Many hundreds of blue moons ago, the Mayans, who peopled a great civilization in central America, predicted that on 21.12.2012, the world would come to an end. Their brilliant mathematicians played with figures and finally arrived at that date. As we saw, no such apocalypse happened. Many other things did happen on that day, however—as indeed they do everyday—and these have been chronicled in a variety of places.
For one extraordinary man, however, it was a significant date. It was his 80th birthday. Not that he would prefer us to know, much less celebrate it, because even if he spent all his life broadcasting and publicizing, he is an intensely shy individual, shunning his own broadcast and publicity! That man is Ameen Sayani.
For those of you who are too young or for some reason don’t recognize Ameen Sayani on your radar, he is the man who hosts a radio show in Mumbai every week, Sundays at 12 noon, and 9 pm. Apart from that, he continues to have such shows beamed out by radio stations in many cities in India and the world. Even that doesn’t add up to greatness until you zoom in into his career and find that he has been at it for over 60 years now! Yes, that’s not a typo, it’s sixty years—since December 1952, that Binaca Geet Mala started broadcasting the Hindi Film song hit-parade, with the 20-year-old Ameen’s voice travelling over the waters into India, East and West Pakistan, and even parts of Africa! Behno aur Bhaiyo, the trademark opening lines in his rich baritone voice went…for those if us lucky enough to have tuned in on Wednesday nights at 8 pm, it was a heart-throbbing experience!
Just the documented fact that he has been broadcasting—with minor interruptions—for 60 years, itself urges us to request the Guinness authorities to find him a place in their book of records. For surely, such a number cannot be beaten, can it?
Ameen Sayani went on to do many other things in his long career. He ran publicity campaigns for dozens of films, he hosted hundreds of stage shows for music and beauty, he conducted countless advertising workshops, and more recently, he has been putting out on CDs his retro music and interviews of exceptional songs that did not bust the charts, but were worthy contenders. These CD sets are called Geetmala Ki Chhaon Mein.
I have had the good fortune of being in close contact with this amazing personality for years now—he has been an inspiration for my books, and also been involved with them one way or another. That proximity has often furnished me with a ring-side view of this quite exceptional man who has spent his lifetime in the entertainment industry. Of his scripting all his shows himself, labouring over syntax. Of his voice and style, his understanding of where to stress for a comma or stop. The breath control, the inflections, what have you. He does that as painstakingly today as he did a half-century back, and the voice is just the same! No age-related tremolo, the highs and lows intact. The richness very much around too. It’s a marvel.
The Mayans got it wrong when they put out those figures. To us Indians, that seems like a Maya, an illusion! Many of us find more meaning in the numbers 100:80:60. Hundred years of our cinema, eighty years of Ameen Sayani, and sixty years of exceptional broadcasting for this remarkable man!
(Originally published in the Jan-Feb 2013 issue of Enlighten India)
Video: Audio snatches of the top geetmala song, each year from 1953 to 2000
Ameen Sayani is a legend, most known for his interviews with film personalities and Geetmalas (Hindi cinema’s hits in countdown); he has the enviable record of being the world’s longest performing radio host, barring interruptions, from December 1952 till late 2016.