ABCI inspires the re-launch of Radio Ceylon Hindi music service

Radio Ceylon has a legacy of over Six decades. The Hindi Broadcasting Service of the station was launched in the early 1950s. The station employed some of the most popular Indian announcers who played a vital role in shaping up the fortunes of Radio Ceylon as the 'King of the Airwaves' in South Asia. Some of the most popular announcers were engaged by Vijay Kishore Dubey. Mr. Gopal Sharma, Shiv Kumar Saroj the actor turned Sunil Dutt, who started his career as an announcer of Radio Ceylon and of-course, no one can forget Mr. Ameen Sayani the most popular Radio announcer by using Radio Ceylon for broadcasting programmes like Binaca Geetmala from 1952 to 1988. Ironically, Ameenbhai's voice was rejected by the All India Radio just as Amitabh Bachhan's. It was then Radio Ceylon, who first gave an opportunity to Ameenbhai to start a programme and the rest is history.

What captured the Indian listener were the film songs, that were composed in the Golden Era of Hindi Film Music in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and to some what extend in 1970s. Radio Ceylon was at the right place at the right time to reach out to the target audience of millions of listeners from India, Pakistan & Gulf. The Radio Station popularised the movie songs, including the talents of playback singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and of-course, K L Saigal. It was a brilliant move by Radio Ceylon as the Hindi Film Music was banned by the All India Radio. Thousands of record of Hindi Film Music had just one place for broadcast, i.e. Radio Ceylon and every Recording Company like His Master's Voice (HMV) or Columbia Records, started sending complimentary copies of its new records to Radio Ceylon. It is most unfortunate, that many of the records even today, All India Radio do not have in their collection. Truly, the treasure of Indian Film Music has been preserved by the Radio Ceylon who was also the pioneer in broadcasting the same. This led to increase in listenership for radio programmes aired from Radio Ceylon, such as Binaca Geetmala that had a captive audience and had attracted millions of Indians. It was for Four Decades that Hindi film Music was at its peak. It was truly, the Golden Age of Hindi Film Music in the 40s, 50s, 60s & 70s when great lyricists, composers and singers came up together with their outstanding creative talent to produce a song that will have an ever lasting impact. During the airing of Binaca Geetmala programme, on every Wednesday evening, one would observe a self-proclaimed curfew on the Indian streets. The Radio Ceylon is estimated to have 5 Crores of Hindi listeners from across globe even today. The programmes like "Ek Aur Anek", "Purani Filmonke Geet", "Ekhi Filmke Geet", "Apphi Ke Geet"; based on Farmaish and the Binaca Geetmala, were the most popular programmes catching-up the attention of Indian listeners. Places like Irani restaurants in the city of Bombay used to tune-on to Radio Ceylon Station on Shortwave, every morning and evening catering to the dedicated customers of the restaurants who were also dedicated listeners of Radio Ceylon. Ek Special Chai, Bun Maska with an egg omelet with a newspaper and a background music of Radio Ceylon would be the typical scene one would see in an Irani Restaurant those days. In the later years, due to increased popularity of Hindi Film Music, Irani restaurants introduced a Juke Box, a machine that would play 3 records of 78rpm wherein songs of your choice can be played by paying a nominal charge by way of inserting a coin in the Juke box and pressing buttons of record numbers, that they were wanting to listen to. In-spite of all these things, there was no fall in the listenership of Radio Ceylon. Those were the nostalgic days last over for over Four Decades. Listeners had a bond of emotional ties with the Announcers of Radio and would at times treat them like their family members or family friends. Places like Zumri Talaiya, Nanded, at times were best known to people for their farmaish on Radio Ceylon.

However, due to some problems, the Hindi Broadcasting Service was terminated all of a sudden in April, 2008 and it broke hearts of millions of the listeners of Radio Ceylon from India and also from the neighbouring countries. Several listeners have started writing letters after letters at various levels to Radio Ceylon. Listeners like Mr. Kumar Nawathe, from Mumbai, Mr. Sudhir Moghe from Puna, Mr. Arvind Ketkar from Indore, had actually visited Radio Ceylon, Colombo, by flying to Sri Lanka. There would be hundreds of calls, letters queueing up over fax machine of Radio Ceylon, thousands of e-mails, or even listeners of Radio Ceylon signing-up a letter in thousands and sending it to the Chiarman, SLBC, with request to relaunch the Hindi Broadcasting Service for daily morning and evening for Two Hours. However, nothing moved-up. For a little while, the radio station started a programme called Namaste India, but soon that too was closed down. Mr. Kailash Shukla from Indore wrote letters at various levels and made a continuous follow-up even through the embassy of Sri Lanka at New Delhi, India. However, the big break for all listeners came up after Four Years when ABCI came in to picture.

In the pursuit to recognise and reward the contribution of Communication Professionals, ABCI invited Mr. Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, (SLBC), erstwhile Radio Ceylon, last year to India. He was one of the Elite Personality to be felicitated at the 51st Annual Awards Nite of ABCI, for his contribution in the field of Radio, which is one of the strongest means of communication. Mr. Samarasinghe is an outspoken and visionary personality. ABCI was watching him for two years before deciding to confer upon him with an Award in Excellence in Strategic Business Communications. Mr. Samarasinghe's efforts to raise the bar of SLBC is outstanding and his thought process in terms of how this entity can be self- sustaining for centuries together has no end. ABCI invited him through Mr. Buddhika Perera, an acquaintance of the President, ABCI. After going through the formalities of obtaining necessary approvals from the concerned authorities, Mr. Samarasinghe, agreed to be in Mumbai to receive the honour. A day prior to the Annual Awards, he spoke during ComFest 10, as a Guest Speaker on Thursday, 10th November, 2011. Soon after his speech, fans of Radio Ceylon, who turned out in large numbers, greeted him and demanded to relaunch the Hindi Broadcasting Service. However, there was no commitment from his side.

