August 15, 1975 is a landmark day for Madras TV Centre

Remember your favourite programme being interrupted with the ‘favourite' line ‘Thadangalukku Varundugirom' often accompanied by some graphic image to break the monotony?

Whether you were annoyed or you brushed aside those frequent interruptions, it was the early days of television and one learnt to live with those glitches.

August 15, 1975 was a landmark day for the Madras TV Centre (now Doordarshan Kendra) as ‘Madras' began daily transmission of programmes from a temporary 35-meter high mini-tower, a one KW transmitter with reception extending to a range of 10 km from the tower.

From the days when live programmes were aired for almost two hours daily (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.) to today, it, perhaps, is one electronic media that still continues live telecast of its daily news bulletin.

C.V. Ananthapadmanabhan, Bhuvaneswari Chandrasekaran and Seetha Ratnakar are among the first batch of staff appointed for the TV Centre, who are still in service, involved in the production of programmes.

On tenterhooks

With no editing of studio-based programmes including dramas, and no zoom cameras on studio, they used to work on tenterhooks, they recall. A Nagaswaram performance, a prayer song by Vani Jayaram, 10-minute news programmes in Tamil and English and M.L. Vasanthakumari's performance were the live programmes that went on air the first day.

Sampath Kumar, now a faculty member with Asian College of Journalism, was the first to read news in Tamil.

He remembers how the visuals did not follow the Independence Day Flag hoisting ceremony and a pause of 30-40 seconds interrupted the news flow.

Television viewing was largely seen as a method to kindle social awareness and educational programmes for schools children dominated. Around 60 per cent of the transmission time on Madras TV would be devoted to educational and informative programmes, said a report in The Hindu that brought out a special supplement to celebrate TV coming to Madras. One of the article offered tips on how one could get the best from one's television set.

Deivam the first movie

Saturday evenings was prime time at homes that could own a TV or shops were mobbed with people coming to watch the movie. Deivam was the first movie shown on TV.

Musicians to change their attire to orange-coloured clothes for some effect on the black-and-white mode; the multiple captions prepared to anticipate errors such as those on the part of artists, technical and power failure… the black and white days were learning days, say people of that era.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012