His voice refuses to retire

"The speed and clarity of voice are important... .''  

"I WANT to do commentary till my last breath,'' says Jasdev Singh, the veteran Hindi commentator whose voice still inspires millions to take to the microphone and try their hand at describing a sports event or a public programme like the swearing-in ceremony of a president. And yes, the voice of the man who is often described as "the guru of Hindi broadcasting'' refuses to retire and, if one may say so, sounds ever more young with each passing day.

Jasdev Singh is no Lata Mangeshkar. But like the evergreen nightingale, he continues to give life to events behind the microphone, charging them up so that millions across the country can participate in the excitement. He was there at the invitation of the organising committee of the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad to give commentary for the opening ceremony. And come Independence Day or Republic Day, it is his voice that still carries to the homes of millions in every nook and cranny of the country.

And yet, this 72-year old veteran broadcaster, who has been honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government and with the Olympic order and many other awards, still asserts that giving commentaries is his hobby. He still vividly remembers the event that was responsible for introducing him to the world of broadcasting. "I heard Melville de Mellow's commentary on the occasion of the funeral of Mahatma Gandhi and I resolved to become a Hindi commentator. When I announced my decision, my parents and everyone close to me laughed.''

But then Jasdev Singh has always been a man of strong determination. Starting as an announcer in All India Radio's Jaipur station, he graduated to become a newsreader. A few lucky breaks in terms of giving commentaries during Rajendra Babu's visit to Jaipur, the occasion of the death of Nehru in 1964 and then the Tokyo Olympics ensured that there was no looking back for him. However, Jasdev Singh opines that his initial years spent in the Boy Scouts movement gave him the initial grounding for taking up commentary with discipline and modulation. "A commentator must have the power of observation, use the right words and must anticipate the mood so that he can gave the audience what they want,'' says the veteran commentator. "Above all, a commentator must read a lot and should keep on writing,'' says the man with the golden voice who has also been a prolific writer of his times.

While Jasdev Singh has given commentaries on all occasions, it is the sports commentaries that made him a household name. "Mein Jasdev Singh Bol Raha Hoon... '' is a voice that still remains etched in the minds of millions and, therefore, that became the title of his autobiography which he wrote three years ago. "A commentator should get excited with the game but should pause whenever he is describing a development like some batsman getting out in cricket or someone scoring a goal in hockey. The speed and clarity of voice are also important.''

Having given commentaries in the maximum number of Asian Games and Olympics -- a feat which finds a mention in the Limca Book of Records -- Jasdev Singh feels that training in giving commentary is very important but the field is presently being ignored. During his long stint with All India Radio and Doordarshan, he had an opportunity to train commentators in Sri Lanka. "A commentary has to be laced with a lot of humour and many anecdotes. And above all, commentators should try and be original.''

A veteran of more than 400 commentaries, Jasdev Singh still continues to be highly sought after, especially for giving public address commentaries. And having tried his hand at making films and documentaries and even acting in a film in which he played himself, Jasdev's natural talent continues to find new avenues to express itself. "I was invited by the Jammu and Kashmir police earlier this year during the presentation of the ceremonial colours by the President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. And I still do a lot of compering,'' says the commentator for all seasons.

Photo: R.V. Moorthy

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