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Ameen Sayani, radio's most iconic voice, dies at 91

Last updated on: February 21, 2024 20:49 IST

'Namaste behno aur bhaiyo, main aapka dost Ameen Sayani bol raha hoon,' the familiar greeting and the instantly identifiable voice coasted on airwaves into countless homes every Wednesday on Radio Ceylon from 1952 to 1988, still evoking strong nostalgia amongst listeners.

Ameen Sayani, radio's most recognised voice that struck an instant chord with millions of Indians who tuned in to Binaca Geetmala every week for 42 years, has died. He was 91.

Sayani, who represented the golden age of radio, suffered a heart attack Tuesday evening and was taken to a hospital in south Mumbai but could not be saved, his son Rajil told PTI.


"He passed away last night of a heart attack at the H N Reliance hospital. He was rushed to the hospital last evening around 6 pm after he complained of chest pain. They tried to revive him but couldn't," Rajil said.

The last rites will be held on Thursday.

'Namaste behno aur bhaiyo, main aapka dost Ameen Sayani bol raha hoon,' the familiar greeting and the instantly identifiable voice coasted on airwaves into countless homes every Wednesday on Radio Ceylon from 1952 to 1988, still evoking strong nostalgia amongst listeners.

After 1988, Binaca Geetmala moved to All India Radio's Vividh Bharati where it ruled the charts till 1994, making it one of the longest running programmes on radio.

Sayani, who was born in Mumbai in a multilingual family on December 21, 1932, compered, presented and voiced over 50,000 programmes and over 19,000 jingles.

He also conducted the Bournvita Quiz Contest for eight years, taking over after the death of his brother Hamid Sayani.

Besides, Sayani's interviews with legends such as Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar are still special.

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among the many from all walks of life who condoled the death of the radioman, who it felt established a one-on-one bond with each listener through his voice that radiated warmth and cheer.

'The demise of Shri Ameen Sayani ji marks the end of an era for radio listeners in India and many countries. He had created a special place in the hearts of people with his natural style of presenting radio programmes, impressive voice and unique flow...,' President Murmu said in a post on X.

The prime minister said the radio presenter's golden voice on the airwaves had a charm and warmth that endeared him to people across generations.

'Through his work, he played an important role in revolutionising Indian broadcasting and nurtured a very special bond with his listeners. Saddened by his passing away. Condolences to his family, admirers and all radio lovers. May his soul rest in peace,' he posted.

Sayani demonstrated a creative flair since childhood and started writing for his mother's fortnightly journal Rehbar when he was just 13.

His elder brother, Hamid Sayani, who was already a well-known broadcaster, introduced a young Sayani to radio programmes on the English service of All India Radio Bombay.

The beginning of this success story began with failure.

After completing his college, Sayani auditioned for a presenter's job in the Hindi service of AIR but was rejected because of a slight Gujarati accent.

His tryst with fame came a few years later with Radio Ceylon.

In 1952, then information and broadcasting minister B V Keskar banned Hindi film songs from AIR.

Around that time, Radio Ceylon, which was founded by the British, started becoming popular for its programmes in English, Tamil and Hindi. Broadcast from Colombo, Radio Ceylon began its journey in 1949.

American businessman Daniel Molina saw an opportunity there and established his company, Radio Advertising Services in Mumbai.

He hired Sayani's elder brother to run Radio Ceylon's production arm.

Hamid Sayani and Molina were keen to produce a programme on Hindi film songs and the elder Sayani zeroed in on his young brother who grabbed the chance for a salary of Rs 25 per week.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sayani became a radio presenter in Hindi with Binaca Geetmala, a programme of Hindi film songs sponsored by the toothpaste brand, in December 1952 and never looked back.

The first of its kind show, the programme was so popular that millions from different parts of India would tune in on Wednesday to listen to Sayani in his inimitable voice introducing songs from Hindi cinema.

The programmed later shifted to Vividh Bharti and was named as Cibaca Geetmala and later as Colgate Cibaca Geetmala but Sayani's fans continued to tune in for years.

For many, Sayani represented a piece of their childhood, rewind to a time that was slower and gentler.

'Binaca Geetmala was such a huge part of my childhood growing up, I still remember waking up to the sweet melodies of my favourite Bollywood songs. Rest in peace #AmeenSayani We will always remember you for your golden voice,' actor Ajay Devgn wrote on X.

Manoj Bajpayee agreed.

'Ameen Sayaniji goodbye! Thank you for decorating our childhood with your voice and the world of music. 'Behno aur bhaiyo... These lines will always echo in our ears. Be happy wherever you are. That's the prayer,' the actor posted on X.

Adil Hussain also harked back to his childhood.

'Rest in peace Ameen Sayani sahab... We all enjoyed your voice all through our childhood... We eagerly waited for your show every week. Have a safe trip into the other dimension. We pray for you,' Hussain posted.

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