1980’s were considered to be the darkest period in the history of Hindi cinema as this was the time when the superstars of the 70’s like Rajesh and Vinod Khanna, were giving duds after duds and the Khan trio of the 1990’s were yet to rise. Jeetendra looked old and jaded and so did Amitabh Bachchan who was well past his prime. Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol and Jackie Shroff were occasional flashes in the pan and were not superstars. Sridevi the biggest superstar of the 80’s wasn’t doing anything better either as she was busy churning out re-runs of her Tamil and Telugu hits for mainstream pan- India audience.
But where cinema suffered, Indian television blossomed.
Rich in stories, amazing actors and some truly engaging storytelling meant that the television was the place to be.
Here are the 6 Television Shows that will surely make you feel nostalgic and also prove that Indian Television can be much more than just Saas- Bahu melodrama.
1. Hum Log
The oldest and first television serial of India was aired in 1984 on Doordarshan. It was written by Manohar Shyam Joshi, directed by P Kumar Vasudev and narrated by great Indian Actor Ashok Kumar. The series had 156 episodes which dealt with the daily struggles and aspirations of an Indian middle class family of the 1980s.
It was created using the methodology of education-entertainment on the lines of a Mexican television series, Ven Conmigo (1975). After a Mexican trip in 1982, the idea of the TV series came to the then Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Vasant Sathe and then this idea was developed in collaboration with writer Manohar Shyam Joshi.
At the end of each episode, veteran Hindi film actor Ashok Kumar used Hindi couplets and limericks to discuss the ongoing story and situations with the audience.
No Indian television history is complete without the mention of this 94 – Hindi episode series. It was produced by B.R Chopra and directed by his son Ravi Chopra and it ran originally from 2 October 1988 to 15 July 1990 on DD National. The script was written on the basis of Vyasa’s original story by the Urdu poet Rahi Masoom Raza depicting the legendary war between Pandavas and Kauravas.
Each episode ran for about 60 minutes and started with a title song consisting of lyrical content and two Bhagavad Gita verses. Considered to be the best and most successful Mahabharata series ever produced on television as it was the closest that can come to original scripture while also maintaining the entertainment aspect and the depth of characters played by various actors which set an unprecedented benchmark.
Well we all remember this serial for one reason only!
The man who will go on to conquer Bollywood made his television debut here. The show was directed by real life former Indian Army Officer, Colonel Raj Kapoor. It was a coming –of-age story of Lt. Abhimanyu Rai although the series was only 13 episodes long, but it came an instant hit and made Shahrukh Khan a household name.
4. Malgudi Days
There is a high possibility that every kid who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s must have watched this show or atleast read about it. Based on the novel by legendary RK Narayan, the TV series was directed by Shankar Nag and was 54 episodes long. This show was one of its kind, teaching and entertaining children at the same time and the charming tales of simple folks from the fictional Malgudi town remains one of the best moments of growing up in that decade.
The show written by Manohar Shyam Joshi and directed by Ramesh Sippy was aired in May 1986. The drama series was based on the partition of India and Pakistan and its aftermath. At that time it was considered to be a big deal to portray and depict the sensitive issue of partition on television as the pain and loss was still fresh in the minds of the people.Nevertheless it became a hugely popular show among people and sealed the fate of Doordarshan as the primary broadcaster in the 80’s. Considering that the cast had theatre honed talents like Alok Nath, Sulekha Sikri, Anita Kanwar, Sudhir Pandey along with good Bollywood talent like Soni Razdan, Kiran Juneja and Vijayendra Ghatge, this serial was destined to be a hit.
It’s no strange feat that two of the world’s most famous epics – ‘Mahabharat & Ramayan’ had two of the most famous and widely viewed television series in the history of Indian television which were aired and created in the same decade. For that reason alone 1980’s can be considered special and successful.
This 78 episode series was aired in January 1987, and was created, written and directed by Ramanand Sagar. Ramayan introduced Hindu mythology to Indian television and went on to become a national classic. The series had a viewership of 82 % which still is a record for any Indian television series. It was telecasted in 55 countries and had a total viewership of 650 million.
Such was the hysteria and craze behind this show that it was common among people to threaten local electricity boards during power outage. Soutik Biswas of BBC recalled – “streets would be deserted, shops would be closed and people would bathe and garland their TV sets before the serial began.”
William Dalrymple writing for the Telegraph noted, “In villages across south Asia, hundreds of people would gather around a single set to watch the gods and demons play out their destinies. In the noisiest and most bustling cities, trains, buses and cars came to a sudden halt, and a strange hush fell over the bazaars. In Delhi, government meetings had to be rescheduled after the entire cabinet failed to turn up for an urgent briefing.”
Well to be honest there are lot of shows during that time frame which for some reason or the other had an impact on our lives, especially for those who grew up in the 80s and the 90s. So narrowing it down to six Tv shows was no easy task but I do have some more in my special mentions, so once you are done reading this article, find these shows and start watching them one by one, you can thank me later!
And yes, in today’s age finding these shows would not be that difficult unless you are from the Stone Age and have not heard of the word “Internet”.
Special Mentions – Flop Show (1989) , Chitrahaar (1982) , Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne (1989) , Waagle Ki Duniya (1988) , Katha Sagar (1986), Mirza Ghalib (1988) , Param Vir Chakra (1988) , Karamchand (1985), Bharat Ek Khoj (1988).