This year, India will celebrate its 75 years of Independence. In these 75 years, the world of television content has gone through a massive paradigm shift. And, it’s not just the content but also the audiences who have changed. From just one channel available on television to over 850 channels on TV and more than 40 over-the-top streaming platforms available via connected TVs and firesticks, the world of content has gone through a generational change.
From the whole community gathering at a person’s house to watch Doordarshan in 1970’s and 1980’s, now every person watches their favourite show on TV, laptop or smartphone in their private space. The viewership pattern has gone from community viewing to personal viewing in these 75 years. But just as the saying goes, ‘Old is Gold’, here are some of the most popular shows to bring back the nostalgia and see the evolution of content from serials to webseries.
Aimed at disseminating agricultural information to rural and farming audiences, Krishi Darshan was the first Indian television program which premiered on DD National and is the longest running television series in India. As per data, the show was broadcasted to nearly 80 villages close to Delhi. It was shifted from DD National to DD Kisan in 2015 but continues to air on DD National even now.
First aired in 1982, Chitrahaar Is the longest running film-song program on Doordarshan. The show featured song clips from Bollywood films. Boasting a viewership of 150 million people, Chitrahaar was mainly concentrated in rural areas of India. In 2002, the Indian government implemented the addition of SLS (Same Language Subtitling) to Chitrahaar, because of its immense popularity, enhancing viewers’ reading skill as well as promoting literacy, especially in villages.
Hum Log (1984)
The iconic Hum Log is India’s first serial drama in Hindi that was aired. Featuring Ashok Kumar, Vinod Nagpal and Jayshree Arora, the serial depicted the story of an Indian middle-class family of the 1980s and their daily struggles and aspirations. Hum Log was developed in collaboration with writer Manohar Shyam Joshi, who scripted the series, and filmmaker P Kumar Vasudev as the director. Inspired by Mexican television series, Ven Conmigo, the serial made use of education-entertainment methodology to tell its story. At the end of every episode, Ashok Kumar discussed the ongoing story and situations with the audience using Hindi couplets and limericks.
With a cast of Alok Nath, Sudhir Pandey, Kiran Juneja, among others, Buniyaad was the first show in India to show the partition era on television. Directed by Ramesh Sippy and Jyoti Sarup and written by Manohar Shyam Joshi, the serial dealt with the Partition of India in 1947 and its aftermath. The serial spans the life in India between 1916-1978. Buniyaad is currently being reaired on DD Retro.
In 1987, DD aired the iconic mythological series Ramayan and the following year presented viewers with Mahabharat. The two shows became cult hits with communities gathering together and watching the shows with rapt attention. Interestingly, it was these shows that brought back DD’s popularity and skyrocketed its viewership numbers in 2020 when the first lockdown brought a halt to Indian television’s shows.
Another iconic show of 1980’s, Karamchand was one of the first detective serials telecasted in India. Karamchand was a detective who helped the local police solve murders while munching on carrots along with his harebrained assistant, Kitty. The protagonist was played by Pankaj Kapur while the role of his assistant ‘Kitty’ was played by Sushmita Mukherjee. In 2006, the show was revived by Sony Entertainment Television with Pankaj Kapur reprising his role as the carrot chewing Karamchand while Kitty was played by Sucheta Khanna.
Wagle Ki Duniya
Aired between 1988 to 1990, Wagle Ki Duniya was an Indian sitcom based on the characters created by noted cartoonist RK Laxman. Putting actors in the cartoon based stories of “the common man”, the show highlighted the issues of common middle-class Indian man in a comic manner.
Malgudi Days was first aired in 1986 and was filmed in both English (first 13 episodes) and Hindi (all 54 episodes). It was based on the 1943 short story collection of the same name by RK. Narayan. The series was directed by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag with Carnatic musician L Vaidyanathan composing the score of the serial.
Stepping into 1990’s, DD faced competition as private broadcasters such as Zee TV, Sony TV, Star TV, came into play. Yet this Mukesh Khanna starrer superhero show emerged as the blockbuster TV serial in Indian history. Aired between 1997-2005, Shaktimaan was an Indian adaptation of Superman. Shaktimaan was depicted as a human who had attained superhuman powers through meditation and five elements of nature: space, earth, air, fire, water.
Shaka Laka Boom Boom
With this series, the first generational gap came into existence. Targeted for family viewing, the show was watched mainly by children. First aired in 2000 on DD National, the show ran 30 episodes of protagonist Sanju and his adventures with his magical pencil. The show was then picked up by Star TV in 2001 and was aired on Star Plus from 2002.
One of the first horror serials in India, Ssshhhh…Koi Hai was a thriller television anthology series which was created by Cinevistaas Limited and Contiloe Entertainment for Star Plus. The series, which premiered in July 2001, ran for three seasons ending in May 2010.
Another Pankaj Kapur starrer popular show was Office Office. The serial premiered on SAB TV in 2001 and was a satirical take on the prevalent corruption in India. Through the protagonist , a common man named Mussadilal, the show aimed to bring into the limelight the struggles common man faces in a public sector office.
Sarabhai vs Sarabhai
First premiered in 2006 on STAR One, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai was a comedy family show that depicted a quintessential upper-class family living in the upmarket neighbourhood of Cuffe Parade in South Mumbai. The show was regarded as being ahead of its generation in terms of its concept, writing, and average viewership ratings at the time of its initial release and now has gone on to become a cult classic.
Aired in 2008 on Colors TV, Balika Vadhu was a drama series that aimed to highlight the social cause of child marriage. Set in Rajasthan, the show revolved around Anandi, the protagonist, who gets married at a young age and faces difficulties in accepting herself to a new family of strangers and her roles as a friend, wife, and daughter-in-law. The show began with a good cause, but just like all Indian soap operas which ran for too long, the show lost its path and its focus midway.
Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah
One of the longest running shows with a massive cult following that hasn’t receded in the years is Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. Running on SAB TV since 2008, this show is based on the residents of Gokulodham Society and how they help each other find solutions when they face common, real-life challenges and get involved in sticky situations.
From television, we now take a long jump towards OTT. Produced by The Viral Fever (TVF), The Kota Factory was first aired in 2019 on TVF Play and YouTube simultaneously. In 2021, the show was picked up by Netflix and has already aired its second season with a third season in production. Based in Kota, Rajasthan, the show depicts the life of students in the city and their efforts to get into an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) by cracking the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).
Delhi Crime is an Indian crime drama web series written and directed by Richie Mehta and available on Netflix. The series is set in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang rape.and covers the period from the incident happening to the final arrest of the suspects. Featuring Shefali Shah, Rasika Duggal, Adil Hussain, among others, the show is a thriller that artfully depicts the job of Delhi police and tug of war they play with politics as well as media.
The Family Man
The Family Man is an Indian spy thriller streaming television series created by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK for the streaming service Amazon Prime Video. The show features Manoj Bajpayee as Srikant Tiwari, a middle-class man secretly working as an intelligence officer for the Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell (TASC), a fictitious branch of the National Investigation Agency. The show was first aired in 2019.