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.