Junoon (1979)




Director:     .

Starring:     Jalal Agha (Kader Khan), Nafisa Ali (Ruth Labadoor), Tom Alter (Priest), Shabana Azmi (Firdaus, Javed's wife), Ismat Chughtai (Maternal Grandmother of Ruth Labadoor), Benjamin Gilani (Rashid Khan), Karan Kapoor, Kunal Kapoor, Sanjana Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor (Javed Khan), Geoffrey Kendal, Jennifer Kendal (Mrs. Mariam Labadoor, Ruth's mom), Kulbhushan Kharbanda (Lalal Ramjimal), Deepti Naval (Rashid's wife), Pearl Padamsee (Bitter woman).

love story between one of the Rebels of 1857 in Rohilkhand and an Anglo-Indian woman that he has held hostage



Spoiler Warning:

A holy man of some type works himself up into psychological state.  He says some heavenly force is making him swim in a sea of blood and rightfully so.  This is due to the unholy blood of the British.  "And all the Englishmen shall be driven out.  Rightfully!"  Javed Khan watches the holy man. 

Javed rides out to a mansion where he watches a pretty Anglo-Indian girl named Ruth Labadoor.  This bothers Ruth and she yells for her mother, a half-British Indian woman. 

Kader Khan tells his brother-in-law Javed that after the revolt in Meerut, many cantonments have revolted against the British.  Bahadur Shah's reign has been declared in Delhi.  [Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Mughal Emperor, crowned Emperor of India, by the Indian troops.]  Kader says that the Emperor is emperor in name only.  The rebel soldiers are the ones who actually reign, at least for the moment.  He adds that the Brits are no worse than the Nawabs. 

Kader Khan's sister comes out to complain that for the past few months her husband Javed has not been interested in the house or her. 

Kader Khan goes to see his aunt.  She tells him:  "Thank God, that you've safely come back from the war."  He tells the group around him that the Indians have tolerated the British for way too long.  And now the British are attacking Indian traditions, culture and our religion.  And that's why Mangal Pandey got angered and raised his weapon.  [Mangal Pandey was an Indian soldier who played a key part in events immediately preceding the outbreak of the Indian rebellion of 1857. Pandey was a sepoy (private) in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) regiment of the English East India Company.  He was hanged by the British.]

Kader says that the Indian troops refused to accept the cartridges filled with the fat of pigs and cows because they regarded it as a sin.  Eighty-five loyal soldiers were humiliated by being paraded around in shackles and handcuffs.  The soldiers were weeping liked children, but nothing melts the hearts of the Britons.  According to him, the British are ungrateful, selfish and cowards.  Auntie says Kader thinks he's the Lord's Soldier but nobody around here really listens to him. 

In the Anglo-Indian household the talk is of Sarfaraz Khan (Kader).  Father says he is of the same battalion as Mangal Pandey.  There is talk of a riot occurring tomorrow.  Mariam tells her husband that perhaps they shouldn't go to church tomorrow.  Mariam's mother asks her daughter if she told her husband about how that wretched Pathan (Afghan inhabitant) was ogling Ruth?  Ruth speaks up for herself, saying the Pathan just kept staring at her. 

The Pathan Javed returns at night like a peeping Tom on a horse.  Ruth calls her father over and he yells out: "Who goes there?"  The man rides off.

In the morning, father and Ruth go to church.  All of a sudden, the rebels rush into the church.  The British soldiers in the church try to hold off the rebels with their swords, while the other attendees rush out the back of the church.  A number of the British soldiers are killed.  Ruth's father is slashed by a rebel's sword.  The church minister is killed.  When all the British soldiers are killed or badly wounded, the rebels run off.

Ruth starts running back home.  She finds that her home has been set on fire.  A neighbor, Ramjimal, tells her that Madam Mariam and grandmother are safe.

Javed goes to look inside the church.  He then rides off.  Raji tries to take Ruth to her relatives.  They have to hide along the way.  The Pathan rides after Ruth and the servant.  The two runners hide under a huge bridge. The Pathan Javed rides on.  Ruth is taken to her mother and grandmother.  Now Ramji goes to the church to assess the damage.  He finds Ruth's father dead. 

The three women hide in a house in the dark.  They hear a lot of horses riding back and forth over the bridge.  The rebels coms to the building where the women are hiding.  The rebels carry lighted torches with them and search the building.  They miss the hiding women.  Ramji comes back with the bad news that father is dead. Ramjimal says he will hide them in his house.  They walk fast. 

Ramji knocks on the door of his mother.  She answers the door but is not too pleased when she sees the three English women.  She asks:  "From where've you brought these English people?  The soldiers will kill us if they see them."  Ramji says they have to help these people.  The maid complains about all the extra work she will have to do, but grandmother assures her that the three of them will clean up after themselves.  Ramji tells the maid to stop her babbling.  He then tells his mother that she should already know that this is the Labadoor family. 

