Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Legendary Ameen Sayani no more

Most Indians of my age (75 years) must have grown up listening to the golden voice of Ameen Sayani, the presenter of Binaca Geetmala in Radio ceylon. The immortal voice has reached the heaven on 20 February 2024 peacefully at the age of 91. Rajil Sayani, Ameen’s son, said his father had a heart attack on Tuesday and died while being taken to hospital. “Namaskar behno aur bhaiyon, main aapka dost Ameen Sayani bol raha hoon….” are unforgettable words from the great wordsmith. The millifluous iconic voice that serenaded generations of Indians when radio reigned supreme is no more.

Ameen Sayani, the golden voice of India

Born on 21 December 1932, Sayani’s journey began with Gujarati and not Hindi in which he became a legendary figure. It was Ameen’s elder brother Hameed who introduced him to All India Radio in Mumbai. It was in 1952 that Ameen started hosting Binaca Geetmala, his signature, for Radio Ceylon. Earlier he was lending his voice to children’s plays and taking part in radio plays. His ability to seamlessly weave and meticulously render commentary interspersed with film music and humour made him a famous and adorable artiste. The anectodes added to his range. Ameen and Hameed were working for Radio Advertising Services which produced programmes for Radio Ceylon at a time when film music in AIR was banned. Ameen used to write script, present and produce audio pool about popular Hindi songs. The pool was sent by air to Colombo where it was aired. The show was a stupendous success and it ran for 42 incredible years till 1994. The wonders TV did in 1980s and smart phone in 2000 were done by radio in 1950s to 1970s.

Every listener used to feel that the anchor was addressing him. That was the kind of relationship Sayani built with his listeners. It was a bond of friendship. Though he started his radio journey in English, in which was impeccable, he shifted to Hindi never to leave. Sayani revealed that his choice of Hindi was made on the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. He was only 14 at that time. But he thought Hindi is the language that unites the young democracy and he can work through larger numbers. He used to repeatedly say that he was a Gandhian.

Ameen Sayani with his Hyderabad friend Ranjan Sharma

Sayani met his future wife Rama Mattoo, a Kashmiri girl, at AIR. She was also fond of music. She was working as a singer and voice artiste. The way he started his interviews of Hindi film heroins with a mischievous “Shuru Karain…” was both teasing and heartening. Those were the days when Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh were echoing in every home. He used to close his shows with ‘namaskar, shubh ratri and shabba khair.’

Sayani went beyong entertainment. He worked for social causes, natioanl integration and women empowerment. Programmes such as ‘Sunday Suspence,’ and ‘Charcha Pe Charcha’ were anchored by him. He worked for many movies such as Bhoot Bangla, Teen Devian etc. He was awarded Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. Sayani has left us but his voice remains with us for ever.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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