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Vol. XXX No. 1, April16-30, 2020

PVK – The Tall Versatile Broadcaster Who Deserved More

by S. Viswanathan

Page 5-1PVK as announcer – AIR.

15 August 1975. The Chennai TV station was inaugurated by V.C. Shukla, Minister of Information & Broadcasting. TN Governor, K.K. Shah, was another important guest.

It was the height of Indira Gandhi’s emergency. Tamil Nadu was sheltering several leaders opposed to it. Leaders of the ruling DMK were arrested under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). Then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was not invited for the function despite the state providing prime land at the heart of the city. Deputy Director General and Head of the Chennai Doordarshan, P.V. Krishnamoorthy (PVK) was concerned and made bold to cover the chief minister’s address at the flag hoisting function that morning. There was every expectation of the Chief Minister turning up. Shukla and Shah quietly bolted soon after the inauguration. Karunanidhi did not attend, though.

A couple of years later after emergency was lifted, Karunanidhi, now not in power, presided over a Kavi Arangam. In his characteristic humour, he stated: thoo thoo enru thurathiya doordarshan, vaa vaa endru ennai azhaithathu (Doordarshan that chased me away in the past, is now welcoming me to participate in this programme), recalled senior television journalist D. Sampath Kumar.

Krishnamoorthy died at the ripe age of 98 on 16, October 2019.

A yen for spotting talent

It is difficult to recall another tall, versatile broadcaster who served as the Director, AIR in all the four metros as also in Cuttack and Kozhikode, headed TV stations in metros and was the first Director General of Doordarshan. He embellished each one of the postings, brought out the best of the culture and traditions of the region. In that process, he spotted talent in a large number of artistes in music, dance and a variety of folk arts. Connoisseur of art and journalist, Leela Venkataraman quotes him: “I don’t have to go looking for greatness in persons. I smell greatness, an ability God has given me.”

Page 5-2PVK with Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Kelucharan Mohapatra, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Akshay Kumar Mohanty, Smita Patil and Sikander Alam are some of the artistes he spotted, recognised and promoted.

SITE, his magnum opus

PVK used effectively the broadcast/telecast media. This pioneer of Indian television firmly believed in using these powerful media for not just entertainment, but more for education. He was closely involved in several major internationally funded projects: the Ford-funded School TV and the UNESCO-sponsored school education through Delhi TV. I consider the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) his magnum opus. In an interview to Doordarshan, he graphically described to interviewer, Leela Venkataraman, the magnitude of the challenge: “I was directed to proceed at short notice to Cape Canaveral in the US to discuss the project with American experts for reaching out to villages in four states. The task was to produce 1,320 hours of programmes of relevance in four languages for 2,400 remote villages from three makeshift studios. The SITE was the largest and the most ambitious of rural communication projects ever attempted. The programme was telecast in Hindi, Kannada, Odiya and Telugu.”

PVK ensured its full impact. Sadly, the satellite slot was available just for one year. There was demand by thousands of villagers in the four states to continue with the programme.

Even while PVK excelled in using television for the spread of education, economic development and social amelioration, in his tenures at Mumbai and Delhi he produced a number of entertainment classics through TV serials.

PVK was born and spent his early years in Burma. The family had in abundance the genes of music and other arts. His elder brother P.V. Subramanyam, known as Subbudu, was one of the best art critics of India.

A composer of merit

PVK had great credentials as a composer and has to his credit compositions in Odiya, Bengali and Malayalam. In his postings, he strove hard to bring out the best of folk arts of the region. Leela Venkataraman refers to his musical acumen that created the scores for many a lyric. Great singers like Talat Mahmood and Meena Kapoor sang his lyrics.

PVK was selected Vice Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and later a Fellow of the Akademi and was a media consultant for UNICEF for nearly a decade. He also served in several important committees connected with art, culture and mass media.

I share the sadness and disappointment of Leela Venkataraman: “the person (PVK) who was most deserving of the highest of state awards had died quietly with no all-India recognition – even while lesser talents are being decorated all the time.” – Courtesy: Industrial Economist.

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