Thursday, July 10, 2008

Radio Ceylon Hindi service- those were the days

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.


ramesh said...

the programme at 12.00 noon was behenon ki pasand,followed at 12.30 by geeton aur ghazalon ka 1 pm it was jaane pehcchane geet.the transmission used to end at 2pm.the afternoon transmission was discontinued in 1985.

kalputi said...

Great reading the article. It was very nostalgic. Afternoon transmission (from 2:00 pm)was always meant for South Indian Languages, until 7:00 pm. It is still on, and I do listen between 2:00 and 3:15. This is the time when reception is at it's best, and it is very easy to tune unlike the early mornings or at night.

Hindi transmission has been drastically cut, now it is just two and a half hour of transmission between 6:00 am and 8:30 am. Night transmission or the RAATH KI SABHA was last played on 31st of March 2008.

GEET MERE MEET was a great PHONE - IN program that was introduced around 2005, wherein listeners could call live and speak to the announcer JYOTHI PARMAR. She is so versatile and affectionate, she could even guess who the caller was in many cases. This program was of one hour in the night, later was shifted to day time for half hour and then was totally phased out.

Interestingly, a directory of SLBC listeners has been prepared by an enthusiastic listener. One can call him and make a request, it is then sent across to you by post. Sadly (I am not sure if that is the right word), most of the listeners are not net-savvy.

Another interesting aspect of SLBC these days is that, you have "BADHAI SANDESH" for birthdays and anniversaries of regular listeners (NIYAMIT SHROTHA). One versatile, experienced announcer Ms.Padmini Pereira is a walking encyclopedia on details of regular listeners. You need to listen to SLBC to experience all this. I hope some of the listeners, I mean a NIYAMIT SHROTA responds to my comments. For those who are not, do tune in to SLBC on 25m or 41m bands. Sadly, very few people have a radio at home these days. fewer still know how to tune a radio. Nevertheless, do try. You can contact me on

squarecut.atul said...

Thanks a lot for your comments, kalputi. Your information is highly valuable. I learnt a lot from it. It is nice to know that SLBC is still around.

लावण्यम्` ~ अन्तर्मन्` said...

interesting read --

i amdaughter of late pandit narendra sharma

Mangal Laguri said...

Hindi service is now reduced to merely 2 hrs, 6.00 to 8.00 am. Receiptions quality too has deteriorated.

Macmet said...

Brought back old memories. When buying a radio it was a must test to check whether one got good reception of Radio Ceylon.

yunus said...

आज रेडियो सीलोन की सालगिरह पर हम इस लेख को र‍ेडियोनामा पर साभार पेश कर रहे हैं।

yunus said...


एक सुंदर आलेख़ में एक बात दु:ख़ दायी हुई कि विजय किशोर दूबे ने अपने स्थान पर श्री गोपाल शर्माजी को नियूक्त करवाया था और श्री गोपाल शर्माजी का योगदान स्व. दूबेजी की ख़ड़ी की हुई नींव पर मजबूत इमारत बनाना था और उनके साथ रहे थे गोपाल शर्माजीके हमा अवाझी श्री कूमार कान्त और चेतन खेडा । उनमें से कूमार कान्त जी की विदाय के बाअत श्री गोपाल शर्माजी ने ही स्व. शिवकूमार सरोज को नियूक्त करवाया था ।तो इन हस्तीयोँ के नाम गायब देख़ कर अचरज रहा । और प्रायोजित कार्यक्रमोमें स्व. बाल गोविंद श्रीवास्तव, मनमोहन क्रिष्ना (अभिनेता), नक्वी रझवी, मूरली मनोहर स्वरूप, वगैरह आदरपात्र लोग रहे । गोपाल शर्माजीने शुभ: रात्री शब्दसमूह दिया था । रेडियोनामा पर 21-12-2010 की मेरी श्री गोपाल शर्माजी से की गयी मूलाकात के विडीयोझ देख़े और सुने ।
पियुष महेता-सुरत ।

Meher Nagar,Umarkhed,Dist:Yavatmal said...

रेडियो सिलोन जैसी लोकप्रियता किसी स्टेशन को मिली है न मिलेगी.रही बात पेशकर्ता अनाउंसर की तो हर किसी ने बड़ा प्रयास किया है,ये भी सच है की विविध भारती का उगम ही रेडियो सिलोन की वजह से हुआ है,वक़्त के साथ विविध भारती भारत मे मनोरजन का साधन बना है,मगर श्रोताओ के दिल मे जो प्यार,स्नेह,मित्रता,जन्मी है,उसका कारण रेडियो सिलोन ही रहा है.सरकारी नीति के कारण आज सिलोन का प्रसारण कम हुआ है,मगर उनके पास जो अनमोल गीतो का संग्रह है वह शायद ही भारत के किसी रेडियो स्टेशन मे होगा.सालगिरह पर बधाई ....

Kishore KR said...

You missed mentioning the most favourite of all programs, perhaps second only to the 'Purani Filmon ke geet', i.e. the 'Hamesha Jawan Geet' program on sunday evenings from 9:40 or so to 11 PM. It would invariably be a medley of the most wonderful melodies, presented by Manohar Mahanjan in the early to mid seventies and then Dalbir Singh Parmar. It would end with playing Sri Lankan national anthem. Simply fantastic. All my love for old Hini music was developed by these two programs of Radio Ceylon.

Praksh Ingole said...

Now it is good news to SLBC lovers that SLBC has started Hindi service in Evening from 7 to 9 pm with some of the old programme.Hope it will reach at old peak point.

Vamanray Mehta said...

I endorse the view of shri Kishore KR.The programme called 'abhi to mein jawan hu

Mangal Laguri said...

You can now tune in to SLBC (Hindi) on the Internet, between 6.45 am to 9.00 am everyday. Try this url:

Anonymous said...

I really regret not being around at that time. That experience of listening to Radio Ceylon is something that I'll miss all my life.
Prakash Ji said that SLBC is broadcasting some of the old programs now. Let me see if I can listen to them online.

Radhakrishnan Muralidhar said...

Great Article. Started listening to SLBC around 1972 and had enjoyable experience till around 1980. Some programs which are vivid in my memory are "Pasand Apni Khyal Apna", "I S Johar ke Jawab" "Drishya aur Geet". My favourite announcers were Padmini Periera and Indira Hiranand with fantastic voices. Dalbir Singh Parmar and Manohar Mahajan were also popular. The morning session of "aap hi ke geeet' was very good with the latest songs. Remember getting late to the college because of this program! It was a real pleasure to meeet all the contributors to this blog to once again revive the fond memories of SLBC of those days.

R Muralidhar - Hyderabad

v m mehta said...

I enjoy listening to radio ceylone since 1966 and am fond of all its past programmes like anokhe bol, ek se anek, Maratha darbar aggarbati pro. and sunday night 10 p m broadcast of Abhi to me jawan hun.Long live slbc hindi service. It is now available on net and can be accessed from any where.

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SATTA KING said...



talat's fan said...

Gopal Sharma and not Shivkumar saroj was the successor of Vijay kishor Dubey

talat's fan said...

Gopal Sharma and not Shivkumar saroj was the successor of Vijay kishor Dubey

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