Not Just A Face On The Idiot Box

Updated: Jul 1 2004, 03:08am hrs
Ever since I was six years old I had a dreamto read the news on All India Radio in a deep, arresting voice. At the age of 19 I did just that, but my voice never became deep.

Then came the sudden sensation of television. Not only would your voice be heard, but people would actually see you. So, still innocent and fairly new to Delhi culture, I went to the Director of TV accompanied by a tall, slim and fair cousin. One look at her and the Director forgot all about me obviously if you were dark you had no right to even imagine you could enter the hallowed precincts of TV.

Gradually that rude exposure to reality passed away and some years later I was sent from All India Radio to audition as a newsreader on TV. I passed the test, lack of deep voice, dark complexion et al. It was August 1971 and from then began a 26-year relationship with Doordarshan or DD as it later came to be calleda relationship with ups and downs, tears and tantrums, glamour and celebrity status, demands and invasion of privacy.

What Makes A Newsreader

Heres the low-down on what you actually need to fit the bill of being a good newsreader:
A graduate degree
General knowledge
A good voice, clear diction and an attractive personality

Those were the easier qualifications. Tougher ones include:
Poise and the ability to think on your feet
Determination to face the blinding lights, the unexpected mice in the studio, the lack of airconditioning and a host of other discomforts.
Unflappable attitude, because what you said on the air was written by someone else and, therefore, totally out of your control.
Emotional control, because it wouldnt do to start sobbing on the screen when Mrs Gandhi was assassinated, or to laugh when your co-newsreader was presenting the news wearing a coat and tie but just a pair of shorts underneath.

In the early days every make-up man would splash loads of whitening agents on my face, and viewers (with the exception of my mother) would tell me I looked like a ghost. But soon, with some minor changes in make up, my wheatish complexion became acceptable.

That was the TV facade. But behind the facade there was a lot of hard work and iron determination. The more at ease you looked on the screen, the easier the public thought it was to be a newsreader. Since DD was a passion and the Taj Group of Hotels was my bread and butter, I would have every bell-boy come and tell me that he wanted to be a newscaster.

Things have changed dramatically since then. We, the pioneers on DD were not encouraged to become personalities by the mandarins of the I&B Ministry, but the viewers thrust a special status on us. Now, TV anchors are in abundance and every TV anchor is a personality. Technology, of course has developed by leaps and bounds. The studios are like plush five-star hotels rather than rickety, musty government offices. Times have changed, but the rules of the game are pretty much the same.

Offscreen Homework

Make-up highlights your good points and can reduce unduly prominent features. (Darker shades of foundation on the sides to make a nose look narrower).
The basic requirement is of a foundation, just one shade lighter than the skin. Powder is also necessary. It gives a matt finish, otherwise you may shine like a torch!
Subtle eyeliner and mascara should be applied on the bottom and top of the eyelashes so that when you look down, no white streaks show.
Lipstick should be smooth and a little darker than the skin. Nothing too strong. A dark outline with a lighter colour inside is best. Normally, most people look good in shades of brown, but you have to see what suits you best.
Make-up should not be like going for a wedding. It should be make-up that would be applied to go to office. However it is important to wear make-up, or else, your skin can burn under the harsh lights (make-up is protection). Besides, the face looks flat under the lights without make-up. Highlighting of features is, therefore, important.
Hair styles should be modern but not too glamorous, or else it becomes a distraction. Hair should not fall on the face or else, shadows will be created. Be careful that the hair does not collapse with a nod of the head or a sudden draft from the airconditioning!

Of course this is an individual preference. In our time, we wore saris. It was the national dress and had an all-India appeal.
Colours should not be shocking as they distract from the content of the news. Prints should not be too large and borders not too wide or gleaming.
The best colours for TV used to be blue, grey, yellow, and a lightish pink. With developments in technology, I think all colours must be acceptable. But it is still advisable to avoid stark white and black. One reflects the light and the other absorbs the light, causing the face to look featureless or haggard.
A word of caution. It is easy to overdress for TV. The best is to remember that reading the news is like any other job, and while pleasing the eye, the outfit should never be garish. Good fitting clothes enhance the perso-nality, while see-through or revealing clothes are just in bad taste for a medium that takes you right into the bedrooms of many homes!