Can today's Radio bring back the magic of Binaca Geetmala!
However, talking about Radio and not talking about a programme that ruled the industry for decades and would be something that would leave the subject incomplete. By now, it was one of the most popular, successful and longest running programme, which was on air for nearly 45 years, on the radio station. It was the first radio countdown show of Indian film songs.The unforgettable countdown show was hosted by the living legend, also known as the "golden voice" of Indian radio. Ji haan behnon aur bahiyon, we are talking about, Ameen Sayani, and he presented the show during its entire run. A programme which won millions and millions of heart, favorite of all generations, and made radio the popular medium to reach masses during its time making listeners glued to their radio's sets. The popularity charts of the show always used to top the list of all the programmes and the fact that it drew 9000 letters after its first airing and thereafter an astounding 60, 000 letters a week, speaks volume about the show's reach. And, in 2000 the show was awarded the Advertising Club's Golden Abby Award for being adjudged the most outstanding Radio Campaign of the Century, Binaca Geetmala.
Binaca Geetmala was broadcast on Radio Ceylon from 1952-1989, and then on All-India Radio's (AIR) Vividh Bharati network from 1989-1994. In the beginning it only played 7 contemporary songs in no particular order. But as it grew popular it started ranking the Bollywood songs. It estimated listenership was ranging from 900,000 to 2,000,000 listeners. The show was first called Binaca Geetmala, then Cibaca Geetmala and, thereafter, Colgate- Cibaca Geetmala.
The show was simply outstanding with perfect and strong concept, which was never explored before, and with the perfect radio station host ever, Ameen Sayani, whose golden voice stole everybody's soul. He is still idolized, imitated by many, the only constant force associated with Binaca Geetmala around the different names it got collaborated with and still very much active in India Radio. The panache of its presenter and the programme format he developed bought an overwhelming response then, and even now, 50 years down the line, requests for Ameen Sayani's Geetmala continue unabated.
But, the question is, can new generation radio station FMs bring back the magic of Binaca Geetmala and create a charisma again enticing enough to make people switch on their radio sets to hear that magical voice and eager to be a part of the journey it would bring on board? Though the answer seems to be a little in the hindsight, Adgully had a conversation with industry leaders to know their views and takes on the matter.
Harrish M Bhatia, COO, 94.3 MY FM (Bhaskar Group) had quite an insight to share on the subject. While speaking to Adgully, he says, "Binaca Geetmala was a landmark in radio and a fine example of excellent RJing combined with a thorough understanding of the preferences of it listeners. The present day radio market is very different from what it was back then with very few entertainment options available and today radio needs to stay relevant to its audience. This can be made possible through thorough research followed combined with excellent programming and RJing. The key is to bring to each audience what it most desires. The magic of the show may have changed a shade or two but it lives on in present day radio too and several radio shows have taken off, from where Binaca Geetmala left its audience. The presentation styles have evolved over time and radio content has become more differentiated based on demographic preferences. However, at the end of the day almost all request shows are off shoots of the same eternal Binaca Geetmala which epitomized radio listening."
Emphasizing on the same context, Rana Barua, National Head for Programming and Marketing, Radio City too believes that today's radio is very much capable of delivering the same goods that Geetmala did several years ago.
He says, "Yes, I personally believe it can be done. With Radio evolving as a medium rapidly and time spent listening on Radio increasing formats and shows like Binaca Geetmala will be refreshing and welcome by the audiences. In fact countdowns which are run by a lot of us are extremely popular any which way."
However, though Dilip Dugar, Vice President, Radio Misty 94.3FM and Radio Misty Sikkim 95FM, has a similar view on the topic, he does stresses on more improvisations and initiatives in terms of giving the programmes a different look to make them interesting. He says, "Yeah it can be if Radio stations try for new formats and innovations. Radio Misty had aired 11 volumes of "Geetmala Ki Chhahon Mein" by Ameen Sayani last year. We got a very overwhelming response from listeners. After airing this special show we got hundreds of SMSs, calls and letters from listeners that we have to rebroadcast it again. Radio Stations should try out this and I believe certainly it will bring back the magic."
