The 90s was the best generation for Indian television in terms of serials and shows that had content that kept the audience glued to their seats. Shah Rukh Khan, one of the biggest Indian movie stars, found his foundation in DD serials of the late 80s and early 90s. Let us look at some of the memorable Indian TV shows and serials which bring fond memories when you think about them. Many people watched these programs on their Black and White televisions, moving on to color with the advent of satellite television.
Malgudi Days – This popular TV serial was based on the book written by RK Narayan of the same name. 39 episodes were shot for Doordarshan and most of the series was shot in Shimoga, Karnataka. The little boy Swami was the endearing protagonist in many of the episodes. Manjunath who played Swami, quit acting at the age of 19 to concentrate on studies. He did his MA and is now working as a Vice-President for Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project.
Nukkad – This show dealt with the bitter sweet-moments in the day-to-day lives of people of the lower income strata. All of these people, a local shop-keeper, an electrician, a barber, a drunkard, a cycle repairer, a cobbler, a maid, a local constable, a waiter, a municipality sweeper, an old trumpet player, a teacher, a maid and a beggar all cohabit together and share their happiness and sadness together at a local street corner(Nukkad). All of them have unfilled aspirations that they hope to realize one day. One of the finest Indian TV serials of the late 80s and early 90s, the show was directed by Kundan Shah. Actors like Pavan Malhotra, Sameer Khakhar,Avtar Gill, Javed Khan, Dilip Dhawan and many others found recognition through this serial.
Buniyaad – One of the first soap-operas in India, Buniyaad was a cult show in the late 80s and 1990. It was directed by Ramesh Sippy and was written by Manohar Shyam Joshi. The show dealt with partition of India and its aftermath. The show made stars out of Alok Nath (who played Haweli Ram), Krutika Desai, Soni Razdan, Dalip Tahil and Kanwaljit Singh.
Tara (1993-1997) was the first soap opera aired on Zee TV. It was the first-even Indian TV serial to focus on the lives of three urban women and their aspirations. Each of these four ladies, Tara, Kanchan(Ratna Pathak Shah), Arzoo(Neha Sharad) and Sheena(Amita Nangia) had distinct identities and personality traits. Though the show ran strong for five years, it began to wither away with reported real-life ego-clashes between Navneet Nishan (who played Tara) and Alok Nath (who played her boss Deepak).
Banegi Apni Baat –Banegi Apni Baat was a show based on urbane college life, it was aired on Zee TV and ran from 1993 to 1997. It primarily focussed on romance, ragging and woes of college life, making it an instant hit with college going audiences and people in their early 20s. Banegi Apni Baat had actors who have now transitioned to become big stars like Irrfan Khan, R.Madhavan, Surekha Sikhri and Achint Kaur. Ironically, the good looking heart-throb of the serial Raman Trikha failed to encash on his popularity.
Hum Paanch- Ekta Kapoor can credit her fame and fortune to this very serial that started it all – Hum Paanch. This Indian sitcom ran from 1995 and ran for four years till 1999. It started a second season in 2005 which ended in 2006, albeit not so successful as the first one. It is the story of a middle-class office-goer Anand Mathur (Ashok Saraf) who has three daughters — Meenakshi, Radhika and Sweety, from his dead first wife (played by Priya Tendulkar) and two others, Kajal, and Chhoti from his second wife (Shoma Anand). The show proved to be a lucky platform for its actresses like Vidya Balan (who played Radhika), Rakhee Tandon, Vandana Pathak and Bhairavi Raichura.
Zabaan Sambhalke – This show aired on DD Metro and had two seasons 1993-1994 and 1997-1998. It was an Indian adaption of the British serial ‘ Mind Your Language’. The serial focused on a Hindi teacher Mohan Bharti (Pankaj Kapoor) who has a tough task to teach Hindi to people from different parts of India and across the world who have problems speaking the language.
Dekh Bhai Dekh – The show aired on DD Metro revolved around the three generations of the Diwan family who stay together in a huge bungalow in Mumbai. The comical situations that revolved around generation clashes and family troubles made for a humorous viewing. The show was aired in 1993 and furthered the careers of Shekhar Sumar, Navin Nischol, Farida Jalal, Devan Bhojani, Bhavana Balsavar, Nattasha Singh and Vishal Singh.
Shrimaan Shrimati – This popular sitcom aired in 1995 and starred Jatin Kanakia, Reema Lagoo Rakesh Bedi, and Archana Puran Singh in lead roles. The show was aired on 1995 and revolved around the men who have an infatuation for the other’s wives.
Gaayab Aya– Call it, India’s first animation series! Aired in the late 80s, it revolves around a cute animated character who helps oppressed and fights the antisocial elements.
Appu aur Pappu – This serial aired in the late 80s at 9AM on Sundays, and revolved around the friendship between a kid called Papu and an elephant called Appu.