The next day, i.e. 11th November, 2011, during the 51st Annual Awards Nite of ABCI, screening of a short audio-visual film that ABCI produced on Mr. Samarasinghe was done, before he was invited to receive the honour at the hands of the Chief Guest, who is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, i.e Upper House, recipient of India's Second Highest Civilian Honour, Padma Vibhushan, Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, Father of Green Revolution in India, a Magsaysay Awardee, and also a winner of the World Food Prize, that is considered as an alternate Noble Prize. In his speech, Dr. Swaminathan admitted the role of Radio as a powerful medium of communication and also recollected the role that Radio played during the days of Green Revolution as most of the Indian farmers would have it. One could see tears of joy in the eyes of Mr. Samarasinghe. To commemorate the occasion, ABCI specially requested one of its Life Time Achievement Awardees, whose name is synonyms to Radio Ceylon, Mr. Ameen Sayani, to join on the dais along with the Chairman, SLBC. Members who have attended the event will always cherish the memories of the Awards Ceremony. You can watch the video on the home page of ABCI Website that ABCI is playing as a special honour to Chairman, SLBC. Mrs. Samarasinghe was also invited by ABCI to witness the ceremony. After the colourful Awards ceremony was over, Mr. Samarasinghe was once again greeted by thousands of ABCI members and also by the fans of SLBC. It was at that moment, all fans of SLBC requested the President, ABCI, to mediate with the Chairman, SLBC, for relaunch of its Hindi Broadcasting Service. The President, ABCI, himself, has undergone a training in Indian Classical Vocal Music for 21 years, winner of the National Award in Classical Music, student of Mr. Ameen Sayani, while the President ABCI, was undergoing a post-graduation in Mass Communications from XIC, Bombay, and also a great fan of old Hindi Film Music. After having a dinner and just before Mr. Samarasinghe would leave for the International Airport for return journey to his motherland Sri Lanka, he asked the President ABCI, if he can do something for you. "I don't want anything for myself, but kindly relaunch the Hindi Broadcasting Service morning and evening like good old days" President immediately replied. Mr. Samarasinghe smiled and said, "Give me Six Months, I will certainly do my best to restart the Hindi Service" People around him were excited on listening to his promise. Follow-ups and chasing-up of the matter continued occasionally in form of greeting him on the New Year and other such occasions and reminding him of relaunch of Hindi Broadcasting Service.

It was on Tuesday, 17th April, 2012, in the morning hours, the President ABCI, received a call from Mr. Samarasinghe, Chairman, SLBC, intimating the relaunch of Hindi Broadcasting Service from Thursday, 19th April, 2012, on daily basis in the morning and also evening for two hours as it was in the past. As the message has gone across the nation, people started celebrations. Mr. Arvind Hambarde, a 70 years old person from Amaravati of Maharashtra State, garlanded the radio at 06.45am on 19th April, 2012, distributed sweets and celebrated the relaunch of Hindi Broadcasting Service. The President, ABCI, received more than 250 calls from Sri Nagar to Bellari, Hyderabad to Haridwar, Calcutta to Calicut, congratulating him on being instrumental in relaunching the Hindi Broadcasting Service of SLBC, that was a feast to the hardcore listeners of Radio Ceylon. There were more than 100 sms also received by ABCI President. People from the neighbouring countries also called him and congratulated him. Mr. Zafar Khan from Dallas, USA, called the President ABCI, and spoke to him over phone for 45minutes and congratulated him. Mr. Zafar Khan listens to both transmissions, i.e. morning as well as evening transmission of Hindi Broadcasting Service of Radio Ceylon on Internet. On 19th April, 2012, as the Hindi Broadcasting Service started again, the Chairman's message was read out addressing to all listeners worldwide and especially for those from India as it is a land of Gautam Buddha. It was understood that time, that Sri Lanka also believes in some auspicious time called as "Mahurat", in India, to start a new venture. At 08.17am, the SLBC aired the audio part of the audio-visual that ABCI produced on the Chairman SLBC. This was followed by the announcement that the Chairman SLBC, specially thanking the President ABCI, by referring to his mail. It was thus, clear that the communication was aimed at ABCI who have played a significant role in relaunch of Hindi Broadcasting Service.

It was indeed a prideful moment for ABCI, that its contribution has visible effects and that everybody is not only acknowledging the contribution but also saluting it. "It is a very fulfilling and most satisfying day of my life as I could be of some help to millions of Indians" describes the President ABCI. We at ABCI felt that, the achievement is worth bringing it to the notice of ABCI members while exemplify the power communications. Some people referred to it as a communication diplomacy. However, ultimately, it is a fact, that the relaunch of Hindi Broadcasting Service of Radio Ceylon could take place because of the significant efforts of ABCI. Thats the power of ABCI !!!!

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