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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Of Glittering Gold and a myriad India 

Vividh Bharti today completed its fiftieth year of operations , more with the studied economy of movement associated with middle-age than with the carefree gait of a teenager. What was once a unifying medium and common frame of reference has predictably degenerated into a increasingly incoherent voice drowned in an incessant cacophony of information-entertainment-news, so overwhelming that it is neither necessary nor possible to tell individual strains apart.

My own association itself can hardly hark back to a maximum of two decades, and owes my sporadic patronage to the vagaries of spending long years in places where a persistent tweaking of the MW, SW1, SW2 & SW3 knobs on the portable ( and water-proof !) radio was one of the antidotes to a obstinate television channel and the newspaper and assorted reading material taking awhile to reach. Although I stayed predominantly with film-song based programmes- Jaimala, Bhule Bisre Geet, Chhayageet and scrupulously avoided the posturing Hawa Mahal and other histrionic audio-fests, I have been vaguely aware of high-minded cultural stuff dished out by a genteel and soft-spoken set of comperes and hosts. And of course, it was with VB that I careened on to Ameen Sayani and Binaca/Cibaca Geet/Sangeet mala.

By a quirk of fate, my day off work enabled at least a filtered but uninterrupted listening of the day’s offering. The team, headquartered somewhere in Borivli, meandered between the Delhi and Bombay recording stations and proffered a wide array of film songs spanning several decades interspersed with notable hosts talking about their most memorable experiences, the latter easily the best of the lot. Broadcasters and industry pioneers like Vijay Chaudhry, Pt. Narender Sharma, Madhup Sharma, Shehnaaz and Ram Sigh Thakur came off best in their pragmatic but pleasant narration of what moved them in all these years.

A rushed sequence of on-demand congratulatory messages from the likes of Lata, Manoj Kumar, Javed Akhtar was improved marginally by their recounting their first brushes with VB, and the cheesy idea of inviting newbies like Shaan and a few other singers fell flat as they could not either relive any memory, not enliven proceedings save a forced mention of the camaraderie that the average Indian household accords Hindi film music. And Ameen Sayani guest-anchoring an episode too..

For now, I cannot think of too many ideas that Vividh Bharti can use to pull back its unrivalled listenership, what with ADD, although I would still maintain that state-owned media would still sock it to most private folks anyday !!

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