Sunday, July 26, 2009

Surendra Pratap Singh worked out a simple yet crisp Hindi for television

When Hindi became telegenic
Indianexpress.Wednesday 27 June '07 Hindi news TV would not have been where it is today, but for Surendra Pratap Singh or ‘SP’, who died ten years ago. But he would not have recognised what passes for Hindi TV news today.

If we can credit one person with this shift, it must be Surendra Pratap Singh. ‘SP’ launched Aaj Tak, initially as a half an hour news bulletin on Doordarshan, and took it to its iconic status. Today everyone knows that the viewership of all the English news channels put together is but a small proportion of the Hindi viewership. For every big media house, their Hindi channel is the real money spinner. It appears quite logical, if you compare the number of English and Hindi speakers. But only ten years ago it was not so obvious. Hindi media was a distant and very poor cousin to the all-powerful English media.

SP set out to change this by adopting a fresh and bold approach. He broke ranks with the many devotees, servants and fanatics of Hindi. Instead of worshipping Hindi, he worked with it. He worked out a simple yet crisp Hindi for television, distinct from the stuffy language of the print media, without giving in to the pressures of Hinglish. He recognised that Hindi was not an endangered species waiting to be rescued by the faithful. Unlike his contemporaries who had a contempt for or fear of the market, SP built on the huge market potential of Hindi — his confident Hindi did not need to be fanatic. He was perhaps the only Hindi journalist whose column was translated into English and carried by The Economic Times.

SP instilled professionalism in Hindi journalism... Yet his professionalism was not apolitical. A man of deep political convictions and a political animal to the core, SP held his own against the communal wave that threatened to drown the Hindi media. Unabashedly pro-Mandal, he translated his conviction by recruiting and training a large number of non-upper caste Hindu journalists. YADAV The writer is a political scientist at CSDS, New Delhi

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