Dear Mahendra Modiji, It was a great pleasure meeting you recently. I am e-mailing this article that appeared in the Northern India Patrika, Allahabad in the weekly Media Musings Movie Montage’ column on Sunday 29th June, 2008. You will recall that I used to write this column when you were posted here. It has been continuing since then. Regards.- V.S.DATTA, Editor, NIP, Allahabad.
MAHENDRA MODI SPEAKS.
Vividh Bharti determined to face the challenge of rival FM channels
Undaunted by the arrival of different rival FM channels, Vividh Bharti is determined to further strengthen its grip on radio listeners and is currently going all out to fortify and tighten further its monopolistic hold on presentations of the vintage era. That is a sphere in which the rival FM channels are woefully lacking – the field of old film music, classic non-film music and the rest of it.They have already increased the duration of ‘Bhoole bisre geet’ from half hour(7-7.30am) to one hour (6.30—7.30 am). Vividh Bharti is seeking the cooperation of possessors of vintage records in various ways. And I would say that this has impressed me but would like to add that if they properly balance their commercial ads with the programmes broadcast and ensure that there is no overlapping, no sacrifice of music at the cost of commercials then Vividh Bharti would certainly remain a matchless and unconquerable radio channel. Another suggestion in this regard is: Stop playing rubbish in the programme of old film songs. They seem to depend on new , young announcers to choose songs that were liked by their grand-parents. They almost invariably fail in this task in which Radio Ceylon excels even though its announcers belong to the younger generation.
I would therefore like Vividh Bharti to select a panel of very old radio listeners. They will be available in plenty in Mumbai. Let them do the selection of the best songs of the respective eras. If Vividh Bharti can go hunting for copies of old discs to different places and cities, why should it not seek expert advice from these very old lovers of music ? By leaving the selection matter to the whims and fancies of youngsters, some among whom cannot differentiate between melody and noise, the Vividh Bharti authorities could be moving on a suicidal course. Unbridled freedom to present Chaya Geets sometimes turns this programme into a cesspool of rejected memories for those who have been listening to the radio since the past several decades. Vividh Bharti cannot afford to squander away the vintage capital it has by leaving it into the hands of those whose knowledge and interest, abilities and initiatives, are confined to the narrow grooves of their personal likes and dislikes shaped by ignorance and inexperience, if not by bias and prejudice.
But Mahendra Modi, one of the top men looking after Vividh Bharti, should succeed in laying stress on research-oriented presentations rather than allowing their vintage treasures to be insulted and slighted by those who know not what they do.
I shared my views with Mahendra Modi,when he was in Allahabad the other day and would say that I got good response from him. Modi, formerly a programme executive, AIR Allahabad, and now Assistant Station Director, all-India Vividh Bharti service, Mumbai, was in Allahabad last week. I was pleasantly taken aback when he called at my place. He used to look after the Yuv Vani programme, English talks and also the Music section. I had known him quite closely. On a number of occasions he visited the Patrika office too, to meet the then editor Mr S.K.Bose and me. . If we assess the importance of a post with the popularity of the channel, then Modi could be the most important man – he is presumably acting as SD these days—because Vividh Bharti is undoubtedly the most popular radio channel in the country. You often listen to Modi replying to listeners’ letters in the ‘Patravali’ programme of Vividh Bharti.
Before Modi reached Vividh Bharti Mumbai, he had worked at several important stations of All India Radio. To his wonderful credit it can be said that he has maintained close contacts with the people of all the places where he was posted in the past. He has been increasing the stock of Vividh Bharti’s priceless heritage collections by meeting his former friends in different cities. And one big gain of it – of which we are already aware—was the acquisition of that rarest of the rare songs personally sung by Raj Kapoor in ‘Dil ki Rani’ ‘—kahan gaya chitchor’. This song was played on Raj Kapoor’s death anniversary. I congratulated him and told him that till now only Radio Ceylon had it. Modi told me that he got this from a listener in Rajasthan who had permitted them to make a copy of it.
The biggest surprise sprung on me by Modi was that Master Madan had cut about six or seven discs and not just one. The most popular among them was the one in which he had rendered those two gems, ‘Yun na reh reh kar hamen tarsaiye’ and ‘Hairat se tak raha hai jahan-e-wafa mujhe, tum ne bana diya hai muhabbat mein kya mujhe’ But I personally have two more of his songs on one disc—both thumris. However Modi told me that when he met a great collector of old records in Jodhpur, he contradicted Jagjit Singh’s statement that Master Madan had recorded only just two songs. Modi revealed that the Jodhpur music lover ‘showed me those discs and allowed us to make copies of it’. He said, ‘There are among those discs some ghazals which were subsequently sung by Ghulam Ali and others’. When I asked him when these would be broadcast, he said, ‘I have asked Kamal Sharma to present a special feature on him’. That I think will indeed be something great. Master Madan , I am told, was found dead in a train while travelling between Delhi and Lahore before the independence of the country.
