From Astitva to Alpviram: Revisiting 7 TV shows with bold concepts that were way ahead of their time

Here’s a list of the top 7 Indian serials that went on to capture hearts with their beautiful concepts and intriguing storyline.

Published on Jul 06, 2024  |  10:01 AM IST |  24.7K
Niki Walia, Varun Badola, Pallavi Joshi, Amir Bashir
Stills from Astitva and Alpviram (Pic Credit: Zee TV and SonyTV YouTube)

TV shows have always hooked the Indian masses with their dramatic plots and unexpected twists. They are not only a source of entertainment for the audience but also act as a medium of empowerment.

While viewers nowadays often complain about bizarre, overly melodramatic, and repetitive storylines, some dramas from the 90s managed to touch on issues that weren’t widely discussed at the time. These shows had elements that were quite ahead of their time and were considered too provocative for their era, leaving the audience intrigued.

Take a look at the 7 such Indian TV shows

1. Astitva…Ek Prem Kahani

Astitva…Ek Prem Kahani debuted in 2002 on Zee TV. The show broke the monotony on Indian television with its unique storyline and ran for more than three years. It starred Niki Aneja Walia and Varun Badola in central roles.

The teleserial focused on the unconventional love tale between a middle-aged gynecologist who ignores societal taunts and marries a man ten years younger than her.

Astitva explored the resilience of a woman as she enters into a complex relationship. She personifies patience and suppression in a subtle way while challenging societal norms.


2. Office Office

Office Office was one of its kind programmes which premiered in 2001 on SAB TV. The show had a stellar star cast which consisted of Pankaj Kapur, Devan Bhojani and Manoj Pahwa among others. 

The satirical comedy exposed corruption and bureaucratic hurdles faced by common man working in government offices. It received positive response for its humorous take on the prevalent issue of corruption, systemic inefficiencies, and bureaucracy in India.  

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Office Office returned with a follow-up season titled Naya Office Office on Star One  in 2007. The sitcom also became an inspiration for a comic book series and a film named Chala Mussaddi…Office Office.

3. Saans

Written and directed by Neena Gupta, Saans featured the actress along with Kanwaljit Singh and Kavita Kapoor. This television series aired in 1998 on Star Plus and revolved around the love triangle between the lead characters.

The show came into limelight for its progressive take on the complexities of modern-day relationships like extra-marital affair, divorce and societal expectations, at a time when even a mention of these was considered a taboo. 

Though Saans opened to mixed reviews, it slowly garnered praises for its brilliant depiction of human emotions and conflicts in a mature yet subtle manner.

4. Alpviram

Alpviram was produced by Shobhana Desai and helmed by veteran director Vipul Shah. It premiered in 1998 on Sony TV and starred Pallavi Joshi, Amir Bashir, and Smita Bansal in pivotal roles.

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The drama series centered around the challenges faced by a 21-year-old lively girl, Amrita, played by Pallavi Joshi. After her engagement to Rohit, portrayed by Amir Bashir, Amrita slips into a coma. The story takes a dramatic turn when Amrita becomes pregnant after being raped by someone at the hospital while she is still unconscious.

Alpviram stood out for addressing issues such as hospital malpractice, the struggles of a rape survivor, and society's attitude towards women. It has been hailed for dealing with a bold topic with utmost maturity.

5. Hasratein

Hasratein captured the hearts of TV buffs between the period of 1996-99. It aired on Zee TV and featured Harsh Chhaya and Seema Kapoor in key roles. 

The plot of the daily soap revolved around Savi’s extramarital affair with a married man, KT while showcasing dynamics of a marital relationship in a nuanced way. Interestingly, both their spouses are aware of their adulterous relationship. Seema Kapoor essayed the character of Savi for the first 125 episodes. She was then replaced by Shefali Shah, who went on to win the Zee Woman of the Year award in 1997 for her work in the show. 

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The critically-acclaimed series became a rage when it was running on TV. Despite embarrassing the majority with its daring content, the show was touted as the catalyst for discussion of issues like marital discord, infidelity, and personal freedom. 

6. Aarohan

Aarohan premiered in 1996 on DD National. It was written and produced by Pallavi Joshi, who also played the character of protagonist Nikita in the show. She was joined by Shefali Shah, who essayed the second lead. 

The 13-episode series traversed the life of two headstrong and passionate women who decide to join the Indian Navy at a time when women could not become a part of combat force. They experience several struggles and achievements while training in the male-dominated Naval Academy. The show ended with cadets battling a war-like situation. 

7. Shanti- Ek Ghar Ki Kahani

Shanti was telecast in 1994 on DD National and starred Mandira Bedi in the titular role. It is counted among the earliest attempts of representing a strong female protagonist 

The show was a breath of fresh air with its out of box approach on social issues like women empowerment, sexual harassment and family dynamics.

ALSO READ: OPINION: Why is Indian Television obsessed with love triangle stories? Ft Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Meiin, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and more

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