Bharucha - Many
splendoured English Broadcaster
A colourful Lankan belonging to the Farsi community in this little isle was
Jimmy Bharucha. He was a veteran broadcaster and household name in
this country where English broadcasting was listened to by a generation
familiar with the language and western culture - not necessarily the
upper class elites.
It was in the 1950s, the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon began
broadcasting under the guidance of an Australian, Clifford Dodd.
Perhaps this was the first commercial broadcasting at that time in Asia
and even South East Asia.
The Ceylon Beam and the All Asia Beam and even the South East Asia
Beam and perhaps the African Beam were immensely popular in almost
half the southern hemisphere. This is not an exaggeration.
Even now the All Asia Beam, beamed particularly to listeners in the
Indian subcontinent and sometimes heard in West Asia, continues to be
enjoyed by thousands of listeners who are tied down to our broadcasts
for almost half a century.
You might ask, how I would know this.
I know this because I am one of the presenters on the English Service of
the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). I receive letters and
messages from some such listeners who are also in contact with the rest
of my colleagues.
At present thse behind the microphone are Nihal Bharathi, Indrani
Senanayaka, Chris Bandara, Niranjan Abeysundara, V. Rajendra, Harold
Fernando, Bevil Palihawadana, Sounthi Thavam, Shareefa, Steve
Morrel, Roshan Abeysekera, Amanthi de Silva, Mayomi, Bianca,
Chanakya Jayadeva, Kumar Samuel, Caryl Sella, Lavanie
Selvanayagam, Setunga, Yoosuf, and a few others come over the air
Before the present presenters there were a host of other announcers
who entertained listeners for ages -more than 57 years.
When Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt Everest, he tuned his transistor on
and heard the husky voice of Greg Rozkowski ('Happy Go Lucky Greg'
as he called himself). Greg ( robust man of Polish and Japanese origin),
also had a partnership with the then Nippon Hotel at Companya Veediya.
Greg was greeting listeners on All Asia. Clifford Dodd, Tim Horshington (
he was a Lankan Thamilian), Greg Rozkowski, Jimmy Bharucha, Geoff
Fruignet, Chris Greet, Mil Sansoni, Bob Harvey, the late Karl Goonasena,
the late Norton Pereira, Earldley Pieris, Ronald Campbell, Percy
Bartholemeuz, Dan Durai Raj, Vernon Corea, Perin Rustomjee (I do not
know whether she was related to the Pestonjees of Abans), Sita
Jayawardena (Parakrama), were of the colourful company of classic
English announcers at that time.
Later men and women like Shirley Perera, Vijaya Corea, Leon Belleth,
Nihal Bharathi, V Rajendra, Rowana Candappa, Myrl Walpola (Williams),
Steven Alagaratnam and a few more entertained the listeners thoroughly
well as they had the knowledge, talent and fine voice qualities. I might
have missed some names as I am writing from memory.
The National Service (the Home Service) had Myrl Swan, legendary Livy
Wijemanne, Priya Samarajiva ( Kodipilly), Mark Anthony Fernando, David
Joseph, Chris Tambimuttu, Dudley Weeraratne, Joseph Mather,
Charmaine Jayawardena and other producers like Deloraine Brohier, the
late Alfreda de Silva, Hector Jayasinghe , Stein, and other broadcasters.
Let me now focus on Jimmy Bharucha. He remained an eligible bachelor
till his death. He was an Old Peterite. Clean shaven, immaculately
dressed in blue half sleeved shirt and blue pants with hair combed to the
side with clear partition ( he must have ben using the then Brylcream),
shy, reserved and at the same time affable. If he knows you, he will keep
aside his natural shyness and greet you very warmly. One of his great
qualities was humility and he was modest in many ways. He was a widely
read man.We as teenagers learned the correct English pronunciation
(the British way the received pronunciation) from broadcasters like Jimmy
His knowledge of Western music was multifaceted. He would appreciate
both the Blue Danube and Trini Lopez.
Jimmy Bharucha used to present a very entertaining and informative
programme called the 'Radio Journal'. He was also the pioneer presenter
of the 'Hit Parade'. He presented a lot of entertaining programmes with a
My personal association with him lasted many years, beginning with my
joining the SLBC first as a relief Thamil announcer on the Commercial
Service and later as a news editor, when he was director, English Service
and also for the News Division.
When I joined the Commercial Service as a relief announcer in Thamil in
1966, the late S.P.Mylvaganam was revolutionizing Thamil broadcasting
on commercial lines, mesmerizing listeners in India, particularly in
Thamilnadu, Kerala, Kanataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Mylvaganam as the senior announcer had asked Jimmy and the late
Prosper Fernando ( who was an English announcer turned Sinhala
announcer for his marvellous voice and English style of announcing in
Sinhala to draw attention from listeners) to monitor my airtime and
Jimmy listened to me although he did not know Thamil and made several
suggestions to be a good broadcaster. He said, "Siva, you are making
mistakes, but that is a good sign. Only by making mistakes you learn. I
am sure you will be a fine broadcaster." These encouraging remarks
made me more humble and I must say that I quickly learned the art of
During Neville Jayaweera's administration I used to attend workshops
conducted by BBC's Stewart Wavell who was assisted by C V
Rajasundaram. In an ad hoc manner a few who attended the drama
workshops were allowed to go on training on the National Service as
announcers. I was one of them. So I became an English relief announcer.
But due to my other engagements, I couldn't continue. Many years later,
a board consisting of Jimmy Bharucha and the late Dayananda
Gunawardena (wellknown Sinhala theatre personality) selected me as
one of the English relief announcers. Over the years I polished my
English after appearing in the Arts Magazine programme compiled and
presented by the late veteran broadcaster Vernon Abeysekera. Again
due to my working outside the country, I could not continue to work for
the SLBC. But now I am back in Lanka and occasionally work as a relief
presenter of music and requests over the English Commercial Service.
I salute the late Jimmy Bharucha for the inspiration he had give me and
even before I met him.
Though of Farsi or Parsi origin, Jimmy was truly a Lankan who brought
laurels to the country as a broadcaster par excellence.