Rebels march toward Ramji's home.  Ruth says the man in the lead of the march is the Pathan that has been ogling her.  She gets upset all over again.  Mother says Ruth has a fever. 

A friend, Mr. Qadar, comes to the house to visit with Ramji.  Qadar says the headache has gone with the departure of the English.  Ramji asks if there are any British left alive?  Qadar says no, except the Labadoor family is missing.  He adds that brother Javed is on a search for the family with a sword in his hand.  Hearing coughing noises, Qadar asks if Ramji has any idea where the Labadoor family is?  Ramji just asks him questions about the missing family. 

Ruth is afraid that what happened to the others might happen to her.  Mariam sees and hears Ramji and his mother fighting.  She is demanding that the British family leave her house. Ramji protests that he gave the family his word to protect them. 

A man outside shouts out the news that the British no longer rule in their state.  The old government has been re-established.  And anyone giving refuge to the British will be severely punished. 

Javed comes to speak with Ramji.  He says that Qadar Khan has told him that Ramji is harboring the Labadoor family.  Ramji says that this is a question of whether Javed trusts him or not.  And, if not, then cut off Ramji's head and then come in and search the house.  Javed leaves.  Mariam asks Ramji if the family could transfer over to Agra or Ajmer where her brothers live?  No.  Or Rampur because her mother is from there.  No.  Ramji tells her to continue having faith in him.  He assures her that there won't be any trouble as long as he is around. 

Indian troops from outside the area march through the streets.  Ramji explains that these soldiers are from Sitapur and are headed to Delhi to fight the British on behalf of the King.

Ruth gives some food to the beggar woman and Ramji's mom informs her son and says they will all be killed because Ruth is showing her face in public.  Ramji, in turn, tells Mariam that this is not good.  Mariam tells Ruth this must never happen again.

At night someone is on the roof.  The noise awakens Mariam.  The person jumps down another level.  Then the man jumps onto the courtyard patio area.  He sneaks around to Ruth's bed.  He crawls by the bed and Ruth stabs the man several times with a knife.  Then Ruth screams bloody murder.  To stop the screaming, her mother slaps her in the face and then hugs her.  Ramji has to bury him in the courtyard. 

Now the wife starts worrying about being caught and killed because of their British guests. 

Mariam shows her box of jewelry to Ramji and says maybe they could sell these in Rampur?  Ramji doesn't want to sell them, but he says his business is a fiasco.  Then he adds maybe it would be safest if the British family would stay in Rampur.  He says they will all go there. 

Ramji tries to pawn the jewelry, but the pawn broker tells him that they cannot risk their lives for some British people.  Ramji hurriedly leaves. 

Someone is really banging on the front door.  Mariam and Ruth get very scared and run and hide.  Ramji's mother says that Ramji is not home.  It's Javed Khan knocking at the door.  He says the Nawab has sent him to search the house.  Mother let's Javed and the others come in.  They race around the house looking for the Labadoor family.  They come to the locked door behind which the family is hugging each other in fear.  The door opens from all the banging on it and the women are discovered.  Javed tells them to come out.  They obey him.  A man sings out:  "None can kill the one who's in the custody of the Lord.."  A crowd starts to build up to find out about the British family. 

Javed takes the family to his own house.  He tells his protesting wife that they are going to stay here.  Mariam asks that the wife not to be mad at them for they did not chose to come here.  She says her mother is from Rampur's Nawab family  --  the Rampur of Rohillas.  Her mother was married to an Englishman.  The wife tells them to be seated.

Ramji comes over to talk to the family in private.   Javed permits it.  Mariam asks Ramji what they will do to her family and her?  Ramji doesn't know.  He says he is taking his family to Bareilly.  From there he will try to get a message to her brother.  He then tells Miriam to have courage and don't get disheartened.  "The Lord will be good to all."

Javed's wife wants to have sex with him, but Javed is not interested.  So, she says the Europeans are too shameful.  The European woman Mariam held the hand of Ramji.  Javed just tells her to stop pestering him.  Javed gets up and goes to look in on the "guests".  The wife now checks on her husband.  Javed sees his wife and leaves. 

In the morning there are pigeons on the balcony.  Ruth goes to investigate.  Javed in the courtyard sees her and stares.  A love song is sung in the background.  The wife shows up and again Javed leaves the scene. 

Auntie and her group come over to see "the show",  meaning the Europeans.  The family is brought out.  Auntie goes over and greets them warmly, but Mariam bursts out crying.  Auntie tells Mariam to have courage and be strong for her daughter and mother.  Mariam says she is only crying for her Ruth. 

