By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi– He’s always believed in destiny and its been very kind to him, says veteran broadcaster, voice-over maestro, compere and entrepreneur Shammi Narang. Once the face of Hindi news on Doordarshan, Narang’s voice today guides you on your Metro journey in the national capital and in five other cities. The 40-year veteran of the profession laments the passing of the good old days when the accent was on perfection but is glad today’s social media generation still remembers him and his contemporaries.
“I’ve always maintained that whatever you may or may not believe in, maintain your faith in destiny. It is quite wonderous where your destiny can take you. My destiny has been very kind to me,” Narang, whose first earning was a princely Rs 200 for voicing two scripts for the VOA in the late 1970s while still studying for an engineering degree, told IANS in an interview.
“I have absolutely no regrets. The almighty has been very kind to me and it feels so good that my pictures and those of my generation are posted on social media with comments like: ‘Yeh the asli newsreaders’ (These were the genuine newsreaders),” added Narang, who today heads the Pindrop Media Group that offers a range of services across the genre.
“Kahan gaye woh din (Where are those bygone days)? We had made a place (for ourselves) in the hearts of our audiences. We were part and parcel of not only your drawing room but even the bedroom. Eight-year-olds and five-year-olds would say we belonged to their family.
“Those were the days when a grandfather and his granddaughter could watch the news together. We were a government media but we reported fairly what was happening (in the world around us). We never glorified the negative. We were not just reading bulletins; we were 100 per cent engaged in emoting with our audience. The stress was on language and pronounciation. It was ensured that we were not being provocative,” Narang said.
It was just the opposite today due to the lure of revenue, he lamented.
“The total accent is on revenue. Do you recall the Surf commercial (of the 1980s – ‘Aakir uski sari meri sari se safed kyon’ (Why is her sari whiter than mine)? I want to overshadow you, to be one up (is the mantra today).
“Unlike in the past, news was presented in a way that it did not provoke the people, Today, TV is instigating the people so much, fanning the flames. Today we want the people to react. What’s happening? This country has gone to the dogs,” Narang maintained.
“I don’t blame the politicians now. It’s the media that is responsible. You are instigating the people so much, fanning the flames (of hated). What is the media up to? India is perhaps the first country where people have demonstrated against the media. Stop it. You are causing too much damage (to society),” a visibly upset Narang added.
Noting that the country’s youth had largely moved away from television news, he said his own son would rather watch channels like Discovery.
“Why do you want to sink into depression, he asks me and my wife when we watch the news on television. Better than this, why don’t you watch a Johnny Lever film (at least it will make you laugh). He says he will get me some apps. I’ll get the headlines and if there’s anything interesting then I can read more. He’s right. He says these *******s are ruining the country, Narang continued.
To backtrack a bit, Narang first brush with the microphone was during his fourth year in college when he went into an auditorium under construction in the IIT campus here.
Two Americans from the USIS were installing the sound system and looking around, one of them asked Narang to speak into a microphone. Impressed with his voice, they invited him to the USIS office here where he was given two scripts to read (for which he got Rs 200).
The die was cast and even as his parents insisted he focus on his studies, Narang gradually began reading more scripts for VOA and moved into the world of voicing for commercials. A friend pushed him into answering a Doordarshan advertisement for newsreaders and he found himself in a huge room on the fifth floor of Broadcasting House (the AIR headquarters) bustling with hordes of other aspirants.
The numbers were whittled down to 80 and finally to 25, and Narang made the cut, endorsed by none other than the legendary Devkinandan Pandey, a renowned AIR news presenter of the time.
He required just three days of training thanks to the experience he gained in voicing commercials.
“I mugged up the first para of the bulletin so that I could often look up at the camera,” he explained.
He read his first bulletin in 1982 and remained associated with Doordarshan for 20 years, even as he set up his own studio (he had opted for a contractual rather than a regular job), before moving out with the advent of satellite television.
Unlike generals, broadcasters of Narang’s ilk don’t just fade way. They just go on and on. (IANS)