East Nook, the building where the studios of AIR Madras were located, from June 1938 to July 1953. The building no longer exists. Photo: The Hindu Archives
On June 16, 1938, AIR Madras station on Marshall’s Road, Egmore, was inaugurated by C. Rajagopalachari, then Governor of Madras, Lionel Fielden, controller of broadcasting, and Sir Andrew Clow, member of communication in the Viceroy's Executive Council. Photo: The Hindu Archives
An audio ensemble for AIR Madras. Photo: The Hindu Archives
Owning a radio set was a matter of pride in the early 1940s. So much, the arrival of a ‘radio potti’ called for celebration in many homes.
Until the advent of television in the 1970s, radio was the only medium of entertainment and communication for many city residents.
Many All India Radio (AIR) listeners still recall those golden days when they listened to programmes like ‘Oli Chithiram’, in which the track of an entire movie would be aired, and ‘Thenkinnam’, a late evening programme of Tamil songs.
And there were avid listeners, like 72-year-old A.K. Pattabiraman, who would walk to Independence Day Park in Nungambakkam to listen to the daily evening news bulletin.
“I was a fan of the resonating voices of Janaki and H. Ramakrishnan. In those days, the cricket commentary of Melville de Mellow, V.M. Chakrapani and Koothapiran brought the game alive,” he says.
For many, the day dawned with ‘Vande Mataram’ played on the radio at the start of the day’s programmes.
Lalitha Sudhakar (62) of Guindy says, “My love for radio started when I was hardly eight, and I would listen to almost all the programmes throughout the day. Whenever I had to travel out of the country, I would eagerly wait to return and listen to B.H. Abdul Hameed’s crystal clear Tamil on AIR or Radio Ceylon.”
‘Vanoli Anna’ Koothapiran was an unforgettable name among child listeners for over two decades.
Recalling his stint, he says, “Most programmes were broadcast live, and announcers had to be alert. Small children became radio stars with their performance in shows like ‘Siruvar Isai Arangu’ and ‘Pappa Malar’.”
Dramas were another popular segment among listeners. Vijaya Thiruvengadam, former AIR director, says: “We produced writer Kalki’s ‘Alaiosai’ into a serial, with veteran actors like V.S. Raghavan lending his voice. ‘Indru Oru Thagaval’ by Thenkatchi Ko Swaminathan and ‘Pazhagu Tamil’ were very popular in the 1990s.”
Suki Sivam, writer and orator, says, “My father Suki Subramanian was a radio drama producer. In those days, when the title music of popular serials like 'Dubash Veedu' and 'Kaapu Kati Chatram' were played on radio, people would rush home to turn on their sets.”