The mesmerising voice that ruled the subcontinent’s air waves through the 1950s to the 1990s is no more. Ameen Sayani, the radio presenter of the popular Binaca Geetmala show, who enthralled millions of listeners with his chatty style and incredible charm, passed away on Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack. He was 91.

Born on December 21, 1932, Sayani grew up in a literary family; his mother, Kulsum, edited and published a fortnightly magazine called Rahbeer in Hindi, Urdu, and Gujarati, and he assisted her. If that gave him a grounding in simple communication — something he espoused passionately — then his schooling at Gwalior’s Scindia School also contributed to his flawless language skills. His elder brother, Hamid Sayani, who was a commercial broadcaster, was also an inspiration.

In an interview with this writer over a decade ago, he described how his favourite gurus at school were NG Thakar and NL Khanolkar. “They taught me the use of the English language, and also about life in general. After finishing school, I soon got involved in commercial broadcasting, a profession not considered particularly erudite by my two gurus,” he said, describing the amused frowning of his teachers. He wrote a play in blank verse to show them his intellectual calibre. 

But they would undoubtedly have changed their minds, for Sayani’s voice, timbre, and fluency had listeners tuning in from all corners of the country, increasing radio listenership. He produced over 54,000 radio programmes and lent his voice to 19,000 spots and jingles, entering the record books. 

While Binaca Geetmala, which ran on Radio Ceylon and later on Vividh Bharati for over 40 years, was the show that made Sayani’s voice instantly recognisable with his signature greeting style, ‘Ji haan, Behno aur Bhaiyon, mein hoon aapka dost Ameen Sayani’, he also compered other popular shows like S Kumar’s Ka Filmi Muqadamma and the Bournvita Quiz Show.

Sayani made hundreds of Hindi film songs popular through his shows, but did he himself have any favourites? On LinkedIn, his son Rajil Sayani shares that a family favourite is ‘Lag ja gale’. The song from Woh Kaun Thi was one of the most requested and appreciated on his shows with Lata Mangeshkar.

Sayani, who earned titles like ‘Awaaz ke jadugar’, ‘Awaaz ki duniya mein Sartaj’ may be no more, but his immortal voice will live on in our hearts.