Mumbai Doordarshan celebrates 50 years

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Shah Rukh Khan, one of the many finds from television, appeared first in the 1980s serial Fauji. Photo: Publicity Photo

As against the official television channel, Doordarshan, being the only one, way back in 1991, today, India has over 800 licensed channels. And Mumbai Doordarshan, which was launched on October 2, 1972, celebrated 50 years with a reunion of some of its major artistes last weekend.

A brief look-back

Television in India was launched in 1959, cultivated on the idea of families uniting in the living room to watch the daily Samachar (News) or the weekend evening shows of movies. Such movies were then shown on Saturdays and Sundays with half the film on the previous day, as the total broadcast time was just about three hours!

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General entertainment, news and sports with a little bit of international programming completed its fare. Over time, it expanded to other countries and is now available free of cost on cable and satellite TV. Its logo, said to symbolize the human eye, and the signature tune, are nostalgically remembered even now by viewers who have moved on private channels and the web and OTT shows.

The Indian Express reports, “In 1959, inside the studios of the All-India Radio, Doordarshan began as an experimental broadcast, with a small transmitter and a makeshift studio. Six years later, in 1965, Pratima Puri read out the first five-minute-long news bulletin. She also went on to interview Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel into outer space. Until then, all the regular daily transmissions were operated by the All-India Radio.”

It was on Independence Day, 1982, that Doordarshan (or DD as it came to be called) introduced a national telecast service from its own TV studio in New Delhi, named DD1. In the same year, color arrived, and the Asian Games were shown.

This catapulted a demand for color televisions and more foreign shows. Today DD has some 23 regional and content-specific channels. Adapting to the 1991 globalization and privatization, it still boasts of great viewership across the country, especially in the interiors.

The Indian Express adds, “In the decades pre-dating the 90s, Doordarshan, like the All-India Radio, came under government control. It was guaranteed institutional autonomy in the early ‘90s when the issue was raised in the Parliament and legislation was passed that the public broadcaster should be autonomous. The Prasar Bharati Act was subsequently passed in 1997 to create what is known as the broadcasting corporation of India.”

Mumbai Doordarshan

Easily the most vibrant and culturally colorful, Doordarshan stepped into Mumbai in 1972 and by 1974-5, already had some iconic shows in its fold. On October 2, 2022, Mumbai Doordarshan celebrated its 50th anniversary by hosting a get-together of retired producers, anchors and technicians at its studio, reported The Times of India. Now called Sahyadri, its 1,000-foot TV tower remains a central Mumbai landmark.

The channel launched the careers of Farouque Shaikh (anchor of the youth-based show, Yuvadarshan) and Smita Patil, who was a Marathi newsreader. Dilip Prabhavalkar as Chimanrao in the Marathi sitcom Chimanrao Gundyabhau later became a star too. Sudha Chopra and T.P. Jain were producers, as was Yakub Sayeed, who joined on the very first day and soon devised a comedy show, Haas Parihaas, with late Marathi comedian Baban Prabhu. The show ran for many years. Yakub received much applause at Sunday’s reunion.

Adi Marzban (the classy Gujarati-English variety show Avo Mari Sathe), Sabira Merchant (the game show What’s The Good Word?), Bhakti Barve (the weekly Saptahiki), Manju Singh (the children’s show Kilbil) and Tabassum (the celebrity talk show Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan) were among the iconic personalities who shaped Mumbai DD.

TV veteran Siddharth Kak, who began his career with DD, Delhi, in the late 1960s, teaching English to schools, was a popular newsreader for more than a decade. He shifted to Mumbai in the 1970s and later did the iconic cultural program Surabhi, which ran for 22 years. His wife, Geeta Kak, who helped out, is also a well-known actor, like Siddharth himself.

The hugely popular shows also included Krishi Darshan, the original Delhi show that began in 1967 and continued for decades. The fiction category took a huge with Humlog and the color Buniyaad (Ramesh Sippy), Ramayan (Ramanand Sagar), Mahabharat (B.R. Chopra & Ravi Chopra) and many more like Ek Do Teen Char, Katha Sagar, Karamchand, Dekh Bhai Dekh, Udaan, Fauji (the first show in which Shah Rukh Khan was seen), Malgudi Days and so on.

Among the most iconic foreign fare seen were The Invisible Man, The Old Fox, Sherlock Holmes, The Liver Birds, Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em and many more.

Even now, the Marathi channel, Sahyadri, remains the foremost revenue earner among all of DD’s regional channels.

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