The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Festive fare on beam & air: firsts, past picks

It’s a different tune the Calcutta wings of Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) are singing this season. After years of sitting back, they are now ready to take on the private players, both on TV and FM, in the fight for eyeballs and eardrums.

Packing in dollops of entertainment and information, the two are rolling out a slew of Puja-oriented programmes under the umbrella of the newly-formed marketing division of Prasar Bharati.

Overhauling the transmission pattern for the Pujas, DD has embarked on a concerted effort to cash in on the festive mood with many firsts. “We have planned the utsav transmission in such a way that it slowly picks up momentum and reaches a peak by Dashami. The pace starts slowing down from then, but is dragged on till Diwali,” says station director, Calcutta, Pankaj Saha.

The line-up, kicked off late on September 18, encapsulates the gamut of puja-centric music, audio plays, jatra, literature, cuisine and business, spiced up with celeb talk, live telecast from pandals and, of course, films.

“Pujor Byabsha is one of the new programmes we have conceived. This slot will outline the huge industry that functions behind the scenes of the Puja euphoria. From garments to footwear and sweets, we are trying to focus on the varied aspects of production, profits and trends,” elucidates Saha.

For the discerning viewer, there will be research-based documentary features on the changing trends in idols, lighting and pandals, on the dhakis and their dhols, or, say, a peek into the otherwise bustling Dalhousie Square, wearing a deserted look on Ashtami.

One of the top draws, Saha expects, will be the live telecast of the Dashami bhashan on both banks of the Ichhamati — where both Indians and Bangladeshis immerse Durga idols — and in the Ganga the day after. The transmission of kumari pujo from Belur Math on all five days will be an added attraction.

Almost in line with the DD novelties, the AIR bouquet, too, is a mix of all things festive, but with a dash of nostalgia. “Of the new items we are introducing this year is a documentary on Durga Puja in Calcutta. This is largely a research-based programme tracing the history of the Pujas, enriched with several interesting anecdotes. This will be aired on Nabami. For Saptami, we have put together Shei Somoy, Shei Gaan, which will be a recap of some memorable scores. A programme on folk music has been lined up for Ashtami,” says AIR station director Ashim Rej.

Fresh Puja songs, composed by the likes of Jatileswar Mukhopadhyay and Kalyan Sen Barat, are being recorded with Nirmala Misra, Sriradha Bandyopadhyay, Monomoy Bhattacharya, Amit Ganguly and others. They will be on air on both FM Rainbow and Calcutta primary channels. Also on the list of firsts is the Listeners’ Choice programme, where those tuning in will be able to vote the Shera Pujor Prangan over telephone, cellphone and e-mail from Saptami to Nabami.

This apart, AIR has prepared a special jatra package, to be aired for a week, starting Sashthi. Rej is optimistic that the on-the-spot quiz contest, with radio jockeys firing questions at pandal-hoppers, will be a hit among listeners.

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