Mahabharat – In the late 80s and early 90s, the 11 AM slot was a major prime-time slot. Mahabharat, the epic TV serial ensured that people stayed at home to watch the regal mythological drama that was aired on DD National. It had high production values according to those times and each episode ran for 45 minutes, longer than the conventional half an hour. The show ran from October 2, 1998 to June 24 1990 and the total production cost of the entire series was Rs.9 crore ($1 million). The show made stars out of Mukesh Khanna, Gufi Paintal, Arjun, Pankaj Dheer, Roopa Ganguly and many others.
Ramayan – This epic TV series based on Valmiki’s Ramayana, was directed by Ramanand Sagar, and ran successful on DD National 1 from 1987-1988. Arun Govil played the character of Ram, while Sita was played by Deepika Chikhalia. Dara Singh played Hanuman and the character of Ravana was essayed by Arvind Trivedi.
Chandrakanta – The Indian fantasy TV show based on novel of the same name was telecast on DD1 from 1994 to 1996 before it was pulled off. The producers filed a case and then the show began airing reruns on other channels. The show starred Shahbaaz Khan, Durga Jasraj, Javed Khan, Mukesh Khanna and Akhilendra Mishra (as Yakoo) among a host of other actors.
Circus – This was a 1989 TV serial that focused on the lives of people in a circus troupe. Shah Rukh Khan played the role of Shekharan, the son of the circus owner. The star-cast in the show also included Ashutosh Gowariker, Mita Vashisht , Pawan Malhotra and Renuka Shahane. Circus was directed by Kundan Shah and Aziz Mirza.
Dil Dariya – This 1988-89 serial was directed by Lekh Tandon. Interestingly, this was the serial for which Shah Rukh Khan faced the camera for the first time, even though Fauji was the first to be aired.
Doosra Keval – This was a 1989 serial that featured Shah Rukh Khan in the main role as Keval. He goes to town and stops his friend from becoming a terrorist. In the bargain, he dies and his friend returns to the village. Keval’s family accepts him as ‘Doosra Keval’ (the second Keval). The serial was shot entirely in New Delhi.
Campus – The college-based serial was telecast in the early 90s on Zee TV and featured Arif Zakaria, Mahesh Manjrekar, Ninad Kamat and Milind Gowali in lead roles. This serial directed by Sanjeev Bhattacharya featured on how college life was dictated by politicians who would take advantage of the youth for their own opportunist ideologies.
Chunauti – Chunauti aired on Doordarshan in the late 80s featured on college life and focused on ragging, donations, politics, bribes, mass copying, drug addiction and college romances. This show was also directed by Sanjeev Bhattacharya. While Arif Zakaria was a teacher in Campus, he was a student in Chunauti. The show also marked the debut of Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, Ali Asgar and Archana Joglekar.
Kissa Shanti Ka – Kissa Shanti Ka was a serial in the late 80s about a college girl Shanti (Archana Joglekar) who takes a stand on anything that is unethical in front of her eyes. At the same time, she is a stunning and the boys in the college try their best to woo her.
Just Mohabbat – This show aired on Sony TV in 1996 revolved around the life of a kid (played by Harsh Lunia and then by Vatsal Seth) who stays in a hostel. It chronicled his life as a child and then took a leap to his teenage life.The show also had actors who would later on to make names for themselves like Kunaal Roy Kapoor, Jennifer Kotwal and Vatsal Seth.
Zee Horror Show – If there is one serial that horror fans would love to bring back, it would be the non-compromising horror-fest Zee Horror Show. People would watch the serial with their eyes somewhat shut to minimize a sudden shock value. The show created by horror veterans, the Ramsay Brothers ran successfully on Zee TV from 1993 to 1998.
Byomkesh Bakshi –The 1993 TV series starred Rajat Kapoor in the role of the ace detective Byomkesh Bakshi. It was aired on DD National and ran successfully from 1993 to 1997.
Hip Hip Hurray – The story was based on the life of 12std students, their relationship problems, interactions, failures and successes. The show ran from 1998 to 2000 and was the debut vehicle for many actors like Shweta Salve, Shabbir Ahluwalia, Vinay Pathak, Purab Kohli, Peeya Ray Chowdhary and Suchitra Krishnamoorthy.
Flop Show – This satirical sitcom was shot on shoestring budget (Rs.20000) and aired on Doordarshan in 1989. The show as written, directed and acted by Jaspal Bhatt(who played the central character). His wife Savita Bhatt who co-produced the show, acted as his reel-life wife too, in the serial. Though the show only had ten episodes, each of them are extremely memorable and watched on Youtube. Flop Show was a satire on socio-economic problems, which are relevant even today.
Saanp Seedi – One of the first game shows to hit Indian television, this one hosted by Mohan Kapoor revolved around the game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’.It was aired on Zee TV in the early 90s and met with a terrific response.
