Zee TV show Hip Hip Hurray (HHH) is fondly remembered even after two decades. Running between 1998 and 2001, its first season was packed with 80 episodes, each highlighting topics ranging from teenage problems, aspirations, peer-pressure to friendship goals.
HHH featured mostly newcomers, including Purab Kohli, Rushad Rana, Kishwer Merchantt, Peeya Rai Choudhary, Vishal Malhotra, Nilanjana Sharma and Zafar Karachiwalla among others.
As the cult show clocks 20 years, its original cast goes back in time to remember what worked for the show, and why it still looks fresh. “Time and again we are asked ‘how many years have you been in this industry?’ And that’s when we go to where we started from in 1998, and realisation dawns in that it’s been 20 years,” Rushan Rana, who played Raghav, said in a freewheeling chat with indianexpress.com.
Kishwer Merchantt, who played Nonie, added, “I started doing Hip Hip Hurray after my 12th exams. If ever people talk about their college and friends, I only relate to the show and my Hip Hip friends, because they are my college life.”
The show’s concept was something new on Indian television. It filled the vacuum of a youth-centric show.
Vishal Malhotra, HHH’s John, said, “What really always stands out about Hip Hip Hurray is the personal equations and the great time we had while doing the show.”
Explaining why the show was called bold and ahead of its times, Purab Kohli aka Mazhar said, “It dealt with so many things – exam pressure, parental problems, first kiss, first date, first job, the things that were happening anywhere in the country but nobody was talking about it. Also, television was very new and nascent, satellite TV was coming in. From Monday to Friday I would go to college and on Saturday-Sunday, we would shoot for Hip Hip Hurray. I had a blast.”
Reminiscing about the show, its creator and director Nupur Asthana said, “Hip Hip Hurray was like a wonderful combination of honest storytelling and pure onscreen chemistry. We had a ritual that all the actors and the team would watch the show together. For most of us, it was our first independent work. It was special as if some kind of magic had crept in. I think the fact that there was no show for youngsters at that time, I thought it would be a great story to tell. So, there was honesty with which I developed the characters and how the actors brought them to life.
“Perhaps it was one of the early shows which were very real, kids didn’t have make-up. Also, the kind of acting was very naturalistic, realistic. I remember reading an article about why their skirts are so short, and I was laughing,” she added.
While Vishal’s John and Sharokh’s Cyrus added the comic touch, characters like Mona, Rafey, and Meera were the obedient ones. Rushad, who played the sports captain Raghav, said, “Post the auditions, we had a 3-hour workshop every day. We used to go out, eat and even partied together. So when we shot the pilot of Hip Hip Hurray, we were already friends. That really helped all of us establish a chemistry. Nupur was clear about one thing that we are going to be playing characters according to our personality.”
Nupur further credits the show’s supporting cast including Suchitra Pillai, Sanjai Mishra, Sulbha Arya, Mita Vashisht and Mohan Kapoor for giving the show a strong backbone. She also thinks its peppy youthful music and the title track which was sung by KK and Hema Sardesai did the needful.
Watch | Hip Hip Hurray Title Song
Vinay Pathak, who was the co-writer and also played Vinnie Sir, fondly remembered, “Hip Hip Hurray was the first series that I actually wrote, revised, workshopped, and even acted in. It has a very special place in my heart, and in my career as well. I made some wonderful friends from those times, and we still are close.”
Hip Hip Hurray opened the floodgates for dozens of high school dramas on TV, like Just Mohabbat and Remix, but most of them couldn’t attain the same success. Rushad explained, “Unfortunately in TV shows today, the detailing happens in the initial few episodes and after that, it’s just a money-making thing for the producers. But when we were doing Hip Hip Hurray, all of us wanted to prove ourselves.”
Vishal Malhotra aka John revealed post HHH, he was offered to play the lead in Just Mohabbat. “I said no, and a lot of people called my decision stupid. I couldn’t do it because my alma mater, my home, my loyalty was towards Hip Hip Hurray.”
While most of the cast refused to change anything about HHH, if given a chance to go back to DeNobili High School, Rushad said, “I would want my character to have a girlfriend in the show. That one thing was still missing until the show ended.” Hearing this, Nupur laughed and added, “Yeah, poor guy never got a girlfriend. But everybody cannot have one. We aren’t making a romantic love story or something!”
HHH’s Mona aka Nilanjana Sharma left acting after tying the knot with Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta. Sharokh, who played the goofball Cyrus, despite remaining a popular child artiste, left the industry too and relocated to Australia with his family. Others like Peeya Rai Chowdhary and Shweta Salve have also taken a break from archlights. Rushad, however, revealed the gang is still very much connected.
“We had a reunion 2-3 years back and then we were there for Purab’s wedding in February. We are very well connected on our WhatsApp group. Anything good happening in anyone’s life, we share it there. Like a lot of people have family groups, so this almost feels like another family group for us. I am blessed to be a part of my Hip Hip Hurray family,” he said.