You do not really need a reason to go watch the 1984 series Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi all over again. But we will still give you a few.

Long before comedy shows on Indian television became an excuse to pimp slap-stick and bawdy humour, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi gave millions of Doordarshan viewers a taste of a truly indigenous sitcom that was decidedly middle class, replete with generic tomfoolery and yet retained an irreverent and gentle heart.

Shot entirely with one camera and on a shockingly tacky set (plastic sheets passed off as window panes and cardboard walls were plastered with posters of cute Pomeranians), the show was a rage for its ability to bring all members of single-TV families together for 25 minutes of U-rated fun. Even at its dullest and most uninspired phases, the show’s writer, Sharad Joshi, did not resort to cheap gimmicks or glam things up to push up viewership in the pre-TRP era.

Characters who could have been inspired by the Hrishikesh Mukherjee genre of storytelling inhabited the cosy world of Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. The show tackled everyday issues of forgotten anniversaries, runaway family budgets, unemployment, mistaken identity, white lies and harmless flirting. The show also gave glimpses of Kundan Shah’s comic genius. Shah, who had just directed the classic satire Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, made his television debut with Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi before moving on to direct another DD legend, Nukkad.


The show’s biggest strength was the chemistry between the three main characters. Ranjit Verma (Shafi Inamdar), the poker-faced, pot-bellied man of the house who insisted on leaving his shirt unbuttoned, the effervescent office-going wife Renu (Swaroop Sampat) and the baby-faced bachelor brother-in-law Raja (Rakesh Bedi). But very often, it was Satish Shah who turned out to be the scene-stealer. Shah played 60 different characters during the year-long run, including a Gujarati shop owner, a non-resident Indian, a pesky house guest and a harried father of a daughter who has eloped.

Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi had a phenomenal run – it is said that Indians living in London were willing to pay a premium for the video cassettes that reached a week later – that ended with Inamdar and later Sampat leaving the show. The introduction of several new characters and a shift in focus to Raja’s love life failed to cover up the gaping hole left behind by the lead couple. Not even the cute-as-a-button Farida Jalal, playing Chachi, could manage to sustain the laughs or the love in the show’s second season.

Watch the episode in which Inamdar and actor Rajat Bedi grapple with yoga and meditation to impress a female house guest. And let us know if you could sit straight-faced through it.


For previous episodes of The DD Files, see here and here.