The familar sound of "Idhu Akila India Vaanoli Nailayam. Neengal kettukondiruppadhu Aakaasavaniyin thamizh olipaparappu. Seidhigal vaasipadhu K Raja." filled the air everyday morning in the Valve radio at my grandparents home. My grand father has the habit of listening to news on the radio every morning.
AIR is known notoriously these days for having rejected Amitabh Bachchan because his voice was not good. But for the older generation it was the only source of fast news. The news of India gaining Independence, Mahatma Gandhi’s death and other important events were telecast only through Radio. Also, it was the only source of entertainment in the 70s. Paattukku Paattu on Radio Ceylon by B H Abdul Hameed seems to have had a great fan following.
I for one have always admired the radio. I consider it as one of the greatest inventions. It seemed a marvel to me as a child that a small box could conjure voices out of thin air and deliver it at the same time everywhere. Even after growing up and knowing Radio Waves and Ionosphere, Wireless Radio (Kambi Illa Thandhi) is always a fascinating thing for me to marvel at. Listening to Radio and reading books gave me the scope for imagination. When some one was talking about a king on radio, I would visualise a king and not restrict myself as I would when I see a picture.
I had the distinction of having performed at AIR Tirunelveli when I was in fourth standard. They selected students randomly from village schools for reciting plays and stuff on radio. They selected me, Kishore and Anusha from my school. Anusha was elder than me by 2 or 3 years and Kishore and I were in the same class. We all lived in the same street!!
The play was about Alfred Nobel. It was something like a conversation between an aunty and two kids, the aunty seemingly educating the kids on Alfred Nobel – who he was, about his inventions and his life and why he institued the Nobel prize. Fate had it that I was the aunty, the other two were the childern. They recognized my maturity at that age itself. I was always full of wisdom!! 🙂 They also selected a group of 4 more for clapping. AIR did not have a sound track those days. 🙂
They gave us the dialogue and we were asked to write them out in spearate ruled sheets of paper with neat margins. We were asked to memorize it but then we were told that it was not mandatory. Only, the voice intonation had to come properly. Etha Erakkam ellam ozhunga irukkanum. The script was in tamil and since it was our mother tongue, we were able mug up the script very fast. The teachers and others at home helped us with the intonation and in a matter of a week, we were ready. Before the actual recording at AIR, we were asked to do a mock at school. We spoke our parts and everyone clapped. It felt good then, but on after thought, I know they just did for the sake of it.
Anyways, we went to AIR on a special bus accompanied by two teachers. We were asked to dress up for the occassion (wonder why though). Once we reached the radio station, we were escorted inside and given some biscuits and water. Then, a woman came and gave us some instructions on how to speak inside the sound proof room infront of the mike and what to do if we forgot the dialogue. She said that if we forgot something, we would have to raise our hand. It was not a live recording, so it was ok she said.
Then the three of us were taken to a sound proof glass room. We got all excited and started talking and did not stop until Anandhi miss came and asked us to shut up. We wore those big ear muff things and the lady recording would be outside handling the big recording machine. Some guy came and adjusted the microphones to suit us and said "Idhuku Nera Peasnum. Anga Inga Paakakoodadhu." We nodded a yes. They did a sample mike testing and then we started recording. Whenever there was a fault, she came and corrected us and asked to repeat the dialogues. This we did and very soon the recording was over. They gave us biscuits again and we were told that it would be aired on the next to next Sunday in the morning 11 O’ Clock.
Naturally, the whole street tuned in to listen to us blabbing on Alfred Nobel. Everyone said it was super and all after that. We were very proud. All other children were told to emulate us. (US!!) In recognition of our participation in AIR, our school honored us with a prize on Annual Day. I got a book on Ramana Maharishi which was too much for me then. I read it some 10 years later. 🙂
I lost touch with the radio after that and regained only in college with the starting of Suryan FM and Radio Mirchi. Radio had reborn and I was united with it again!! When on the beach one day, a couple of recruiters for BIG FM were asking people if they would like to come for audition. When the girl asked me, I had half a mind to say Yes. But I did not because I feel working as RJ gets boring after a while.
Recently, I searched google and downloaded the song that D K Pattammal sang on the night at 12:00 on our Independence Day at AIR – Aaduvome Pallu Paaduvome; Aanantha Sudhandhiram adinthu vittom endru aaduvome" – the class of Bharathi who could visulaise Independence when it was not there rendered by the faultless DKP. For those who heard it then, what a moment it might have been!! All credits to AIR!!