Think of news today, and the images that come to mind are of opinionated journalists, panel discussions with participants shouting each other down and a general cacophony as everybody tries to make their views heard. In the midst of the whole din are the poor viewers who, most often, have no idea what’s going on.
However, how many of us remember the good old days of Doordarshan, before cable TV, digital TV and social media bombarded us with non-stop content, where dignified newsreaders and anchors would hold the fort, delivering the news the way it was, without adding their own personal biases or opinions to it. These were anchors the whole nation looked up – they set trends in the way they spoke, dressed, and wore their hair and makeup.
For all of us who remember the beloved 70s, 80s and 90s, let’s take a walk down memory lane to track down some of our favourite Doordarshan anchors and see what they are up to these days:
Doordarshan was born as an experimental broadcast in a makeshift studio with a small transmitter in 1959. Six years later, Pratima Puri, India's first female news presenter, presented a five minute news bulletin. Puri, who was born Vidya Rawat in Shimla, started her career with the All India Radio (AIR), before shifting to Doordarshan. The grand dame of news presentation went on to interview several famous personalities, including cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Puri passed away in 2017. The face of Doordarshan for many years, Salma Sultan was the first to break the news of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination on 31st October, 1984, 10 hours after she was shot. The elegant presenter, who initiated the trend of wearing a rose tucked under her left ear, worked as an anchor for 30 years from 1967 to 1997. In an interview, Sultan speaks about how anchors were considered divas in an era where stylists did not exist. After retiring from Doordarshan, Sultan went on to direct serials such as Panchtantra Se, Suno Kahani, Swar Mere Tumhare and Jalte Sawal, on DD under her production house, Lensview Pvt Ltd. Sultan recently walked the ramp endorsing the saree and the values it holds. Salma Sultan reads the assassination news of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Image credit: Youtube screenshot. The brain behind Ministry of External Affair's award winning documentary, 'Fifty Years of India’s Independence', Neethi Ravindran became a popular face on television, after joining DD at the age of 25, in 1976. In an interview, the anchor recalls how, at a roadside dhaba in Rajasthan, a village boy recognised her and shouted 'news, news!'. Ravindran is best known for her coverage of the Operation Blue Star in 1984. After moving on from DD, Rajendran has been anchoring programmes and making documentaries and short films. In a column in Bangalore Mirror, writer comedian Anuvab Pal talks about how, as a child, he heard DD news presenter Minu Talwar, who he calls his first crush, speaking about Ronald Reagan's nuclear policy with such measured quietness, that he felt that she was talking to him. Talwar went on to have a 35 year long association with DD, as a news reader and anchor. The multi-faceted anchor and engineer first ventured into the voice-over industry with the Hindi division of Voice of America, the US government funded international news and broadcast organisation. Shammi Narang, who was selected from among 10,000 applicants by DD, went on to become a household name in Indian television. Currently, apart from providing training to new anchors, Narang also does voice-overs, comperes shows and is the man behind the voice that you hear at the Delhi metro. Narang has also composed jingles for commericals such as Tata Tea and has appeared in films such as Makdee, Maqbool, Sultan, and No One Killed Jessica. Image credit: By STUDIOPINDROPDELHI - Clicked a picture in his studio, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38506208 A force to reckon with among the English news anchors on DD, Sunit Tandon was associated with the channel until 2007. Post his stint with DD, Tandon went on to hold the post of Director General of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and Lok Sabha Television. He is also active as a theatre director and has over 150 productions to his credit. Known for her hair style as much as she was for the erudite way in which she read the news, Gitanjali Aiyar joined DD in 1971. Aiyer presented the news for 30 years, during which she won the best anchor award four times. In a piece she had written for Outlook India in 2002, Aiyer speaks about how after DD went national and switched to colour post the Asian Games in 1982, she suddenly started to get recognised by people on the road, followed by school boys and even had auto drivers refusing to charge fare from her. Over the years, Aiyar has also been the face of a number of print ads and has acted in the serial Khandaan. She is currently associated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). A gold medalist in English Literature and Education from Madras University, Usha Albuquerque's career high point with Doordarshan was her reportage after Mother Teresa died. A filmmaker as well as a journalist, Albuquerque went on to produce and anchor television programmes, documentaries, quizzes, talk shows for Indian and international television. Today, she is the founder director of the career guidance firm, Careers Smart, which she runs along with her film production house, Insight Productions. Image credit: Youtube screen grab Elegance and simplicity is what has been used to describe Sarla Maheshwari. She was Known for the efficient, yet calm manner in which she delivered the news in Hindi, and for the Gujarati style in which she draped her saree. Famous for her bob cut and her excellent command over English, Rini Simon Khanna started her news career as a newscaster with AIR in 1982 and was handpicked to present the news at DD in 1985. In an interview with Scroll, Khanna speaks about how the lives of the anchors were discussed widely during the heydays of the channel. “There were stories that Neethi and I are sisters married to a Hindu and a Christian, but I was not even married at that time. There would be competitions to guess the sari colours and whether we repeated our saris," she said. Khanna currently lends her voice for corporate events, government functions and also anchors international and national conferences, shows and seminars for prestigious organisations. She, along with Shammi Narang are the voices behind the announcements at the Delhi Metro.