Throwback to six Indian TV shows that broke the mould

Revisiting television before regressive ‘Saas-Bahu’ sagas


August 27, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

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A number of shows telecast on television in the early 80s and 90s had an eye for serving quality and progressive entertainment

There is no denying that Indian television shows generally spew questionable and regressive content. With prime time slots reserved for shows like Naagin, Sasural Simar Ka and Big Boss, there is a dearth of quality content on Indian television. However, earlier when the number of channels on television was limited to only a few, Indian television has had some ground-breaking, progressive and entertaining content.

Often seen as playing second-fiddle to Bollywood, Indian television is still the prime source of entertainment in millions of homes across the country. As India slipped into the 21st century, entertainment shows on TV, over the years, have followed a predictable, cringe-worthy and often extremely regressive pattern. Despite being called out by a large number of viewers and few creators, their entertainment value with the masses apparently has not dampened.

However, the same cannot be said for a few old Indian TV shows. A number of shows telecast on television in the early 80s and 90s had an eye for serving quality and progressive entertainment. Many of these have gained a cult status now and are available of YouTube and other digital platforms. The impact they had on the pop culture and its reach and popularity among certain sections of society is undeniable.

From timeless classics to progressive reality shows, here is a list of six old Indian TV shows that were way ahead of their times.

A Mouthful of Sky                                                                                       

A Mouthful of Sky
(1995), on DD National was the first Indian show in English language

Aired in 1995 on DD National, A Mouthful of Sky was the first Indian show to use English as the primary language of communication. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s novels, this crime-thriller dealt with stories of urban Indians from various communities and their struggle to mix the contradictions of their culture with westernised outlook and language.

Spanning over 252 episodes, this show included veteran actors like Rahul Bose, Milind Soman and Simone Singh.

Movers and Shakers

Back when the number of talk shows was limited to two or three only, actor turned politician, Shekhar Suman hosted a brilliant talk show called Movers And Shakers. The show didn’t bank on sexist, racist and transphobic humour and yet generated more laughter than many of current talk shows.

First aired in 1997, this talk show lasted 253 episodes. Filled with film directors, actors, singers and a few politicians, Movers and Shakers presented numerous emotional, mature and funny conversations on Indian television in the late 90s.


Mandira Bedi became a household name after Shanti

Shanti, aired in the year 1994, on DD National, was one of the most popular shows of its time. The story revolves around two friends who owned the biggest Bollywood production house in the country. The two friends who live in the lavish Shanti Mansion, are investigated by a female journalist named Shanti.

Behind the walls of Shanti Mansion, lie dark secrets of the past lives of both friends. Being a dramatic thriller, Shanti made actress Mandira Bedi, the titular character, a household name. That it still remained relevant over 15 years later was proved when Star Plus telecast it again in 2009.


Ratna Pathak Shah played a key role in Tara show

Tara was the first-ever Indian soap on contemporary urban women and was the first Hindi language drama series that ran for five years. This show is also considered as the first taste of feminism for a lot of Indian population in the early 90s.

Started in 1993, Tara introduced modern, educated and working women to the viewers. Ratna Pathak Shah, Navneet Nishan, Amita Nangia and Alok Nath played key roles in this one. Dealing with not so popular topics on Indian television in the 90s, Tara has its share of controversies but survived to gain a cult status in the preset time.


Campus resonated with thousands of students from universities and colleges across India. This show underlined the reality about how college life gets dictated by politicians who would take advantage of the youth for their own opportunist ideologies. At a time when politics in universities was looked down upon, harsh truth about campus politics was brilliantly portrayed in this show.

Aired in 1993, Campus’ title track became a rage among the youngsters. Starring many newcomers such as Paritosh Painter, Ninad Kamat, Resham Seth and Suchita Trivedi, Campus is still an irreplaceable college drama.

Star Bestsellers

Star Bestsellers had a total of 36 episodes

Star Bestsellers was in many ways a ‘startup incubator’ for talented writers and directors at the turn of the century, many of whom have gone on to make it big in the industry. The series, which featured stories written and directed by new faces, tackled different subjects relating to the human condition and societal intricacies.

It aired on Star Plus in 1999 and had a total of 36 episodes. Among the number of talented directors were names such as Imtiaz Ali, Hansal Mehta, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Anurag Kashyap, who would all go on to become some of the biggest names in Bollywood.



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