News, as we know it today, was quite different in the 80s and early 90s in India. Doordarshan was the only channel available and the newsreaders were no-less celebrities in their own right. I can stil recall that unique signature tune playing right at 8:40 in the evening signalling the start of daily dose of day’s happennings popularly known as Samachar, and then later at 9:30 for the English version, know as The News.
I’ll refrain from comparing the newsreaders of yesteryears with today’s. It’s unfair on a lot counts, although I can emphatically say that every single DD newsreader of that era had his/her own charm and charisma and brought unique listening experience to the newsreaders. Guess it would be nice to recall as many as I can remember and bring out the uniqueness of each of newsreaders.
Let’s start with the Hindi newsreaders. Salma Sultan was the name synonymous with Samachar. The memory of her opening line, “Namaskaar, prastut hain aaj ke samachar”, still lingers quite clearly in my mind. She would sport a flower in her open hair (I guess on the left side) and was famous for a face solid as a stone with no expressions whatsoever. Still she had a charm and style that’s difficult to match.
Then we had Avinash Kaur Sareen, one of the very few lady newsreaders who would always sport a smile when greeting users. She would never keep her hair open and used to tie them together in a juda. And she had this characteristically large Bindi always on.
Another lady, Anjali Rai, had those beehive hairs with all the curls and super inflated cheeks with a small mouth to together make a cute-little but serious face. She was also quite devoid of any hint of emotion reading the news. And yes, her sarees (all the lady newsreaders used to wear only saree and nothin else; forget business suits and skirts, even salwar kameez was ruled out) used to have quite a bit of floral prints.
Sarla Maheshwari, the lady with the most grace. She had striking features and dressed with utter simplicity devoid of almost any jewellary. She had this small mole that only enhanced her appleal as a charming face that would command everybody’s attention. She looked pretty expressionless most of the times but an occassional smile of hers was quite infectious.
Shobhana Jagdish joined DD quite late but quickly became a popular newsreader because of her absolutely magical voice. She would come neatly dressed in starched sarees, with a small bindi always adorning her forehead.
Next was Rama Pandey. She came on board quite late and wasn’t much popular. She was a rather plump lady with a sweet smile on her face. The best trait she was known for, however, was the frequent fumble she was doing.
Let’s now come to some male Hindi newsreaders. And the most iconic of them would be J V Raman. Being a South Indian, his Hindi was immaculate. Thick blac-rimmed glasses occupying most of face, he would comb the long-grown leftover over his bald pate. An average-looking gentleman, he had charmed Indian population like no one else could. If J V Raman was reading the news, everyone listened. Exceptionally clear and crisp voice, JV was the iconic figure for DD news.
Then we had the boyish-looking Shammi Narang, who with his super moustache and charming smile stood apart from the rest. I would credit Shammi with bringing in much-appreciated slightly non-official behaviour to strict and straightjacketed news reading present before him: a slight smile there, addressing fellow anchors by their names, and other small such expressions, that finally taught DD newsreaders not to be so expressionless all the time.