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Hello! Mike testing 1,2,3,4

From engineering to stunt riding to filmmaking, Shammi Narang, Doordarshan’s easily recognisable face, has done it all, finds RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN


Just a three minute riyaz of OM, steaming the throat (no gargling), not abusing the voice through foul language, and stress management through yoga and meditation protects my voice


Photo : RAJEEV BHATT

VERSATILE Shammi Narang says he loves to mingle with people on the road

A 19-year-old boy was roaming around aimlessly inside the newly-built IIT campus auditorium in Delhi, where a white-skinned engineer was doing some sound testing. To check the microphone, he called out the lad, “Hey you, can you do mike testing?” The boy went without much interest and blurted out, “Hello mike testing 1,2,3,4”. There was something in the voice that impressed the foreigner. “He asked me, ‘Don’t you think you are wasting your time here? Meet me tomorrow at the USIS (The United States Information Service).’ He gave me a card and vanished. I didn’t know what USIS was. All decked up I reached the USIS located at Curzon Road. This man was Flanager, the technical director there. He introduced me to Shastriji, a Hindi scholar. He asked, ‘Hindi aati hai’? I had left Hindi in class VIIIth. But, I insisted I knew. He gave me a page to read. I did. Without knowing what it all was. Within 15 minutes, Flanager gave me Rs.200 as ‘payment’. I was stunned! Those days, it was a huge amount. My mess charge for a month was Rs.95.”

The incident changed the course of life for Shammi Narang, the face of Doordarshan news reading in the 1970s-80s, and the man with a baritone we hear everyday and night guiding us on the do’s and don’ts inside the Delhi Metro. For the prestigious position in DD, Narang was selected from among 10000 candidates. “I used to look with awe at Salma Sultan getting down from a swanky car at the DD office. I didn’t even fathom that I would sit next to her for 12 years and read news,” he recalls with pride. Narang cannot forget the day he came put of the audition room in DD. “I didn’t wear a suit but tattered jeans and a casual T-shirt. Contrary to others who weren’t allowed to read the second line if they didn’t succeed with the first, I was asked to read the whole page. When I came back, an old gentleman with an amazing voice asked me, ‘To ye tumne padha? Achcha padha’. I said thanks and went ahead. A staffer rushed to me asked ‘Who do you think you are? You know who this gentleman was?’ I pleaded ignorance and he said to my shock, ‘It was Devki Nandan Pandey’!”

A disciplined life

Now 55, Narang can tell us best how to earn through the vocal chords. Age has neither withered his voice nor his physique. He is fit. He walks briskly and, importantly, there is no fatigue in his voice even when he speaks continuously for hours together. Narang owes it to his disciplined life and family background.

Enjoying a meal at the Colour-n-Spice restaurant of The Village, Shammi slips down memory lane. “My grandfather was a Sikh. He came from Pakistan during Partition. My father was in the Army. I am a qualified metallurgist, and stunt riding is my hobby. I did my post-graduation in Metallurgy to find a ‘sarkari’ job. I worked with Larsen & Toubro for quite a while.”

But he wasn’t satisfied with just that. He wanted to do something adventurous. He was indecisive till one day he saw actor Rishi Kapoor riding a ‘mobike’ in Bobby. “Since my father was in the Army, any act of bravery was never discouraged. I trained to be a stunt rider and even got to work as one with Escorts. Watching beautiful girls screaming wow and ooh-la-la would take me to the seventh heaven,” he smiles mischievously.

But in late 1980s there was a mishap and he fell from a height of eight feet along with his bike. “I suffered a broken nose. I didn’t want to tell my father, so I went to the hospital all by myself. My father got to know. He saw me and said, ‘Oye koi nahi. Faujiyon ke ghar mein ye to hota hi rehta hai!’ Today, my misshapen nose is because of plastic surgery,” he laughs heartily. No wonder, Narang is the the apt choice for anchoring the Godrej Phillips Bravery Awards presentation. “I have been anchoring it for 18 years,” he says smiling.

So what keeps his voice deep and young? “Just a three minute riyaz of Om, steaming the throat (no gargling), not abusing the voice through foul language, and stress management through yoga and meditation,” Narang reveals.

Despite a high profile life and a paying profession, Narang insists he stays away from the world of Page 3. “Call it my inborn complex — I don’t like page 3 culture. It has more of artificiality and less of warmth.”

A resident of Delhi’s Navjeevan Vihar, Narang now makes issue-based documentary films and rural-based products such as Krishi Card. With his wife Dolly Narang, a disciple of music composer Jaidev, he makes computer-aided learning programmes for kids. “We are doing an infotainment package for underprivileged children with Ministry of Education in which even science is taught with singing and animation.” Narang also gives free training to kids in voiceover technique.

“I just ask them to bring fire in their belly. I want them to take the voiceover to the ultimate level,” he concludes smiling.

* * *

Shammi Narang plays jazz drums and harmonium

He is a “semi-trained” singer too

He has done theatre with the likes of Sheela Bhatia

Most heritage monuments’ audio guides especially in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Mysore Palace have his voice

He has worked in two feature films by Govind Nihalani (Lakhamandal) and Ashok Wazirani (Uttejna)

He started Delhi’s first digital studio called Pin Drop in 1988 with teleprompter

He makes corporate films

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