The voices behind AIR

(Top) Pandit Govind Ballabh broacdcasting from Lucknow AIR in 1948. Famous newscasters like Saroj Narayanaswami (Left) and Surajit Sen (Right) relayed important information on air. Photos: Shanker Chakravarty/Vivek Bendre  

Some famous radio newscasters talk about memorable moments

Their voices are a part of the everyday life of the people of India, and some have lent their voice to history – to announce the independence of the country, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India winning the 1983 cricket World Cup. Veteran All India Radio (AIR) newscasters are familiar household names who continue to share a special bond with their listeners.

Remember the likes of Devaki Nandan Pandey, Melville de Mello, Surajit Sen, Sushil Jhaveri, Lotika Ratnam and Pamela Singh? Many of them are not around any more or have faded into oblivion.

R.S. Venkatraman, 88, was the first to announce over AIR that India had gained its independence. “Inthiya naadu indru sudandiram petrathu” (India became independent today) were approximately the words the Tamil newscaster read out during the early morning bulletin of Aug 15, 1947.

Venkatraman was reading the 5.35 a.m. bulletin for AIR’s external services division.

'Thrilling moment'

“It was a thrilling moment, a historical moment, I am fortunate to have been the first to make the announcement,” said Venkatraman,

Saroj Narayanaswami recalls having read the news about Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Narayanaswami says she found it difficult to keep out the emotion from her voice while making the announcement on Oct 31, 1984, on Tamil news. “We are supposed to be objective while reading news, but when Indira Gandhi died I was emotional,” the veteran newscaster said.

She also remembers reading the news of India winning the 1983 ICC Cricket World Cup under Kapil Dev.

Narayanaswami, says a newscaster needs to pay attention to intonation, diction, presentation and pronunciation to excel in the profession.

P. Rajaram, another veteran Tamil newscaster , says the 5.35 a.m. bulletin is keenly heard by Tamil listeners in Southeast Asia.

He recalls having read the breaking news for the 5.35 a.m. bulletin when M.G. Ramachandran died on Dec 24, 1987. It was a particularly challenging moment as there was no prepared text for an obituary.

Deepak Dholakia, a veteran of the Gujarati unit, remembers reading the news when Indira Gandhi was defeated in the 1977 general elections.

“I have seen so many prime ministers - from Indira Gandhi to Deve Gowda,” said Dholakia.IANS

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