It has been a long winding road for the entertainment industry in India. Trends change, faces change, and so does the content. The first Indian TV show, Hum Log, aired over 35 years ago. And needless to say, the industry has changed enormously since then. If there’s anything that remains the same, it’s the audience’s love for the TV industry. These are the best Indian television shows of all time.
One of the most popular mythological tales to come out of India, there have been several versions of Mahabharata ever since TV was a thing in India. But out of all of them, perhaps it is BR Chopra’s Mahabharata from the 80s that is the most unforgettable and iconic of all. Even though it’s been thirty years since the show ended, it is still enjoyed by people, thanks to the many, many reruns that have been on TV since then.
2. Malgudi Days
Back when cable TV wasn’t exactly a thing, it was Doordarshan that people tuned into for entertainment, and man did DD have some phenomenal material back then! Bringing R.K. Narayan’s fictional world to life, Malgudi Days was one of the best Indian television shows of India.
3. Sarabhai V/s Sarabhai
Perhaps one of the most well-written sitcoms in Indian television, Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai aired between 2004 and 2006. And for many of us who grew up in the 2000s, it was one of the funniest things on TV. Nobody can forget Ratna Pathak Shah’s endless rants about her on-screen daughter-in-law’s lack of sophistication.
Another mythological tale to have been seared into every Indian’s memory is Ramayana, which follows the story of Prince Rama who must fight the Asura king Ravana who has abducted his wife, Sita. Like Mahabharata, Ramayana too has been adapted several times on TV as well as in films, but nothing matches the popularity of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana that aired between 1987 and 1988, which was easily one of the best Indian television shows of all time.
5. Kaun Banega Crorepati
It is hard to imagine it now, but there was a time in the 90s when Amitabh Bachchan’s popularity was at an all-time low. The giant of an actor had just been a part of what can only be remembered as a short-lived political stint that brought its fair share of troubles for Bachchan, his films had been bombing at the Box Office, and the erstwhile Shehenshaah of Bollywood seemed to be losing his hold over his audiences. There was also a short period where he tried producing, but his company ran into huge losses. Then came 2000s, and along with some better movies that worked at the box office, also came Kaun Banega Crorepati, and things began looking up for the legendary actor again – such was the popularity of the iconic show, an Indian version of American hit series, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? that it is well into its 13th season today.
6. Office Office
If you have ever had the misfortune of needing something done at a government office, you’d know just how inefficient everything seems to be. The whole premise of Office Office revolved around similar sarkari offices where a man named Musaddilal struggles to get his work done because of corruption and inefficiency.
One of the longest running shows on Indian television with over 1500 episodes, CID chronicled the tales of a fictional investigation department that worked on the strangest cases of them all. It might not always make sense, but there’s a reason CID was on TV for so long – people loved it!
8. Dekh Bhai Dekh
Unlike western countries, millions of families in India still live in a joint setting, with several generations of a family living together under one roof. Because of this, family-related movies and shows have always done well with the Indian audiences. With one such family at the core of it, Dekh Bhai Dekh focused on the hilarious situations members of the Diwan family found themselves in.
9. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
Perhaps the most important show in the history of Indian TV, not because it is particularly riveting, but because of the impact it had on the industry, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi shall always be remembered as the show that changed it all. Indian TV seemed to have more holistic content to offer before the saas-bahu boom in the 2000s, with even Ekta Kapoor, the producer of many of these shows, having beforehand made iconic shows like Hum Paanch. However, with the arrival of a new millennium, saas-bahu soaps replaced the earlier wholesome shows on TV, and things have been the same ever since.
It is crazy to think about it now, but we got the first Indian superhero all the way back in the 90s. Shaktimaan was a huge success amongst kids, and remains one of the most iconic shows on Indian TV to this day.
11. Indian Idol
Based on Simon Cowell’s American Idol, Indian Idol came through with its first season 2004, taking the Indian TV industry by storm. Perhaps the first in a long line of several Indian reality TV shows, Indian Idol set the bar high with extremely talented (and loved) contestants and some very entertaining judges, making it one of the best Indian television shows of all time.
12. MTV Roadies
A show that seeks to engage young people across the country and challenge their physical and mental strength, MTV Roadies is one of the most successful reality tv shows in India, with over 18 seasons so far.
13. Comedy Nights With Kapil
After winning The Great Indian Laughter Challenge in 2007 and several seasons on Sony’s Comedy Circus, it was only a matter of time that Kapil Sharma got his own show. The show had the multi-talented comedian interact with several guests along with multiple other characters.
14. Hum Log
Focusing on the life of a middle class Indian family and its struggles, Hum Log also doubled as a talk show, as at the end of every episode, the narrator of the show, actor Ashok Kumar, would interact and discuss with the audience the situations and story on the show.
15. Shri Krishna
Another Ramanand Sagar production, Shri Krishna, as the title suggests, follows Lord Vishnu, as he incarnates in the world as Krishna, the nephew of an evil King Kans.
16. Taarak Meha Ka Ooltah Chashmah
With over 3000 episodes spread over 13 years, Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is one of the longest running shows in the history of Indian television. The show follows the story of people in Gokuldham Society, who together find solutions to the troubles they face.
Chandrakanta, the princess of Vijaygarh, is in love with the prince of Naugarh. However, several kings try to woo her and win her hand in marriage.
18. Alif Laila
Based on the Arabian Nights, Shahrzaad must narrate King Shahryaar a story every night so he doesn’t kill her in the morning.
Hosted by Renuka Sahane and Siddharth Kak, Surabhi was a talk show that ran from 1990 to 2001 – initially on Doordarshan and then moving to Star Plus. The show’s audience letters segment was especially popular – the show even made it to Limca Book of Records once by receiving 1.4 million letters in one week!
Based on the life of the 4th century BCE Indian economist and strategist Chanakya, the show follows the story of his life, beginning from boyhood.
Another iconic show to come from Hatsoff Productions, Khichdi chronicled the tale of a middle-class Indian family who always seemed to be bickering and dreamt of living apart from one another.
22. Bigg Boss
The Indian version of American show Big Brother, Bigg Boss began its first season in 2006. After changing a couple of hosts, the show finally settled on Salman Khan, who has hosted every season since the 4th. In the show, contestants are made to live isolated in the Bigg Boss mansion, without any contact with the outside world, for several months.
23. Byomkesh Bakshi
Starring Rajit Kapoor in lead role, the show follows its eponymous protagonist, a brilliant detective, who investigates several criminal cases along with his sidekick, Ajit.
24. Hum Paanch
After the death of his first wife, Anand Mathur lives with his five daughters and second wife, who all have quirks of their own, often clashing with one another as well as with Anand himself. To make things worse, even though dead, Anand’s first wife seems to taunt him at all times.
25. Tu Tu Main Main
Starring Supriya Pilgaonkar and Reema Lagoo in lead roles, Tu Tu Main Main revolved around the lives of the Verma family, focusing on the various squabbles between the mother in law, Devki, and her daughter in law, Radha.
Did you like our list of the best Indian television shows of all time? Which one’s your favourite? Comment below to let us know!