FOR SEVERAL YEARS BEGINNING IN 1952, All India Radio (AIR) stopped broadcasting film music because the then minister for information and broadcasting, BV Keskar, under whose charge AIR fell, believed film songs had become vulgar, erotic and Westernised. He first imposed a 10 percent quota on film music and, after negotiations with the Film Producers Guild of India broke down, AIR stopped broadcasting film music altogether for several years.
AIR’s ban, however, did not affect the genre’s popularity, as people tuned to Radio Ceylon to listen to film music. “Radio Ceylon was at the right place and the right time,” recounted Ameen Sayani, the legendary radio announcer, whose charismatic voice was among the many that Radio Ceylon carried to listeners in India. “They [Radio Ceylon staff] knew that All India Radio had banned film music. So, the decision to start a Hindi service then must have been deliberate.”
But a glance through the film and entertainment magazines of that time reveals that Keskar also had supporters, and that the ban spurred an ardent debate. While some praised film music because it successfully combined Western and Indian styles of music, others accused film music directors of copying foreign melodies and producing vulgar, un-Indian music. A reader named SG Bapat wrote to the Movie Times in 1952: “ In pointing out the low moral tone of the industry, Dr Keskar was merely calling a spade a spade… The cheap, sexy, degrading and humiliating standards of our present day film have their genesis in this wolfish attitude.” Another reader named Firoze G from Bombay wrote to the same publication that year, protesting that “present day film songs are insane, frivolous, and nonsensical in the extreme”.