In the 1980s, it was common for most Indian families, and sometimes even their close neighbours, to huddle together around their ancient looking TV set when the clock struck just the right time to broadcast their favourite comedy-dramas on Doordarshan.
From the rib-tickling stories narrated in Doordarshan’s popular show ‘Nukkad’ to modern-day cult comedy dramas like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, here’s a look at eight Hindi comedies we are celebrating this World Laughter Day!
Dekh Bhai Dekh:
A 1993 Hindi sitcom which premiered on DD2, Dekh Bhai Dekh remains the most loved Indian comedy dramas of all time, with thousands of people tuning in on YouTube to watch episodes even today.
The drama starred Shekhar Suman, Navin Nischol, Farida Jalal, Bhavana Balsavar, Deven Bhojani, Sushma Seth, Vishal Singh and Nattasha Singh in lead roles and revolved around three generations of the Diwan family, who live as a joint family in an ancestral bungalow in the suburbs of Mumbai.
From exasperating in-laws, overdramatic parents and bahus struggling with relationship and business troubles, each character of the show resonated with the Indian audience. The supporting cast including Amar Upadhyay and Urvashi Dholakia moved on to earn wide fame on Indian television.
Long before 2015 show Bhabhi Ji Ghar Par Hai (based on the concept ‘Love thy neighbour’s wife’) debuted, Indian audiences revelled in the first show that paved the way for a comic angle on the issue. This show was Shrimaan Shrimati, which aired on Doordarshan in 1994 and starred Jatin Kanakia, Rakesh Bedi, Reema Lagoo and Archana Puran Singh in the lead roles.
The story revolves around the lives of Keshav Kulkarni (Jatin Kanakia) who is married to Kokila (Reema Lagoo) but is attracted to his married neighbour/ famous film actress Prema Shalini (Archana Puran Singh). And Prema’s husband Dilruba (Rakesh Bedi) leaves no opportunity to hit on Kokila, Keshav’s wife – a smart, elegant homemaker.
The miserably hopeless attempts of both husbands to leave no stone unturned to flirt with each other’s wives was lauded by its viewers.
Zabaan Sambhalke is the Indian adaptation of the British sitcom Mind Your Language (1977). It aired on DD Metro, in prime time, during 1993.
The plot revolved around Mohan Bharti (Pankaj Kapur), an engineer forced to teach Hindi in the National Institute of Language (aka NIL). With students from across the country and even abroad, Pankaj Kapoor’s portrayal of the ‘I-hate-my-job’ kind teacher and the hilarious situations arising from ‘lost-in-translation’ and culture shock are a delight to watch.
Shorter than all of his female students, Mohan frequently dodges flirtatious advances from them and the institute receptionist. From Vijaya Southeast, a Tamil actress aspiring roles in Hindi films to British writer Charles Spencers (played by Tom Alter) and Sheikh Ruslan-Al-Sulaah, played (Keith Stevenson), an oil magnate in a white robe with a car made of gold, every character, despite the stereotypical portrayals, never failed to tickle its viewers’ funny bones.
Office Office is an Indian Hindi-language television sitcom that premiered on SAB TV in 2001. A satirical comedy, starring Pankaj Kapur in the role of Mussadilal, a common man troubled by corrupt officials in public offices, the show was even adapted into a movie titled Chala Mussaddi… Office Office.
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One of India’s all-time favourites, Hum Paanch first aired in 1995 and returned for a second season in 2005. The show starred Ashok Saraf, Vidya Balan, Rakhee Tandon, Bhairavi Raichura, Vandana Pathak and others in the lead roles, and its success helped Zee TV establish its stronghold in the general entertainment space.
The story revolved around the life of a middle-class white-collar worker, Anand Mathur, who always finds himself in trouble because of his five daughters — Meenakshi, Radhika, Sweety, Kajal, and Chhoti. While the three older ones are daughters from his first wife (who interacts with him through her portrait on the living room wall), the other two are from his second wife, Bina.
\While Meenakshi is a feminist, Radhika is portrayed as a stereotypical nerd with thick-rimmed glasses and a hearing aid, who keeps bumping into doors, walls, and people. Sweety is a ‘beauty without brains,’ who dreams of marrying Shahrukh Khan and becoming an actress.
Kajal is a tomboyish girl who regrets not being born a boy. The youngest of the lot, Chhoti, is a rumour-monger who is hailed by the residents of Baliya as the reincarnation of actress Meena Kumari and even has a temple set up in her honour. All hell breaks loose when the five girls wreak havoc with some new plan in every episode.
Sarabhai vs Sarabhai
If you were an ardent lover of Star One, you might have never missed a single episode of the iconic comedy-drama Sarabhai vs Sarabhai. From Maya’s sarcastic jibes at her middle-class bahu, Monisha’s antics to Indravadhan’s leg-pulling of Rosesh’s terribly hilarious poems, every character in the story including the sandwiched husband Sahil, the less-hearing-hein-saying Madhusudan Fufa and engineer son-in-law Dushyant, became memorable.
Starring Satish Shah, Ratna Pathak, Sumeet Raghavan, Rupali Ganguly and Rajesh Kumar, the show revolved around the lives of a quintessential Gujarati upper-class family living in South Mumbai.
From the title track, to character quotes that do the rounds on Facebook as memes, and Roshesh’s evergreen onomatopoeia-packed poems, the show was a breath of fresh air and continues to be one of the biggest cult comedy shows on Indian television.
Deemed by television critics as one of the finest examples of situational comedy, Khichdi aired on Star One, where its unique characters and witty humour made it one of the most successful comedy shows on Indian television. With multiple seasons, the series was even adapted into a film with the same name.
From Anang Desai’s commendable portrayal of Bapuji, the ever-troubled and angry patriarch of the home to the iconic husband-wife duo Praful and Hansa, portrayed by Supriya Pathak and Rajeev Mehta Khichdi, every character had its audience in splits every time the show aired.
Praful’s hilarious incorrect translation of English words for his wife Hansa took the cake in most episodes and became a prime source of modern day memes.
Supriya’s portrayal of a lazy homemaker always singing the litany of ‘Mein to thak gayi bhaaishaab’ (I’m so tired), and always richly dressed with gajre (flowers) in her hair was spot on.
Jayshree Parekh (Vandana Pathak), a widowed daughter-in-law who plots to sell the home and loves cooking and gossiping with her Ba (mother) is delightful. Even the kids in the home, Chakki and Jackky with their catchphrase, “Bade Log Bade Log” (Oh! the elders, the elders!) always had a lovely message, to sum up each episode!
Tu Tu Main Main
Tu Tu Main Main aired on DD Metro in 1994. It was directed by Sachin Pilgaonkar and starred Mahesh Thakur, Reema Lagoo and Supriya Pilgaonkar in the lead roles. Such was the success of the comic saas-bahu drama that Sachin even directed a sequel to it with the same theme and extended cast called Kadvee Khatti Meethi in 2006.
The story revolved around the hilarious and conflicting relationship shared by the iconic tv saas-bahu duo Devaki (Reema Lagoo) and Radha (Supriya Pilgaonkar). If Tu Tu Main Main were re-run today on TV, it would give all modern day dramas on Indian television (who are fast losing audiences due to absurd plots), a run for their money!
If we’ve missed any show on the list, add them in the comments!