Geetmala on a Wednesday was an absolute must, as was the mandatory narration and exchange of dialogues on Monday morning at school of the capers of super crime solver Inspector Eagle and his sidekick Havaldar Naik the previous day.

It is about the period in the 1970s’ that I remember how all of us – friends, cousins, parents, uncles, aunts, used to sit around the radio on Sunday, during breakfast waiting for Havaldar Naik’s peals of laughter, and later the early lunch while we eagerly listened to the one hour bit of a film sound track on Vivid Bharati. The afternoon hour every day of the week was reserved for western music, mostly classical over a quiet lunch on return from school before homework and Saturday night for Saturday Pop music on All India Radio. A few of the ad jingles are still so fresh – like the one that ran ‘Mummy, mummy Modern bread..’ or ‘Harvik, Harvik whistle pop khaie ye’.

Cricket was another favourite that bound us all-parents, friends, teachers, principals and school mates, everyone wanted to know the score during recess and the physical training period. Many a time, a student escaped punishment when caught listening to cricket commentary during class hours on a small pocket radio by disclosing the latest ‘score’ to the teacher.  Like a mobile phone is banned today in most educational institutions, pocket radio too was actually a banned item in school –too much distraction, you see. Remember in those days it was five days test match cricket and the odd Ranji Trophy match that was aired on radio.  

AFST or Bobby Talyarkhan, Ravi Chaturvedi, Joga Rao, Jasdev Singh, Suresh Sarayia, Raj Singh Dungarpur, Dicky Ratnagar and Anand Setalvad are the names that come to mind, when one speaks of radio cricket commentators. Vijay Merchant’s expert comments during the match were like manna from heaven for the cricket aficionado. His Sunday afternoon programme on Vividh Bharati ‘Cricket with Vijay Merchant’ was a must listen for cricket lovers.

 The short stint between 1993 and 1998, when the government sold time slots to private companies to run their programming is best forgotten. My memories of this period are vague – Times FM and Radio Midday are the only names that come to mind. There must have been the odd show that was great, but, not memorable.

As I said, a lot has changed, including my city of residence. Bengaluru, the garden city is now more of a concrete jungle. SW and MW are suddenly strange words.  I listen to the radio only when driving or in a car as opposed to all day on a shared transistor, because the pocket radio required batteries which were too expensive to replace regularly. Rechargeable batteries were a rarity in those days. The pocket radio for a limited period of time had become a fashion statement, an item to show off.

Music of my choice with great RJ talk is now doled out 24x7 on not just one or two sporadic stations, but among others on Radio Rainbow, Fever FM, Red FM and a completely international radio station Radio Indigo.  Kannada radio too has some lovely music and there are three stations that play Kannada music in Bangalore– Big FM, Radio Mirchi and Radio City which went Kannada a few years ago.

Prithvi, Shraddha, Sriram, Rubina, Disha, Julius, Melodee Austin, Shagufta, Michelle, Nathan are the people that I listen to while driving. The good looking Danish Sait on Fever FM and Rakesh  with their funny impersonations have replaced Havaldar Naik’s peals, and radio shows such as Picture Pandey have replaced the mandatory movie soundtrack of yesteryear’s Vividh Bharati, but as I mentioned before, only if I happen to be in a car.

 In the Kannada radio space, the very pretty Nethra on Radio City and the so very intelligent Smitha on Mirchi along with Rapid Rashmi on Big FM are a treat to listen to for a person who has just started comprehending a bit of the lingo. I have seen and heard Mallishka perform, and that girl has what it takes, as does Mumbai’s Mirchi jock Jeeturaj.

Hariprakash, along with Suniana Lal, Anjaan, Darius Sunawala, Suresh Venkat voices have joined those of Amin Sayani and Hasan Rizivi in my mind space – these jocks have stopped performing or perform during weekends as Darius does, or perform in other countries as Anjaan does.

The current jocks, many of them not so young, for some are even mothers and fathers in their mid -thirties, sound so exciting, make their show great. It is often these guys that make or break the company that owns their stations, and are to some extent responsible for a film’s fate. Programming is a lot more exciting, and a separate job function by itself as opposed to the songs played on request by snail mail. Mobile phones have made it possible to request songs in real time. The jock talk and interactions make the radio an exciting entertainment option for the listener.

 Let us see what the new technology brings in. The third round of auctions should add a lot more stations to the country and create a lot more excitement in the industry that runs the most listened to medium in the world.

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