When film songs were stopped on Akashvani

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Recently, on the occasion of the birth centenary of famous Hindi cinema lyricist Shailendra (1923-1966), the songs written by him were discussed a lot. His songs are deeply connected to life and people. Many songs written in colloquial language and adorned with deep meaning have today taken the form of idioms. After independence, radio played a major role in spreading Hindi film songs in the country and the world. Today, visual media may be at the center of mass communication, but till the 80s of the last century, radio was the main means of connecting with the country and the world and for entertainment. The truth is that in the 50-60s, songs and music took the form of a separate genre in Hindi cinema. In this ‘golden period’ of film music, it is important to look at a chapter of Akashvani (All India Radio), which has remained hidden from the eyes of the common people. In independent India, a government policy had eclipsed the dissemination of film songs on radio. This eclipse lasted from 1952 to 1957.

In October 1952, when Biwi Keskar became the new Information and Broadcasting Minister of the country, he declared that ‘these songs are becoming obscene day by day and are a cocktail of the tunes of western countries.’ At that time, film songs were broadcast from different radio stations for a few hours every day. Keskar issued instructions that Hindi songs would not be broadcasted by the radio station. Considering the popularity of Hindi film songs, this was no less than a shock for the cinema industry. Actually, Keskar wanted to spread classical and accessible music through radio. He used to say that film music has moved away from the Indian musical tradition. He himself was trained in classical music.

On one hand he believed that music expresses people’s emotions, while on the other hand he was distancing people from popular songs and music. Even after proper development of means of communication, today the spread of classical music in the country has been limited to a certain section, whereas film songs and music have reached a large section. After this ban, listeners started searching for other radio stations in search of film songs and music. This was the period when commercial Radio Ceylon (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation) emerged on the horizon, from where mainly films and songs were broadcast. Across the border, Ceylon became a familiar name for film songs in India. People still remember announcer Amin Sayani and ‘Binaka Geetmala’. The number of listeners of Akashvani kept on decreasing, the government was forced to withdraw its orders. Also in the same year, ‘Vividh Bharati (Bombay)’ dedicated to music was also established. In a way, the ban on film songs and music was the puritanical attitude of Kesar and the Government of India, which seemed to be very eager to create ‘nation’ and ‘citizen’.

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