Those who grew up in the 80s and early 90s distinctly remember waiting for Doordarshan logo that would herald the sequence of programs for the evening. In the evenings, the logo would come about at 6.30 PM in the evening, followed by regional programs all the way till 8.40. The regional program would usually be in the form of a documentary on agriculture, followed by local news. Then from 8 to 8.30 PM, there would be either a local TV serial, which would either be in the comic or thriller genre.
From 8.30 PM to 9.00, Doordarshan would broadcast Hindi news. This was followed by a popular TV serial, all the way till 9.30. From 9.30 PM to 10.00 PM, there would be news in English. From 10 PM to 11 PM, there would be English based programs, the popular ones being ‘Didi’s Comedy Show’ and ‘I love Lucy’. On the weekends, and Friday, they would play an English movie, meant for mature audiences. Surprisingly, the level of censorship was not as high as it is now, even though it was DD National. On other days, the programs would end at 11.30 PM at night with a folk-song show or cultural program.
While DD National was a popular channel, there was an alternative channel called DD2 which was launched on August 9, 1984. When it became rechristened as DD Metro on January 26, 1993, the channel got a boost. The channel was competitive with satellite channels and a fast emerging pop culture, with quality programs like Zabaan Sambhaalke, Shrimaan Shrimati and Dekh Bhai Dekh.
The Doordarshan logo and signature tune is memorable, the tune first and logo first came into existence in 1974 by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with Pandit Ravi Shankar.
One thing to note was that in those days, the TV commercials would be ahead of the TV programs, so they would not interrupt shows like they do now.
Here are the popular Doordarshan serials of the 80s and 90s –
- Malgudi Days – Malgudi Days was based on the book by R.K. Narayan. The episode had simple stories revolving around the life and times of a ten-year old boy called Swami (played by Manjunath). The TV serial has a nostalgic appeal; the simplistic style of story-telling without being preachy is one of the best parts of the show.
- Nukkad – Nukkad was a ‘dramaedy’ (comedy and drama) about people who belonged to the lower rungs of the society. How they co-existed together as a whole in spite of their bitter sweet moments formed the crux of the story.
- Fauji – Famous for starring Shah Rukh Khan who is one of the biggest movie stars in Bollywood, It was an engaging TV serial about Indian Army commando and their brush with conflicts, internal and external.
- Mahabharata – The famous mythological serial commanded a cult following when it was aired every Sunday at 11 AM. There were 94 episodes in all, which ran from October 2 1988 to June 24, 1990.
- Buniyaad – It is considered one of the first popular soap operas. The drama was based on strife that befalls a family after the partition. Buniyaad was quite popular in the late 80s and made stars out of people like Alok Nath, Kanwaljeet Singh , Krutika Desai, Kiran Juneja and Vijayendra Ghatge.
- Karamchand – One of the first detective TV serials, it had Pankaj Kapur playing the titular character of an eccentric sleuth. He was known for nibbling on carrots, with a funny assistant by his side. The character of ‘Kitty’ (assistant detective) was played by Sushmita Mukherjee.
- Shaktimaan – The kids were glued to the fictional Indian superhero of the 90s, Shaktimaan reprised by Mukesh Khanna. The serial had him play dual roles, one of the bumbling Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shashtri and the other as Shaktimaan. The show had a long haul, ran from 1997 to 2005.
- Wagle ki Duniya – Wagle ki Duniya was one of the first popular sitcoms that ran from 1988 to 1990. The serial was a funny take on the common Indian man, played wonderfully by Anjan Srivastava and his wife Bharti Achrekar. Shah Rukh Khan played cameo in a few of the episodes.
- Flop Show – Flop Shop is one of its kind TV show that has still not found its equal. Produced and directed by Jaspal Bhatti and his wife on a shoe-string budget, this project with limited episodes found cult audience. The sitcom was a satire on socio-economic problems of Indian society, and quite eerily, seems to have a permanent resonance even in contemporary times.
- Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi – This is one of the most popular all-time comedy shows on Indian television. It was aired for the first time in 1984 and ran on Fridays at 9PM. So popular was the pull of the show that box office collections of movie timings in the night, in those days were impacted. There were 67 episodes in all and the show made people like Shafi Inamdar, Satish Shah, Tiku Talsania, Rakesh Bedi and Swaroop Sampat household names.
- Shanti – Shanti produced by UTV Communications was a huge risk to begin with. Unlike other serials before this, Shanti was going to be a daily soap, a first of its kind on Indian television. Mandira Bedi played the role of the protagonist, the TV show also had actors like Manoj Bajpai and Anoop Soni in it. The serial delved into deep dark secrets of each family member and had a hold like Santa Barbara did for Star Plus. The interesting thing to note that the serial was solid in its content and did not even have a time leap. It ran successfully and is considered a classic with 807 episodes.