After having listened to him I brought to his notice some of the drawbacks that I have noted. I told him, ‘When we send you letters to say that you have been making wrong announcements,. You do not take notice’. I told him, ‘You have been broadcasting that ‘Panchi kahe hot udas’ of Saigal is from the film ‘My Sister’ when that is not so. It is a non-film song. The same holds true of ‘Duniya mein hoon duniya ka talabgar nahin hoon’ but the correction is not made’. I told him, ‘If we send such information to Radio Ceylon they immediately accept it and also broadcast it’. I gave him one instance about that memorable song from film ‘Ram Rajya, -- ‘Bina madhur madhur kachchu bol’. Radio Ceylon had been saying for decades that it was sung by Raj Kumarai. But when they were informed that the song was sung by Saraswati Rane, they immediately corrected the mistake. When we drew their attention to the fact that Rafi sings the extra line – the last line – in ‘Mere sapno ki rani’ song of film ‘Shah Jehan’ rendered in the lead by Saigal, Radio Ceylon immediately noted the fact and started announcing Rafi’s name. But Vividh Bharti fights shy of doing so even when Naushad had personalaly told the channel how Rafi forced him to give him a line to sing with the legendary singer.
I also told Modi: ‘Your announcers do not listen to a song. They read out what is mentioned there on th label’. I said, ‘While playing the song, ‘Do dilon ko ye duniya milnen nahin deti’ they say that the singers are Manju and Uma Devi. If you listen to the song it is only Manju’s voice that you hear.’ I told him,, ‘When your announcers present a special programme on Uma Devi, they say that she made her debut with film ‘Dard’ in 1947. If that be so, how could she have sung the song with Manju in film Chand which was released two or three years earlier ? ‘ I told him, ‘The same blunder they commit while playing the solo of Meena Klapoor, ‘Meri atariya pe kaaga bole mora jiya dole koin aa raha hai’ There is no second voice. Even so they club Uma Devi’s name with Meena Kapoor’.
Then I referred to the ‘Bhoole bisre geet’ and said : ‘Your announcers select the still-born songs of Rafi. They insult the great singer by picking such songs and playing them one after another’. I then gave him an example to stress the absurdity of all this: ‘Assuming that Doordarshan were presenting a documentary on Sunil Gavaskar. How odd it would seem if they were to select only those innings of his to telecast in which he had scored a zero ?’ I said, ‘The Rafi songs which they pick are of the ‘zero’ category. Why don’t they play Rafi’s songs from hundreds of hit numbers that he had recorded ?’ Modi liked the example I gave about Gavaskar and said, ‘I will narrate this to members of my staff’
I then referred to the ‘Chaya Geet’ programme. I told him, ‘Here again some of your announcers turn ‘Chhaya Geet’ into ‘Rafi ke geet’. I even gave the name of an announcer – probably some Tripathi. ‘The other day when I listened to Chaya Geet I found he played mostly Rafi’s songs’. I suggested, ‘They must give variety and include best songs of all top singers instead of just concentrating on one. Not all would like to hear just one singer no matter how much they adore him’ Mahendra Modi said, ‘You know, in Chaya Geet programme we do not interfere. The announcer playing the songs is given full freedom to make his choice.’ I told Modi, ‘Well if that is the norm, I will not ask you to change it. But you can certainly change the announcer if not his choice and select such an announcer who will realize that he is presenting the programmen not to himself but to the entire country’. I praised Kamal Sharma’s recent ‘Chaya Geet’ . It was more broad-based. Yhe best presentation is that where the announcer does not give away his favorite choice. The stress should be on good songs irrespective of the singer. Modi smiled. Woud you believe it ? He looked as young and handsome – may be more smart – as he looked when he was here decades ago?
I complimented Modiji for introducing Saigal’s song as the last number daily towards the end of their ‘Bhoole bisre geet’ programme. I told him, ‘If you remember you brought about this change and you did so on my request’. He smiled and said, ‘Yes, I do’. But I told him, ‘Very often when Saigal’s immoprtal gems are being played, you cut short the song as the time is up. That gives a big jolt to Saigal fans’. I told him, ‘When a less popular song of Saigal is being played, like the one from film Omar Khayyam, the whole song is played even though it is on two sides. But when ‘Ai qatib-e-taqdeer’ is on, the axe falls. Can’t you ask them to cut short a previous number but not Saigal because many listeners reach their radio sets closer to listen to the golden voice of the great singer.
Modi did give me technical reasons for this.But if we can reach the moon, why can’t we overcome these technical lapses ? But the thorough gentleman that he is, he agreed that this should not happen.
There were lots of other things that we discussed. He had actually called at Raja Zutshi’s residence and from there contacted me on phone to ask whether he could meet me for five minutes. ‘By all meanjs’ I told him. How those five minutes turnedb into 55 minutes I cannot say. But I am quite sure of one thing. That if AIR has such hardworking and enthusiastic officers who love their profession and work most sincerely and dedicatedly. the Radio will live. And if Modi starts the tradition of meeting the people and being responsive to their criticisms and suggestions there is every reason to hope that All India Radio will recover from the setback that it has suffered at the hands of callous and indifferent producers and heartless station directors who have murdered the body and soul of broadcasting and set it aflame on the pyre of commercialism. When the broadcasting was in its infancy broadcasters used to run all over the country bringing to the radio such gems as are remembered till today. But when technology took AIR to great heights the programming collapsed. It came crashing down. We need men like Mahendra Modi to rescue broadcasting from the jaws of death – for death is certain if radio does not mend itself and pumps money to improve the broadcasting system. They have air-conditioned cars to move about but the studios are not getting talent any more because they cannot pay them. How can they if money is diverted to the purchase of Acs and cars and providing posh accommodation for good-for-nothing bosses - the exceptions only proving the rule?