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4-min read

‘The News is Read by…’: On Barun Haldar’s Demise, His Colleagues Cherish Memories of Man Who Defined AIR’s Golden Age

On his demise on Wednesday night, his colleagues and contemporaries remembered him as an immensely popular and credible broadcaster and a thorough professional.

Rakhi Bose | News18.com@theotherbose

Updated:July 4, 2019, 6:25 PM IST
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‘The News is Read by…’: On Barun Haldar’s Demise, His Colleagues Cherish Memories of Man Who Defined AIR’s Golden Age
On his demise on Wednesday night, his colleagues and contemporaries remembered him as an immensely popular and credible broadcaster and a thorough professional.
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New Delhi: Of the many iconic and often dramatic lines that defined generations in India, the most resonant was perhaps "This is All India Radio. The news read by Barun Haldar."

In 1970s and 1980s, this line and the baritone voice behind it became synonymous with morning news bulletins. It was the golden age of radio in India, as we now call it. Haldar , along with his contemporaries such as Melville de Mellow, Surajit Sen, Sushil Jhaveri, Lotika Ratnam, Pamela Singh and others, had become household names.

On his demise on Wednesday night, his colleagues and contemporaries remembered him as an immensely popular and credible broadcaster and a thorough professional.

"You couldn't get much past him. He was very strict when it came to work. But he was also very compassionate and warm," recalled Indrani Roy Misra. Haldar was her mentor at AIR's Kolkata unit where he was the voice of the station's Western music show 'Musical Bandbox'. Every radio-owning person from the 1960s in Kolkata would remember the swagger of BK.

"Back then, he had not yet become Barun Haldar. Kolkata knew him as 'BK', the handsome voice behind AIR's English music show," Misra said.

Her husband, who had also been in the AIR, told her once that the fan mail Haldar regularly received was enough to make a film star blush. In 1960s and even well into the next decade, 'BK' the super-radio-star enamoured young girls and boys.

Misra jokingly recalled that in Kolkata, Haldar used to wear a beret. "It was because he had lost some hair due to side effects from some treatment," she said as a sidenote. But while the beret was BK's look, he promptly shed it upon moving to Delhi in 1970s to join the General News Unit. "The beret didn't make it and BK turned to Barun Haldar".

Anil Kumar Saxena, currently working as Principal Advisor to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, recalled a tall, dark-ish man who was always accommodating, almost self-effacing and ever crackling with wit. He has worked as a news editor in the AIR from 1985 to 1988.

"He often used to joke, 'Saxena, we only read the lines. We don't read between the lines'. He was full of witticisms like that," Saxena said.

Despite his popularity, Haldar was characterized by his diffidence and rigour for professionalism. He was one of the few broadcasters who would not get annoyed when an editor or shift head popped into the studio with some urgent breaking news in the middle of the bulletin.

In fact, he was so good that even after his retirement as Chief News Editor, the AIR retained him with two back to back extensions. "He was the one to train the young ones at AIR. He had a firm hand on you but he never really let one know how strict he really was," Minoti Chatterjee, former principal of the Kamala Nehru College and long time associate of Haldar, said.

Recalling the time when she used to co-read bulletins with him, Chatterjee said, "He never said I was good, but he was never mean when we messed up," the senior AIR English news reader said. One of the highlights of his career came with the 1971 Indo-Bangladesh war when his English war-commentary from AIR Kolkata rang across the country with millions hanging on to his measured, deep voice and the enunciated words, catapulting him to national fame. It was only after this that he went on to join the news unit in the capital.

It wasn't all work and no play. His sense of humour and sparkling wit never left him and he managed to wow even those who did not directly work with him. On a cold winter evening in 1999, recalled Basudha Banerji, Head of the English Features Unit at AIR, Haldar walked up to her office for a meeting with her then boss. "He came and asked where she was with his eyes. I said, "She is waiting for you". He said, "Doesn't that just warm the cockles of a man's heart on a cold winter evening?" I will always remember that".

AIR News Director General Ira Joshi recalled how strict he had been with pronunciations, especially of those who spoke Bengali, though he himself was a native speaker. "He would always say Bengalis pronounce things like they always have a rasgulla in their mouth," she laughed.

Haldar passed away on Wednesday night and is survived by daughter Tania Haldar. She posted the following message on Facebook:

Many of his colleagues have since been commemorating the stalwart on social media.

Ratna Sen, a senor broadcaster at AIR Kolkata also expressed her condolences in response to a Facebook post. "That was the golden era of the radio & legends like Barun Haldar made it possible! Later, he shifted his focus to the News reels, where he lent his voice & again charmed his listeners!...Legends like Barun da had taken the Radio to new heights & enriched the art of Broadcasting ! RIP, Barun da, you will remain forever in the hearts of your listeners!"

Many people can read lines on radio or even TV and deliver the news. However, only some can breath life into a news story with their voice, intonation, pauses and emotion. At an age when digital news fed like popcorn to hungry consumers on social media, stalwarts like 'Barun da' as his contemporaries lovingly call him, remain singular points and guiding stars in the meticulous and dynamic history of news and broadcast journalism in India.

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