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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Revisiting Old Doordarshan News Readers and Anchors - Sashi Kumar

When 59 year-old Sashi Kumar—founder of non-profit organisation Media Development Foundation, which runs Asian College of Journalism, the premier journalism college in India—walks through the campus in Chennai, eager students suddenly fall silent. It is not just reverence for their principal but an open admiration for this charming former DD news presenter. Most students wonder how he manages to keep his age from showing in his face, or demeanor. And when he talks passionately about the changing business of journalism, there is always pin-drop silence. With good reason. Kumar has been a newsreader, a daily reporter, launched one of the country's most successful regional channels—Asianet—and dabbled in film-making. And he is always willing to share all he has learned.

Kumar, who joined DD in the late 1970s, was among the first English newscasters on the network and, over the subsequent decade, became a familiar face in homes across India as a news and current affairs anchor, film critic and producer and director of topical features. Remember shows like Tana Bana, a cultural feature, Jan Manch, an interactive discussion between ministers and a cross-section of society, and Money Matters? From 1975 to 1984, Kumar was a regular fixture on DD. Looking back, he admits he thought becoming a DD newsreader would help him get into films, his real passion. Instead, DD brought out in him a roving reporter, producer and anchor. "It was a good platform, but not a great place to get stuck in," he says with candour. "I took to DD because of the myriad opportunities the medium offered me. We got to explore the technical and aesthetic aspects of visuals and sound." Those were really the pioneering days. "We started by reading the text off typed sheets," recalls Kumar. "The teleprompters arrived only later. And we had little role in determining the content of the news itself." Looking back, he says newsreaders were like automated mannequins. "You had to look, act and speak the part—and could do it without any sense of what was going on. To prove that you were not IQ-deficient, it was important to wrest yourself away from it before you were sucked in, or lulled into it, forever." 

Yet the veteran feels there was a certain romance in news presentation then. "It wasn't the high-decibel bombardment of your senses, 24×7, it is now," he says. Being an 'old-school' journalist, Kumar believes the current generation of news anchors could do without their pontificating. "I do wish they'd be less excited, more patient, less pompous, more informed, less arrogant, more considerate, less superficial, more in-depth. And I don't know why they look and act like clones." And the hungry media survives because of today's voyeuristic society. "The media's freewheeling style yanks skeletons out of cupboards and keeps them in the public eye," observes Kumar. "Their almost infantile persistence works because we like to see them pitted against equally self-obsessed politicians or custodians of morality and it doesn't matter who emerges victorious."Iconic American newsreaders like Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters were Kumar's inspirations. But the industry was far from lucrative back then. Kumar's monthly pay in the first few years in Madras in the late 1970s, before national network news began, was just Rs 800. But for him and his peers, DD was where they learnt the importance of the freedom of the press and the responsibilities that came with the job. "DD was this patriarchal, pedagogic presence and you were the oracle," he says. "You never got your fact and opinion mixed up." In his view, TV journalism today is hardly inspiring. "It is over-the-top, dilettantist, sensational and vacuous," he says. "If the reporting style of the DD days was state-fixated, today it is market-centric. One has to look elsewhere for inspiration; to the BBC, for example. Grabbing eyeballs is not what television is all about. There is a larger, societal dharma. You can't pretend to be part of the Fourth Estate, enjoy the constitutional and moral high ground and go about your trade like any other player.

Sashi Kumar was born at Karupadanna near Kodungallur in Thrissur District of Kerala. He completed his graduation from Loyola college, and took post graduation in history from Madras Christian College. Sashi Kumar started his career in Dooradharshan as a newsreader and producer. Later he worked in PTI-TV as chief producer and general manager of PTI.  He scripted and directed Kaya Taran (Chrysalis) in Hindi based on the story "When Big Trees Fall" by writer N. S. Madhavan. The film won him the G. Aravindan award as the best debut filmmaker of 2004. He acted in Malayalam movies, Iniyum Marichittillatha Nammal, Balyakalasakhi, Loudspeaker, Ennu Ninte Moideen and Love 24x7.

Source and Credit :- http://www.harmonyindia.org/hportal/VirtualPageView.jsp? page_id=15535&index1=1  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sashi_Kumar and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_MUAYEI2fE

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