Ameen Sayani is an iconic broadcaster from India. In the early 1950s the Radio Ceylon announcer Greg Roskowski was presenting a countdown of English pop music called the’ Binaca Hit Parade’ – thousands of listeners from India wrote in to Radio Ceylon lobbying for a countdown of Hindi filmi music.
Clifford Dodd who was the Director of the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon and Assistant Director Livy Wijemanne then contracted Ameen Sayani to host the first ever countdown of Hindi filmi music called ‘Binaca Geet Mala,’ the rest is history. The radio programme was aired on the All Asia Service and the Hindi Service of Radio Ceylon in 1952 and it reached iconic status with millions tuning into to hear Ameen Sayani’s voice. It was a huge money spinner for Radio Ceylon raking in millions of rupees for the radio station, the oldest and finest in South Asia.The first ever episode of ‘Binaca Geet Mala’ brought in 9,000 letters into Radio Ceylon. By the end of the year the station had 60,000 letters – such was the popularity of the programme.
Millions on the Indian sub-continent switched on their transistor radios to listen to Ameen Sayani. Ameen’s brother, Hameed Sayani presented and English version of ‘Binaca Geet Mala,’ on the All Asia Service of Radio Ceylon on Sunday mornings.
Ameen’s baritone voice was aired over the All Asia Service and the Hindi Service of Radio Ceylon and he popularised all the Hindi film music across India. He has received India’s highest honour, the ‘Padma Shri’ and is known as the ‘Voice of India.’
Vernon knew both Ameen Sayani and his brother Hameed. Whenever Ameen Sayani visited Colombo in the 1960s and 1970s he met up with Vernon. Ameen used to stay at the Greenlands Hotel in Colombo and Vernon used to take his children to meet Ameen and talk about ‘Binaca Geet Mala’ and Radio Ceylon.
Ameen Sayani in the film Bhoot Bungla in 1965: