Majority of the Indians remember 90s as the kick-off to the post-liberalization era. India, for the first time, understood the meaning of the word “globalization”. The slothful Indian companies, especially the public sector, felt the heat of international competition. Many disappeared, the rest took the stride. The word “population explosion” was replaced with “demographic dividend”. Spending increased. India became the hub of International BPO operations. And many more such changes occurred.
But here, I would be talking about the set of Indians who remember 90s for more than just economic reasons. The Indians, like me, who spent the best part of any person’s life – childhood – in 90s. When I speak to people of my age today about 90s, every single person delves into nostalgia and remembers every single important thing that put mark on our lives, be it TV serials, cartoons, movies, cricket, snacks, video games or that street food that cost few paisa or a rupee at max. I would talk about some of those things that can never be forgotten for years to come.
Ask any person, in his/her 20s or 30s today, and Maggi will appear in the first two things that comes to his/her mind when asked about 90s. Launched 30 years back in 1982, Maggi is the most widely consumed noodle, even today, and became children’s favorite morning breakfast in 90s.
The peculiarity of the product is that Nestle came up with many variants of the product later on but nothing was able to replace the base product – Masala Maggi. It is the same product that has been ruling the market for three decades now but no signs of any change are expected to appear. While the marketing campaigns have changed over the time but the punch line – “Badi gazab ki bhookh lagi, Maggi chahiye mujhe abhi” still stays in the hearts of people who spent their childhood in 90s.
2. Jungle Book
While Maggi was the most beloved morning breakfast, combine that with Jungle Book on Doordarshan at 9AM on a Sunday morning and children won’t ask for anything else. Jungle Book was among the most watched cartoons in those days.
With a story based on a child lost in an Indian jungle, brought up by wild animals and the adventures thereafter, Jungle Book glued every child awake in India and watching television at that time for one complete hour. Every character of the show – Bhaloo, Bagheera, Akdu-Pakdu, Leela, Chameli, Kaa, Chil and above all, Sher Khan and Mogli, remain in the memories of all those who truly lived their 90s.
Before the cola wars started in the country, Rasna was the strongest brand in the soft drinks category. In fact, even after the entry of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, in early 90s, Rasna continued to dominate in the Indian middle class mainly due to healthier product perception (which was true as well) and focused advertising.
The tagline “I Love You Rasna” is one thing every kid, grown up in 90s, distinctly remembers about Rasna. The company also cashed on the record breaking success of the TV series Mahabharat (which was aired on Doordarshan from 1988 to 1990) by airing a commercial involving the characters of Mahabharat. The key aspect that made Rasna so popular in the Indian mass was the level of involvement of not only the children but also the parents, with the drink. With ingredients – powder and syrup – in the pack, Rasna had to be prepared at home which made it a family event, especially when you are making 2-3 flavors at a time.
The product has evolved over the time with the company coming up with instant drink mix, powders and many other variants to reduce human effort in preparing drink in today’s fast life. The brand rebuilding has also been extensive to appeal today’s Generation-Y (or probably Generation-Z) who prefer either colas like Pepsi, Coke and Thums Up or fruit juices like Real and Tropicana. But that cute and innocent Rasna girl still stays in the minds of those who grew up in 90s.
4. Super Mario
Super Mario was the first encounter (or at least one of the first) of Indian kids, brought up in 90s, to the world of video games. The summer vacations were largely dominated by mushrooms, bullets, bypass, one-up, flags, turtles and finally the Dragon and the Princess – besides cricket.
This game was a starting point from where the Indian kids actually reduced their outdoor games and got involved into video games that opened up a huge market. What followed were Super Contra, Double Dragon, Battle City, Age of Empires, Counter Strike and many more.
Of all TV shows that dominated the Indian television in 90s, Hip Hip Hurray stays special. The first of its kind of series, aired on Zee TV, with a plot of high school students instantly connected to the school kids of 90s. HHH touched upon every aspect of student life – classes, exams, sports, teachers, parents, pressures, expectations, adventures, outings, love, crush, heart-breaks, group rivalries and more.
The series became so popular that the producers went on with a second season, something not so common in those days, in early 2000s. Needless to say, many copy cat producers came up with their own versions of HHH on various other channels but nobody could imitate the success of this serial.
What differentiated HHH from the rest was the sensitivity with which the issues were presented in various episodes, strong direction and good performance by the actors. The title track – aaj hamara, kal apna, koi maane ya na maane, apni hasti hain, masti ke hasi taraane – inspires even today. And when I retrospect, the words seem so very true.
Photo Courtesy: Flickr Hive Mind (Rasna), Wikipedia (Hip Hip Hurray)