Nostalgia has a name. It is Ameen Saayani. For those of us who cut our teeth on Hindi film music via Binaca Geeta Mala (later rechristened as Cibaca Geet Mala) in the 70s, Saayani was the voice that brought it all together. The music of Naushad, Ravi Shankar, Jaikishan and SD Burman. The liquid gold of mega voices like Mohammed Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Shamshad Begum, Kishore Kumar, Lata and Asha. The grand stature of poets and lyricists like Sahir and Kaifi. Shakeel Badayuni. He knew his music. He knew its emotional sweep. Its roots in our memory, our history and geography and emotional landscape. He was the most passionate worshipper of Hindi film music because he knew not just the trivia, the origin of tunes and lyrics but also what cannot be put into words but can be somehow articulated if you happen to be Ameen Saayani. He was and is Hindi film music’s first, best and most famous RJ. There was one Balraj also who came to be known as Sunil Dutt when he stopped interviewing celebrities for Radio Ceylon and became a famous actor himself. But no one has come close to being identified with Hindi film music like Sayaani. His famous greeting still is one of the most popular catchphrases, his style of speaking still mimicked but never bettered. So popular was he in his prime, that he featured in a few films too. Most notably as himself in Dev Anand’s famous Teen Deviyan.
He won the Padma Shri in 2009. If memory serves me right, I had interviewed him many years ago over the phone and as the first quiver of his voice reached me across the phone line, I turned into a five-year-old child in Assam, listening to the songs from Bobby on his show with my mother. He can still do that. Take you back in time with just a simple line “bhaiyo or behno…aap sabko Ameen Sayani ka pyaar bhara namaskar.”