I was young, full of zeal to change the world and probably a bit delusional about my skills and talent; because in a reasonable state of mind, I would never imagine being a television presenter, that too on Doordarshan– India’s largest broadcasting organisation in studio and transmitter infrastructure. I grew up in the 90s, before the internet, and some of my childhood was even before the time of cable TV. My holidays were spent watching iconic shows like Chitrahar, Rangoli, Shaktiman, Mowgli, Chutti-Chutti, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Shanti, Suraag The Clue and Krishna on Doordarshan.
Little did I know that one day I would find myself inside the DD National office in Mandi House, New Delhi paradubbing for documentaries (thank you Manoj Sir), writing scripts, conceptualising shows, assisting in the production and presenting on national television! Wherever I go, for whatever publication I write– in India or outside– my introduction says ‘Former Doordarshan Presenter’ and wear this prefix like a badge of honour.
Today, in the time of social distancing, Doordarshan has announced that they are re-running Mahabharat and Ramayana on public demand, and my social media feed is full of posts about Doordarshan. Seeing everyone talk about DD made me nostalgic and inspired me to write this post. I realised that I have never spoken much or written about my time at DD, so using this time to share my key takeaways from working at Doordarshan.
I met some of the most talented and kind people at Doordarshan Delhi
On the first day when I reported, I met my boss- Ms Sushma Khan. She was sitting in her cabin wearing a gorgeous Fabindia salwar kameez with her jet black long hair tied into a neat pony and rectangle-shaped glasses. She smiled at me and welcomed me to the team. I was intimidated, impressed and in awe. She’d been a Producer at Doordarshan since before I was even born!
Sushma Ma’am changed my life in more than one ways. She made me a better person, gave me wings to fly and like a guardian angel saw to it that I reached my maximum potential during my time at Doordarshan. I went on to shoot more than 70 ENGs, host hundreds of shows and work in-studio and outdoors with her.
Other people in our team were Praveen Nautyal Sir and Raju Sir- both really decent men who were extremely respectful, encouraging and enabled me to achieve my dreams. I also had a chance to meet, interact and learn from senior officials like Tripathi Sir, Mathew Sir and even the then ADG- Nadoja Sir.
Women were kind of the highlight of my encounters at DD. Yet another woman who taught me the ABC of anchoring was a storyteller and one of the most amazing TV presenters- Jaishree Ma’am. I learnt a lot just by watching her host live TV shows every Friday for a good few years of my life. The energy that she brought in the studio and the way she handled crisis situations (that can occur any time in a live show, especially with guests) taught me the mannerisms and more about this field. Other anchors who I admire to this date are Tapasya Ma’am, Jasleen Ma’am and of course, the late Neelam Ma’am. We would bump into each other in the make-up room and discuss scripts, shows and sarees.
I also met some other amazing people like editors Arjun Sir and Ankit Sir; the chai wale Naveen bhaiya and canteen wale Uncle who never told us his name! The camera crews and lighting and technical assistants who would always be by my side were all amazing people, especially Anil Sir, Singh Sir and Das Sir. Not to forget, skilled people like Abhineshwar Sir and Rashmi Ma’am who would work their magic and make me look screen-ready.
And last, but in no way the least, I got a friend for life– Palak. Palak joined our office as an intern and stayed on to work as a resource person. We ended up spending more time together, first because of work, and then because we just wanted to. It has been more than five years since we first met- she moved on to Australia and I am in Singapore but we still speak every single day and are as close as sisters.
From the Parliament of India to Rajpath and Vigyan Bhavan to PM Office
My first ever ENG was in the presence of the then president of India Dr Pranab Mujherjee. I remember I was so nervous that my knees were shaking but Sushma Ma’am and Praveen Sir were confident that I could pull it off and I did! Doordarshan opened doors for me everywhere. We went to cover events and shoot programs at every landmark in the capital city- from Rajpath to India Gate, the Parliament of India to Vigyan Bhavan.
The most memorable one is when we were shooting a one-hour special program ‘Shoonya se shikhar tak’ ahead of Independence Day 2015, and I was atop Jain Temple– barefoot in broad daylight with the sun shining at its brightest– to get the Red Fort in the background. We took seven-eight retakes but managed to get the perfect shot! Thereafter, we (a crew of some nine people) went to Parathe Wale Gali and ate like we’d never eaten before!
Celebration of art and culture: Preserving India’s true heritage
Our show was called ‘Goodevening India’ and our beat was art and culture, which meant that I had the opportunity to interview the Padmabhushan, Padmashris and other gems of the Indian art world- from Pandit Gokulotsava to Salil Bhatt and Geeta Chandran to Sharda Sinha. From Bollywood to theatre and street art to folk- we covered everything and everyone.
Through this, I met some amazingly talented people whom I interviewed and went on to develop a relationship- from Arupa Lahiry to Jatin Sarna and Govind Pandey to KS Rajendran Sir.
Before joining Doordarshan, I had worked at a few private channels for short periods of time, mainly interning and job-hopping to find what I wanted. The rush of meeting A-list Bollywood celebrities, taking selfies with them and flexing in front of family and friends, drifted quite soon. Only when I joined DD, I understood the value of what we do. It is the media’s role to preserve and promote a country’s culture, heritage and values. And, when I look around Doordarshan is the only channel that stands out. I am proud to be a DD-alumni.
Special shoutout to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
This post would be incomplete without mentioning Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB). BVB has been the turning point of my life. I shone to the top of the class and was sent to Doordarshan for an internship. That is what led to my career at DD. With teachers like Badkar Sir, Vishal Sir, Ramesh Sir, and Daizy Ma’am, I was able to achieve new heights and I will always be grateful to them for their love, support, guidance and blessings.
Even today, every time I am in Delhi, I visit BVB and DD- both in Mandi House- it feels like home.