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The soul of ‘Binaca Geetmala’, legendary Ameen Sayani bids final adieu

Mumbai, Feb 21 (IANS) The legendary radio host Ameen Sayani – who ruled the airwaves and lorded over the hearts of millions of “Behno aur Bhaiyon” in the Indian subcontinent and neighbouring countries – fell silent forever following a cardiac arrest at the age of 91.

Ameen Sayani is survived by his son Rajil and several grandchildren.

Sayani suffered a heart attack late on Tuesday and was rushed to the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Nana Chowk where he breathed his last.

“His mortal remains shall be kept for people to pay their last respects at Famous Studios, Mahalaxmi followed by the funeral,” said Rajil Sayani in a statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur, Maharashtra Governor Ramesh Bais, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and other bigwigs from the political and entertainment fraternity paid tributes and offered condolences to Sayani’s family.

The country’s first celebrity Radio Jockey’s iconic lines “Namaskar Behno aur Bhaiyon! Main aapka dost Ameen Sayani bol raha hoon..!” became embedded in the hearts of millions, spanning several generations, and remain an unparalleled radio greeting even today.

Sayani became a household name with the country’s first popular countdown show of top Bollywood songs on Radio Ceylon (now Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation) and then on All India Radio (AIR).

“One of the greatest radio presenters, Ameen Sayani has passed away. He was the iconic presenter of the popular radio show ‘Binaca Geetmala’,” the AkashvaniAIR said in a tribute to renowned radio presenter on Wednesday.

An acclaimed communicator, a voiceover artiste par excellence and an unmatched storyteller, Sayani also had a great sense of humour, and over the decades, his voice became synonymous with the golden era of Indian radio.

This was long before the airwaves were unshackled and a young breed of RJs grabbed the studio microphones.

Born on December 21, 1932 in Mumbai, he was educated at St. Xavier’s College, and started working for Radio Ceylon from 1951. Sayani went on to create a mammoth record of presenting-hosting over 54,000 radio programmes, and more than 19,000 spots or jingles, and appearing as himself in several Hindi films.

Initially, he would help his mother Kulsum Sayani edit a fortnightly multilingual journal ‘Rahber’ initiated by Mahatma Gandhi, while his elder brother Hamid Sayani was an equally famed English broadcaster.

Starting with the ‘Binaca Geetmala’ (later ‘Cibaca Geetmala’, ‘Hit Parade’ and revived as ‘Colgate Cibaca Geetmala’), the programme ruled the roost for 42 years from 1952-1994.

There, in his mesmerising voice, Sayani presented the week’s top Bollywood songs, in a countdown, with the grand finale to the top song (‘Aur pehle paidaan par hai…!”) for which his enthralled audiences laid bets, screamed and celebrated when they were proved right.

Sayani also contributed to many English programmes at AIR for a decade before concentrating fully on Hindi programming and carved a permanent niche in the hearts of his audiences, despite the measly payments of that era.

Through the ‘Geetmala’ series, Sayani also helped popularise Hindi film music among the masses through the humble ‘family radio’, especially for those who couldn’t afford the expensive gramophone players and the record discs.

Later, Sayani presented popular shows like ‘S Kumar ka Filmi Muqaddama’ and ‘Filmi Mulaqaat’ on AIR and Vivid Bharati, and also the ‘Bournvita Quiz Contest’ which he took over from his brother, after his demise in 1975, and a 13-episode public awareness radio-serial in the format of plays based on actual HIV/AIDS cases.

Other major shows included: ‘Sangeet Ke Sitaron Ki Mehfil’, ‘Shalimar Superlac Jodi’, ‘Saridon Ke Saathi’, and later several volumes of the ‘Geetmala’ programmes series like ‘Geetmala Ki Chhaon Mein’, which proved to be equally popular.

He also did radio series for the BBC’s ethnic network in the United Kingdom, Sunrise Radio in London, UAE’s Radio Asia and Radio Ummal Quwain, several radio networks in Canada, USA, Africa and others.

With his popularity transcending national boundaries, Sayani went onto host more than 2000 live stage shows and events like beauty pageants, international film festivals, fashion shows or others, in India and around the world, where the audiences hung on to each word he uttered.

Sayani was conferred the Padma Shri (2009), the Hindi Ratna Puraskar (2007), IAAFA’s Hall of Fame Award, besides many other awards and honours.

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