Though its evident that Binaca Geetmala played a major role in making radio the common medium of entertainment among masses, Anand Chakraborthy, Head Marketing, BIG 92.7 FM has a different point of view also to share in this context. He says, "I think it will be very unfair to say that just the magic of Binaca Geetmala creates radio. Today if you look the kind of shows the radio stations do, the kind of content they do, there is lot of content like ' whether it is musical content, celebrity led show content, whether it is shows which are done in the different part of the cities bringing alive live activities so that the magic that private FM broadcasters have brought into, that is going to build the category into what it is. This is what FMs broadcasters have brought to the community. And, obviously everybody appreciates Binaca Geetmala. I think in today's age that is not enough to create the magic. Therefore there are other things we have to do to crate the magic."
He further adds, "So coming back to the question. Not in the same way, but we have done it in many other ways. The different kinds of innovation and plans are done to create excitement and build excitement on the listeners. Consumers of radios today are very different from the consumers of Binaca Geetmala. For e.g. "Phool Khilen Hain Gulshan Gulshan" on Doordarshan was very successful and biggest show in those early years. But today, the same show on the same format will not do well at all on the television, because consumer's expectations have changed completely. People want different kinds of exciting things on radios and they are not happy with just this request show. While it definitely works on radio, but I think it is not good enough to excite for longer period. Lot more needs to be done."
Then, Anil Machado, National Programming (Head), Radio One said, "At a point when Binaca Geetmala happened there was no other radio station but All India radio (AIR), and this was one show that entirely stood out in all the radio stations, in India as it only had one form of medium to broadcast the show. In this current market scenario wherein every single city even AIR is fighting a battle with all other private stations. And, on an average there are 6-7 players and in large metros there are up to 9 players. It is a little difficult for one show to occupy the entire market."
Anil added, "But, specifically, whether show like Ameen Sayani's ' Binanca Geetmala on radio will come, though it has very big possibility of something doing like that. But, radio is a very passive medium as compared to when Binaca Geetmala was going out in the 70's and 80's. Radio was a very active medium as many people didn't have television, and the entire family would sit together and listen to Binaca geetmala, as how we now watch tele soaps or IPL because we don't have any other form of entertainment. So, radio has moved from the active medium to passive."
Adding to the discussion, Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman, Samsika Marketing also shared his views agreeing that it is very much possible to create the magic of Geetmala again, if executed well. Speaking with Adgully he says, "In fact, if you actually look at it virtually every radio FM stations is having their own top 10 or 20 countdowns, which used to be the soul of Binaca Geetmala. And you need a strong anchor like Ameen Sayani, and you need a consistency of a brand like Binaca Geetmala, consistently doing well. I am sure the magic could come back in the same avatar because every station has a countdown, but it has to be branded, it has to have a strong anchor, and has to be done consistently. The radio station need to have a value addition ' for e.g. if their track has moved from 9 to 8 or vice versa, may be there could be a small interview with the lyricist, singer, composer, how did they work on it. Behind the scenes situation makes it interesting. This relevance will enhance the value addition. A value added countdown with interesting information, should be done, and I am sure people will be delighted to hear."
However, Amit Ray, president, Lintas Media strongly feels, "No, it is not possible to bring back the magic of Binanca Geetmala as time has change. First of all in those days, the way people received music was very limited, only some people had radio. Otherwise, the entire tape recording system etc was not easily available, or it was very costly. Therefore, the Binaca Geetmala was the only of its kind to be liked. In fact, there was a huge value for the show, and still is there. But, today music is released every day, it is coming out on movie, music channels and there are so many ways of getting music on your mobile and iPods. Music in that ranking has no more value anymore; it can never have any value anymore because in those days Binaca Geetmala was the only song show which ranked music. Otherwise music ranking is over now, who ranks music in the movie. If people like the music they buy it or they don't. I think ranking is not really relevant anymore for music, there is too much of supply."
Amazing it sounds how a single show on Television or Radio or any mode of entertainment can result in an absolute revolution for that particular medium. People still remember being glued to their Television sets along with family, friends and neighbours to watch - Humlog, Buniyad or Mahabharat. Radio was not different at all and it was shows like Binaca Geetmala that gave it a significant appeal. The show was a hit among masses to an extent that few people would still think and say that creating the same magic again would not be possible anymore. But with so much happening in the world of technology and communication, and with the evolution of their mediums, it would be only unfair to compare the capacity of radio stations of now with what were 20 or 30 years back. Magic can be created but probably the style might differ, the functionalities might change, the preferences would not match and above all the audience might expect things to be packaged in a unique style. Even though Binaca Geetmala remains the benchmark to reach for radio shows, time would be the best judge to answer that if at all radio can come up with shows that would surpass the popularity charts it has set.