Tol Mol Ke Bol – This was another game show based on the concept of the US show ‘The Price is Right’ where participants had to guess the price of a product, mostly kitchen appliances.. The show was hosted by R.Madhavan and then by Ritu Raj along with Mini Mathur.
Chitrahaar – Who can forget Chitrahaar! Now, even the trailer of a particular movie is well –marked and packaged on Youtube, but on the humble DD1, the only way to promote a move was through Chitrahaar and that too after the movie was released! There would be 5-6 six songs of movies (young and old) played in the course of half an hour, which movie lovers would watch with enthusiasm. In fact, Chitrahaar was prevalent even in the 70s, making it the longest-running movie-based program in TV history.
Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan – This was the first talk-show on Indian television and it had Tabassum (child-actress turned host)asking a set of questions to Bollywood movies and TV personalities, the content of which would be interspersed with songs and clippings of their movies. And no, there were no naughty questions like Karan Johar asks in Koffee with Karan.
Vikram aur Betaal – This show aired for the first time in 1985 was based on Betaal Pachisi, written thousands of years ago by Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt. The narrative of the serial was such that Betaal, the ghost/vampire who would be captured by King Vikram would regale him with stories. Towards the end of the show, Betaal would escape as King Vikram would be highly impacted by the story. He would capture Betaal again and the ghost would entertain him with another story. The show was produced by Ramanand Sagar; King Vikram was played by Arun Govil while Sajjan played Betaaal.
Junglee Toofan Tyre Puncture – This was one of the first shows of Zee TV and was focused towards children, with interesting snippets, interactive events and puppet show for kids.
Baingan Raja – DD Metro started in the late 80s with an afternoon show for an hour which includes programs like children’s fables and a section called Baingan Raja. The afternoon slot was targeted towards housewives and children especially during vacations. Baingan Raja was a show where actors took the shape of vegetables and emphasized the importance of eating your veggies.
Mr.Yogi – Mohan Gokhale reprised the role of Mr. Yogi, a bachelor who has trouble finding the rightful match for marriage. He is US-returned boy, who meets 12 girls and has problems with almost all of them, till he finds his perfect bride played by Pallavi Joshi. The show aired in the late 80s was directed by Ketan Mehta.
Udaan – It was a popular serial aired on DD National from 1989 to 1991 and featured Kavita Chaudhary as the protagonist. It was the first Indian show on women’s empowerment and chronicled the struggle of a woman from a modest background who focuses on being an IPS officer. It was inspired by the real-life story of the IPS officer Kanchan Choudhary Bhattacharya(Former Director General of Police).
Fauji – Aired in 1989 on DD1, this TV series was about the training of Indian commando regiment. This was Shah Rukh Khan’s second serial but he became quite a success for his amazing portrayal of Abhimanyu Rai.
Param Vir Chakra – Directed by Chetan Anand for DD 1, this show aired every Sunday morning in 1988 was a tribute to the Indian army officerS who were awarded Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military award. The episodes featured actors like Farooq Shaikh, Puneet Issar, Gurdaas Maan, Naseeruddin Shah and Annu Kapoor playing different soldiers in the serial.
Intezaar –Aired in the late 80s, this serial was based on the lives of people on a railway station. Shah Rukh Khan also played cameos in few episodes while Rajendra Gupta (a well-known character actor in movies now) played the role of the station master.
Giant Robot – The Japanese serial which aired from 1967-68 met with a stupendous response when it was aired on DD1 at 6.30 PM in the evening in the late 80s to early 90s. The steps and the command of the Giant Robot were mimicked and are still memorable till date.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – This was one of the most watched children’s show in the early 90s. So popular were the characters that even young adults and older people would watch the show. The catchline ‘By the Power of Grayskull, I have the Power’ became what would be known in today’s times as viral. Equally well-known were characters like He-Man’s anti-thesis Skeleton, Beast-Man, Battle-Cat (pet of He-Man) and Sorceress, that even toys, figurines and trump-cards on these characters did great business.
Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne – This show that was aired on DD 1 from 1989 to 1990 was about the life of a timid man, a small-time clerk who is bossed around at home by his wife and at office by his real boss. So whenever he would sleep, he would wake up to his alter-ego who would prove to be a charmer and an assertive man who would not let anyone boss around him. He even dated the girl of his dreams in his sleep. Of course, he would be back to his sad world, when his wife would wake him up every morning. The series was directed by Prakash Jha and was loosely based on the novel ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’.
Hum Log – Hum Log was India’s first TV soap opera, written by Manohar Shyam Joshi and directed by P.Kumar Vasudev. It was aired on Doordarshan on July 7, 1984 and focused on the lives of middle-class Indians and their daily strife and tribulations. Bollywood actor Ashok Kumar played the narrator who would summarize the show or add his analysis of the proceedings, at the end of the show.
