90s Nostalgia Lead
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As hard to believe as it seems right now, there was a time when television was therapeutic. Far away from scheming naagins and daayans, and the helpless (and hapless) world of melodramatic saas-bahu sagas were the simplistic tales of us, the common people. The humour was less slapstick and more natural – as were the dialogues. The plotlines felt closer to home, and the background music lovingly curated – so much so that many continue to linger in our memory lanes even now.

The good thing is, the internet – being a saviour of its time – has brought back many of these shows on streaming platforms. And what is a better time than the present to relive the memories of the good times gone by? Here’s a list of TV shows to provide some hearty chicken soup for the 90s soul:

Malgudi Days (1987)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

If there’s one show that carries that familiar scent of childhood, it is this. Think of it and you can instantly hear musician L Vaidyanathan’s endearing ‘Ta na na tana na na na’ playing in your head. Based on RK Narayan’s short stories, the series revolved around the everyday life and times of the people of a small town called Malgudi, where simplicity – and a sense of humour – was all one needed to feel belonged.

Fauji (1989)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

The show, created by Lt. Col. Raj Kumar Kapoor, was Shah Rukh Khan’s debut as an actor. It chronicled the lives of Abhimanyu Rai (Khan) and his batchmates as they start training to become commandos in the Indian army. The pranks they pull, the friendships they form, and ultimately the lessons they learn form the crux of the storyline.

ICYMI: Shah Rukh Khan was originally supposed to play a much smaller role in the series. However, Col. Kapoor rewrote the script – making him the lead – after realizing that ‘the camera was in love with him.’

Dekh Bhai Dekh (1993)

Streaming on: YouTube

The 90s classic, produced by Jaya Bachchan, was a laugh-a-minute sitcom, with an extremely popular title track. Starring Shekhar Suman, Farida Jalal, Sushma Seth and Navin Nischol among others, the show followed a joint family spanning three generations living in an ancestral bungalow. Episode after episode, they found themselves in hilarious situations as they dealt with clashes of opinions, relationship woes, adulting, and just living with so many people under one roof.

Banegi Apni Baat (1993-1997)

Streaming on: Zee5, YouTube

Imagine Irrfan, Surekha Sikri and R Madhavan in one show. The Zee TV original was a story of a group of friends in college, who grow from being young adults, discovering life – to actual adults, making their ends meet. The show’s depiction of college life gained a lot of popularity for its relatability quotient, as it depicted not just the fun aspects of new-found adulthood and romances, but also the challenges of youngsters trying to build a life for themselves.

Hum Paanch (1995-2006)

Streaming on: Zee5

Dare you to hold back a grin when you think about it. Yes, this was Vidya Balan’s debut as an actress, but more than that, the show pretty much read fun. Essentially, it was about the adventures and misadventures of Anand and Bina Mathur, their five daughters, and of course, the talking portrait of Anand’s first wife. Oh, and a very Janice-like Pooja mujhe-aunty-mat-kaho-na aunty. All in all, it comprised a bunch of colorful, annoyingly lovable characters that you could carry with you, even years after its end.

Just Mohabbat (1996-2000)

Streaming on: YouTube

This was a smartly written coming-of-age comedy, centering upon a young Jai’s life from childhood to adolescence in a troubled household. He studies in a boarding school, away from his dysfunctional family, where his parents are always bickering. When at home, he finds solace only in his house help and father-figure Desmond. However, in school, he makes several friends – including an imaginary one. The show tackles his curiosity and emotions as he grows, his relationship with his family and friends, and future relationships in his teenage years.

Shaktimaan (1997-2005)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

You can forget Krrish for a second, but not Shaktimaan. The series, not the film(s). Was he the OG Indian superhero? Probably. But what made him unforgettable was the comic timing of his alter-ego, Pandit Gangadhar Vidhyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastriji, the ultimate good vs. evil storytelling, and those fascinating transition sequences where the bespectacled photographer would rotate in supremely quick circles to transform into Shaktimaan. It may feel dated now, but even then, it’s worth a revisit for nostalgia purpose (and perhaps some unintentional comedy).

Family No. 1 (1998)

Streaming on: SonyLIV, YouTube

The show was a delightful comedy featuring two single parents – played by the effervescent Tanvi Azmi and the forever-reliable Kanwaljeet Singh – and their similarly-aged-but-drastically-different children. When they are left with no other choice but to share halves of the same apartment, their lives take a riotous turn – the kids pick up a new fight every day, and when they don’t, the parents do. Eventually, borders are created only for friendships to bloom.

Hip Hip Hurray (1998-2001)

Streaming on: Zee5

Life was so different in Class 12th. Somewhere stuck amidst the tension of board exams to experiencing a magnitude of emotions at the peak of teenage years and cusp of adulthood, Hip Hip Hurray was a celebration of school life. Starring the likes of Purab Kohli, Shweta Salve and Vishal Malhotra, the dramedy focused on the many firsts of youth, and the struggles they faced due to familial and societal pressure. All presented in the backdrop of friendships and humour that sail you through.

Star Bestsellers (1999)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

This was a one-of-its-kind anthology that included the works of prominent filmmakers of the future, including Anurag Kashyap, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Imtiaz Ali, Hansal Mehta and Sriram Raghavan. Every episode had a different story from a range of genres, revolving around situations known and unknown. For the uninitiated, Irrfan featured in three of these stories. P.S. Watch out for Ooncha Kaun, an episode starring Lilliput. It’ll make you ugly cry.

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