| Rewind, replay: Uday Shankar on air, Pele being mobbed at Calcutta airport, Cliff Richard at Bengal Club
“I don’t belong here. But I was born here…” The voice on Akashvani is that of the Summer Holiday man. The date of the interview — December 7, 1976. The time of the replayed broadcast — 12 noon, August 26, 2002, on FM1.
Cliff Richard was here in Calcutta on a winter holiday to meet Mother Teresa when he chatted up All India Radio (AIR). So did soccer king Pele during his 1977 trip. For those of us who missed out the interviews then, Akashvani is giving listeners a second chance. AIR, Calcutta, is turning 75 this Monday and the second oldest radio station in the country is unplugging its archives for a week-long audio treat.
“We have nearly 10,000 programmes in our archives. It’s an enormous task to reorganise the material and play select pieces,” says station director Asim Kumar Rej. The week-long celebrations were aired off on Tuesday with Rabindrasangeet by Pankaj Mullick and a kheyal recital by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, recorded at the AIR studio.
The radio schedule now is a collage of the past and the present. “We’ve chosen some prime-time slots to play the archival programmes alongside the current-affairs items,” Rej explains. On Calcutta A, for instance, the 8 am slot is reserved for interviews, while 8.30 am is a time for Indian classical music and 8 pm for theatre. The plays lined up are Tahar Naamti Ranjana, a Sambhu Mitra-Tripti Mitra classic on Friday, D. L. Roy’s Chandragupta, a Birendra Krishna Bhadra production, on Saturday, Ritwik Ghatak’s Jwala, a story on refugees which the maestro both wrote and produced, on Sunday and Badal Sarkar’s Ebang Indrajeet on Monday. The FM1 station will also be airing vintage theatre productions like Tripti Mitra’s Phatikchand on Friday and Samaresh Bose’s Tarani Majhi on Saturday, at 2 pm. The plays are based on stories by Satyajit Ray and Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay respectively.
Western music buffs can share the favourites of celebrities in a programme on FM1 (Monday, 9 pm). “We will play snatches of our recordings of My Kind of Music, one of our popular programmes of yesteryear. There will be Ray and Aparna Sen playing their favourite Western classical compositions and Ananda Shankar talking about fusion music,” says Ratna Sen, an AIR veteran of 28 years.
The interview slot features a galaxy of names — from Mother Teresa and S.N. Bose (Friday) to Nandalal Bose and Indra Dugar (Sunday) to Raichand Boral and Bikash Roy (Monday). A must tune-in is Tripti Mitra chatting up, close and personal with Uday Shankar about Paris, Anna Pavlova and creative dance, on Sunday.
Recalls Binoy Ghosh, assistant station director, who was part of the commentary broadcasting team for the Cosmos versus Mohun Bagan match at Eden Gardens: “There was a mad rush to see Pele. The Rs-300 tickets had been sold out and Eden was packed to capacity. Anticipating the mood, Pele moved closer to the sidelines beside the exit as the match progressed towards the final whistle to avoid being mobbed. But our newsreel director Upen Tarafdar managed to get 15 minutes with him after the match at the Grand. He took questions on the footballing standard of Mohun Bagan, the Calcutta crowd, as well his life.” The Pele interview goes on air on Saturday.
Getting Cliff Richard to speak was easier. “He was very co-operative and spoke crisply,” recounts Bulbul Sarkar, who interviewed the Lucknow-born Peter Pan of pop.
With the crucial down-memory-week underway, officials are busy recording messages from politicians, musicians and writers associated with AIR, Calcutta. “These will be played as interludes between programmes. Many like Ravi Shankar, Girija Devi and Kishen Maharaj have spoken. We are contacting Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. The list is long and rich,” Rej smiles. We are talking platinum here.