Gul Gulshan Gulfam – This beautiful off-beat serial was based in Kashmir and focused on a Kashmiri family. The show was extensively shot in boat-houses and on lakes like Dal and Wular. The show was directed by Ved Rahi. It revolved around the lives of a Kashmiri family whose livelihood depending on houseboats for tourism, is affected by the influx of terrorists. The Gul Gulshan Gulfam cast included Parikshit Sahni, N.K.Phulli, Radha Seth, Neena Gupta, Kanwaljit Singh, Pankaj Berry and little Kunal Khemu who made his debut as an actor with this show.
Philips Top 10 – This countdown show was one of the highest rated shows of ZEE TV not merely for the song countdown but because of the inimitable style of hosting by Satish Shah.At that time, he was the highest paid host on Indian television. At times, they would play the count-down show in a skit format, featuring actors like Pankaj Kapur.
Superhit Muqabla – Aired on DD Metro from 1992-94, this show was distinguished by different hosts who would host the countdown show, which includes the likes of Baba Sehgal, Krutika Desai, Chunky Pandey, Shilpa Shetty, Priya Arora (Tisca Chopra) and Shah Rukh Khan.
Space City Sigma – This was the first space-ship oriented show, futuristic in its appeal, aired on Doodarshan every Sunday in the late 80s. One of the memorable catchlines of the show was ‘Chetavani Chetavani Aaagey Khatra Hai’.
Quiz Time –This was the first quiz show (call it game show, if you will) on Indian television. Siddhartha Basu (who is now a producer for many high-budgeted quiz programs) would ask general-knowledge based questions to participants every Sunday.
The World This Week – Prannoy Roy who is the co-founder of NDTV would present ‘The World This Week’ every Saturday night in the early 90s where he would take the viewers through events that happened across the world in a particular week. The program had a premium hold on the audiences before satellite TV came in the form of CNN, BBC and plethora of other channels.
Rajni – Priya Tendulkar played the character of ‘Rajni’ who would tackle social issues with every episode, right from corruption to food adulteration.
Potali Baba Ki –Potli Baba Ki was a popular kids puppet TV show aired in 1991 on DD1. This included a string of fairy tales with good messages for the children. The ‘Aaya Re Baba’ was a popular song which continues to be memorable even today. The music was composed by Gulzar who also co-wrote and co-directed the series. The show focused on an old-man who would carry a potli (bagful) of stories.
Wagle ki Duniya – The popular TV sitcom ran from 1988 to 1990 on Doordarshan channel and represented the daily struggles of a common middle-class man in comical situations. Anjan Shrivastav played the role of a fumbling nervous clerk to perfection ably supported by a fantastic performance by his wife Bharti Archekar. The show was directed by Kundan Shah and the characters were based on the ones created by cartoonist R.K.Laxman.
Filmi Chakkar– This creative show was based on the lives of a filmi-famly played by Satish Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah and their two kids. They talk in film dialogues and their overcome their ‘filmi problems’ by ‘filmi solutions’. Strangely, they all add up and look realistic!
Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi – This was the first sitcom on Indian television, written by Sharad Joshi and directed by Kundan Shah. The show aired for the first time in Doordashan in 1984 and was the mainstay of the channel for a long-time to come. Every episode was a gem and was appreciated for its humor. The serial created stars out of Satish Shah, Rakesh Bedi, Anjan Shrivastav, Swaroop Sampat and Shafi Inamdar.
Surabhi – This documentary-style cultural serial was hosted by Renuka Shahane and Siddarth Kak, and ran from 1993 to 2001. One of the popular aspects of the program was the quiz at the end of every episode, every week, which was a good incentive for people to stay hooked toe the program. This was before the Internet days where people had to stay tuned to the program in the hope of wining the quiz. The Limca Book of Records stated that the show elicited the highest response in the history of Indian TV with more than a million letters in a week. The Indian government as a response issued ‘competition post-cards’ at Rs. 2 for participation to such contests. One of the most memorable episodes of Surabhi was their documenting of a young music director with promise called A.R.Rahman.
Aahat – Aahat is the longest running horror and psychological thriller on Indian television, the first episode was aired in 1995 on Sony TV. Though they have six seasons, the most memorable is the first season in 1995 which had a mix of suspense, thrills and the supernatural.
CID – This crime-detective series which had its first episode on January 21,1998 is the longest running TV series in India, running for more than 18 years. The show stars Shivaji Satam as ACP, with Dayanand Shetty and Aditya Shrivastav as senior inspectors. Many of their viewers have passed out from school, did their college and are either working or married with kids watching the same show; but the CID branch still continues to work diligently, without promotion!
Remember any more of the 90s Indian TV shows or serials? Let us know and share your experiences of growing up with these rich, nostalgic programs.