Saturday, September 10, 2016
Revisiting Old Doordarshan News Readers and Anchors - Rini Simon Khanna
Rini Simon Khanna (born 1964) is a noted Indian television news anchor, who worked with state-run Doordarshan (1985 – 2001), which made her a "household name", and later started a career as voice-over professional and anchor person for various events. She started her career as a newscaster with All India Radio in 1982. Born Rini Simon in Kerala, she grew up in Delhi and numerous cities as her father an officer with the Indian Air Force traveled like all service personnel do. So she studied in almost nine schools in Delhi, Halwara (Punjab), Mumbai, Jodhpur, Bagdogra, Tambaram and back in Delhi. She finished her schooling from The Air Force School at Subroto Park, Delhi in 1981. Thereafter she graduated in English literature from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University, and did her post graduation in History and also did a PG diploma in Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi. With a career that spans three decades now, Rini began producing and hosting programmes and interviews on India’s National Radio, All India Radio at 13 and was soon selected to read the Prime time National News on All India Radio. In addition she does commentary on prestigious occasions such as Independence day, Republic day etc. for television and radio.
She was handpicked from Radio to anchor the National news on Delhi Doordarshan, the premier Indian television channel in 1985, co-anchoring news with Tejeshwar Singh .In addition to presenting news, Rini is an experienced Voice talent, rendering commentary and voiceovers for documentaries, advt films and feature-films. She also anchors international and national conferences, cultural shows and seminars for prestigious organisations, UN agencies, corporate groups and Government agencies. She has also given the female voice over for the Delhi Metro along with male voice over of Shammi Narang. She is married to businessman husband Deepak Khanna. The couple lives in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi and have 25-year-old son Sahil khanna.
Rewinding to a sepia-toned era, Khanna recalls, "It's been a long journey and one that gave me immense joy. I have my share of wonderful memories of hectic days and tight deadlines." So what does it take to be a good television anchor? "Primarily, news anchors need to be good communicators, with a pleasant personality, a pulse for current affairs and the ability to present events without sensationalising them. But they also need a measured urgency to inform, highlight and empathise," explains Khanna, who landed a job with DD after clearing a written exam and several rounds of auditions. 'Passion' is a relative term in the newsroom, and for Khanna it is synonymous with connecting with viewers rather than 'hunting down' news and intruding into people's lives. "You cannot pretend to be interested; you have to be convinced of what you're saying," she underlines, adding, "Intrusion in any form is repulsive." Of course, changing times and the 'new media' have significantly altered the way journalists conduct themselves. "Today, the need to share is more than it used to be and the ease with which ordinary people can do this makes it very difficult to draw boundaries around what is private and what is public," concedes Khanna. "However, there are clear norms that journalists must follow and such intrusiveness can be curbed if people specify how much they want to share."
According to her, DD's newsreaders enjoyed pleasures and privileges money couldn't buy. "I was on holiday in Ranikhet and we ran out of petrol," she recalls. "We checked into a small hotel and went scouting around. We saw an Air Force station and adventurously walked in and asked the security guard if we could meet the commanding officer. He recognised me and informed the commanding officer, who was also a great fan! We shared a wonderful evening with them. The next morning, we found a whole tank of fuel for our onward journey to Almora. How can one ever repay such generosity?" In Khanna's view, DD's self-censoring style was a means to discipline newsreaders, to avoid them 'interpreting' the news. "We were able to perform our duties without really being on a leash," she explains. "There was no interference, only an understanding that we adhere to the norms of decency and the need to inform relevant and important news. We were not encouraged to 'colour' news in any way; we had to keep it as objective and as close to the truth as possible." The DD veteran agrees that news anchors today need to constantly evolve and adapt to a fast-changing medium. "But the scams revealing layers of corruption and fixing between journalists, lobbyists and politicians are a huge letdown to the trust the Fourth Estate enjoys," she adds. DD began to lose its exclusivity—and viewers—with the advent of private channels in the early 1990s. But Khanna quit for personal reasons. And she has no regrets. "Today's aggressiveness and competitiveness do not appeal to me and I choose not to be a part of it," says Khanna firmly. She continues to hold her former employer in high regard. "DD is still the biggest national public broadcaster and the government's communication arm," she asserts. "I have great respect for them and continue to work with them whenever they ask me to. The reach of Doordarshan is legendary and, in remote places, it remains the only means of information and entertainment despite the presence of satellite TV. People respect it for its non-sensational, comprehensive and reliable coverage."