Ameen Sayani is a legend; his passing away leaves an unfillable void

When Ameen Sayani passed away recently he left behind him a legion of grieving fans. Rarely does any man capture an entire nation with the mellifluous tonal quality of his voice on the radio. But Ameen Sayani was able to do just that. His voice conveyed so many things to so many people.

His diction was perfect and his voice created an ambiance of refined culture, tradition, and charm. But above all, he had a deep empathy towards all his listeners. He brought out programmes that were captivating and kept the listeners engrossed from start to finish.

The story of his rise began in 1952 when the Minister for Information and Broadcasting was a man named B V Keskar. This minister liked only pure classical music and nothing else. In his opinion film songs were immoral and a waste of time. As a result, All India Radio did not play any film songs. He banned cricket commentaries too because he considered cricket a British game that was not in harmony with the Indian ethos.

MS Education Academy

The draconian policies of the minister irked the regular radio listeners who turned away from AIR and tuned in to Radio Ceylon where Ameen Sayani was working wonders. The Binaca Geetmala programme which Sayani hosted on Radio Ceylon became immensely popular. He understood the medium of radio and he knew how to use it very effectively. People waited eagerly for his programmes.

Weekly countdown of popular songs
The programme was a weekly countdown of the topmost Hindi film songs of that week. After the sponsorship changed hands, it became known as the Cibaca Geetmala.

The show also had a rating system for the songs. The popularity was based on record sales, opinions of record store owners, and popularity among the listeners clubs. It was a clever marketing ploy by the radio channel and with the incomparable Ameen Sayani hosting the show, it became unmatched.

The annual chart-toppers
The annual popularity charts were based on points earned by songs throughout the year. In 1953 when the programme completed its first year, the top-ranked song was Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai sung by Lata Mangeshkar in the film Anarkali. In 1954 the most popular song of the year was Jayen To Jayen Kahan sung by Talat Mehmood in the film Taxi Driver. In subsequent years came Mera Joota Hai Japani sung by Mukesh and Aye Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan by Rafi and Geeta Dutt.

Served both listeners and producers
The popularity ratings of the songs also provided a barometer for the music industry to fathom the mood of the listeners. So the programmes served both the listeners and the producers and singers of the songs.

Ameen Sayani was born on 21st December 1932 in a Muslim family belonging to Gujarat which lived in Bombay (now Mumbai). His mother Kulsoom was a freedom fighter who worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi on many projects.

It was his elder brother Hamid who introduced Ameen to the medium of radio. Ameen Sayani rose to fame as a radio presenter mainly due to his charisma, distinctive voice, and uncanny ability to connect with his audience. He seemed to have been born with a natural talent for communication and was able to captivate listeners with his mesmerising voice.

Made radio presentation an art form
Ameen Sayani’s innovative approach to radio programming saw him bringing about a revolution in the field of radio. He turned a presentation into an art form and introduced concepts such as countdown shows and personalized dedications. By incorporating elements of storytelling into his broadcasts, Sayani created an unforgettable experience for his audience, making each show a memorable event.

Sayani’s consistency played a major role in confirming his status as a legendary radio presenter. His enduring popularity was a testament to his exceptional talent.

After his death, many messages poured in from celebrities. Ajay Devgn wrote on Twitter (X): “Binaca Geetmala was such a huge part of my childhood growing up, I still remember waking up to the sweet memories of my favourite Bollywood songs. Rest in peace Ameen Sayani ji. We will always remember your golden voice.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee and others. During his radio career, Ameen Sayani hosted about 58,000 programmes and lent his voice to 19,000 radio jingles. It was an incredible record. The peerless Ameen Sayani is no longer with us but his voice can still be heard whenever one hears the recordings of his old programmes.

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