One of the finest news anchors that the country has seen, Gitanjali Aiyar passed away in Delhi on Wednesday. The 71-year-old had been ailing for some time.
One of the prominent faces of Doordarshan’s prime-time news at 9 p.m. for decades, Gitanjali, like many of her contemporaries on the public broadcaster, brought grace and dignity to television news before news studios started looking like war rooms and news presenters began indulging in shouting matches. She read the news and read it well. Fluent and articulate, she belonged to an era when teachers asked students to listen to Gitanjali, Neethi Ravindran, and Rini Simon to improve their English and when anchors maintained a neutral tone.
Those were the days when teleprompters had not made their way into news studios and when they did, they would often develop a snag in the middle of the live broadcast. Unhassled, Gitanjali was known not just for her immaculate accent but also for her calm and poise.
Starting her career with All India Radio, Gitanjali joined Doordarshan in 1971 and was honoured as the best anchor four times during her career with the channel. She also bagged the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for Outstanding Women in 1989.
Cast in teleserial
Hooked on to becoming a news reader from the tender age of six, Gitanjali excelled in elocution events during student days and walked into the news business as soon as she graduated from Kolkata’s Loreto College. She also held a diploma from the National School of Drama. It helped her spread her wings beyond the newscape. She was cast in Khandaan, the popular Doordarshan teleserial that became quite a rage in the mid-1980s.
Such was her popularity at her peak that the news presenter was featured in commercials for Solidaire television and Marmite. The punch line of the Solidare advertisement, ‘that seldom fails’, went well with the face of Gitanjali as she never lost her poise when technology failed her in the early days of Doordarshan.
After leaving Doordarshan, she dabbled in corporate communications and became a consultant at the Confederation of Indian Industry and also worked with Worldwide Fund for Nature.