The popular 1994 TV show Junoon was on air for five years and released over 500 episodes on Doordarshan. Back in the day, it set a record for the longest-running programme on an Indian TV channel. The show starred popular actors such as Mangal Dhillon as Sumer Rajvansh and Shashi Puri as Aditya Dhanraj. In the show, the two characters were always at loggerheads, and were rivals in business. The story revolved around their families, and bore a similarity to Jeffery Archer’s 1979 novel Kane and Abel. The series also starred Archana Puran Singh, Neena Gupta, Kitu Gidwani, Tom Alter, late Saeed Jaffrey, Farida Jalal, Parikshit Sahni, Vijayendra Ghatge, Benjamin Gilani and Smita Jayakar, among others.
It was one of the first weekly shows that triggered the trend of long-running soaps on television. Not only did the series garner high ratings during the late evening slot, but the repeats of the episodes that were aired in the afternoon, too, had a large viewership. Archana says, “It was different, well crafted, well executed, and had a strong story. Of course, a few years later, the story deviated a little. But, the first 50 episodes were awesome. It was a modern show for its time.”
Kitu says, “It was a fulfilling experience, as my character had many shades. She was a spoilt rich brat, who had a big heart and fell crazily in love with Tom’s character. The role gave me scope to do all kinds of crazy things. The show was a super hit, and we were all popular back then.” Archana, too, enjoyed playing the role of a woman who would “dress simply”. She adds that the “look and feel” of her character was real. “We had a progressive theme. My character was a modern woman who stood her ground. She was treated as an equal to the men in the house. I feel my character was a representation of the true Indian woman, unlike the TV characters shown in serials today. She had her share of flaws. She could also argue with her husband without being a vamp. She understood and supported her spouse without being a wimp,” she says.
Archana was the first choice for the role, as there were a handful of popular actors back then. She was glad to be part of a show, in which she didn’t have to play a comic role. “People think that I can’t act. Usually, I am offered a comic or a villain’s role. I am thankful to the producers, who saw the potential in me,” she says.
Kitu and Archana were good friends with Mangal. Archana says, “Mangal is a fantastic theatre actor. He had a great command over Hindi, and was dedicated to his role. We were backslapping buddies. We would chat all day. Saeed regaled us with his British anecdotes. I was in great company, and I learnt a lot from them. I grew with the role.” Kitu, too, enjoyed the company of the talented actors. She says, “There were so many people on the sets, and the synergy between the actors was good. I was quite friendly with Mangal and Tom. I hung out with them the most.
In those times, real locations were often used for the shoots. Junoon was shot at Nagi Villa, Juhu. Archana recalls that “there were no vanity vans”. They shared makeup rooms. “Once, Faridaji and I were sharing a room, when Mangal came in and said he wanted to change his clothes. I turned my back to him, and kept applying my makeup while he changed. Those were the days when good work was done with the little [facilities] that we had, unlike the paraphernalia on TV show sets today, which doesn’t even contribute to the end product,” she adds.