Javed arrives with what he calls "decent" clothes compared to the "indecent" European clothes.  Auntie asks Javed how he will save the European family?  Javed turns around and goes to sit down.  He says he will save them through marriage.  Auntie laughs and asks if he is going to marry all of the women?  No.  Just Ruth.    His wife starts crying and leaves the room.  Auntie tells her three friends to leave the house.  They obey her.  The Europeans now leave the room. 

Auntie is alone with Javed and asks him what does he think he's doing?  He insulted his wife in front of the Europeans.  And what's so special about this Ruth?  Javed says the woman has cast a spell over him.  She is gorgeous and he lost his senses the first time he saw her.  His wife shouts protests from the second floor.  Javed objects to all this saying he has no intention of divorcing his present wife.  The wife says she will have her brother cut off that white girl's head.  Javed sarcastically says oh, sure, your brother will return from the Battle of Kanpur to follow the orders of his sister.  [The second Battle of Kanpur was a battle of Indian rebellion of December 1857 where the rebels' last chance to regain the initiative and recapture the cities of Kanpur (Cawnpore) and Lucknow was thwarted.]

Auntie tells wife Firdaus to stop arguing and Javed to sit down next to her. Javed tells Auntie that the bottom line is that he just wants the girl.  Auntie has no follow up to that clear declaration.  A song is sung in the background. 

Javed goes up to talk with Mariam.  He tells her he will legally marry her daughter.  The Christian Mariam objects to a polygamous marriage.  She also objects to the Indians killing her husband.    Javed says she just recently lost her husband and he will give her more time to grieve:  "But, don't ever show me your British impudence again."

At night Ruth cries to her mother that she doesn't want to marry him.  Mother does her best to calm her down.  Asleep, Ruth dreams that Javed comes to rape her, pulling down her clothes. 

The family all eats together with no one speaking.  Finally, Auntie says she will take Mariam to her house for several days.  Both Firdaus and Javed say no.  Auntie works on Javed and soon the women transfer over to Auntie's house. They are happier over at Auntie's place.  They can be outside and do things that make them feel free.  . 

Auntie's daughter was singing a song so now she wants Ruth to sing a song.  Ruth is reluctant so her mother starts singing an English song.  A little later Ruth joins in on the song. 

After waiting for awhile, Javed asks Mariam what is her answer?  She says she has not had enough time to think.  Then she says she needs her brother's approval too.  And if the British take back India, what will they do to Javed?  Javed says they might kill him.  So, mother says, and you want Ruth to be a widow at her young age?  Javed responds that the rebels now have control of Delhi.  Mariam counters with:  "But, the British have surrounded it."  They go back and forth with the argument until Maria makes a bet with him.  If the rebels hold Delhi, then Ruth will belong to Javed.  But if the British win Delhi, Javed won't even be able to speak to Ruth.  Javed agrees to the bet. 

Mariam's mother tells Mariam that Javed's intentions do not seem to be evil to her.  After all, he wants to marry Ruth legally. 

Kader's sister asks Kader why won't he understand her position?  The whole town is throwing insults at her.  She tells him to throw all the Europeans out of India.  Brother says he knows they were routed at Kanpur and that's why he is here.  He has come to get new recruits for their army.  At this time Javed returns from Auntie's place with the "Europeans".  Kader criticizes the Europeans but Mariam fires back that the carnage at the local church was a testimonial to the Indians' hospitality.  Kader replies:  "Humanity is always on trial when a Briton dies."  He adds that the British Colonel cuts down Indians like they were vegetables.  He cites many other terrible incidents caused by the British and this even after the group of three has already gone upstairs. 

In bed at night Ruth sees Javed looking at her again. 

Kader tells a group of men that the British still have Delhi surrounded.  After a little confrontation between the skeptical holy man and Kader, Javed leaves the side of Kader, who prays that the Indian forces will be victorious under their able leaders General Nanasaab and Bakht Khan.  Javed goes back home.  He stares at Ruth in the courtyard and she stares back at him. He walks past her and straight into an argument with his wife.  She asks what can the white girl give him that she can't?  Javed says Ruth can give him a child  -- an heir.  Firdaus gets her feelings hurt and leaves the room.

Javed stares at Ruth again.  She leaves the courtyard.  At night Javed has sex with his wife, but it was terribly quick.  Nevertheless, Firdaus is happy to get any sign of affection from her husband. 

Kader is back in a fight with the British.  Later his unit comes back with its dead and wounded.  Kader himself is wounded, but he rides his horse back to town.  Kader is mad at the pigeons and starts killing some of them.  Javed rushes over to stop Kader from continuing this killing spree.  Kader says Javed saves his pigeons, but he won't save the country.  He screams:  "We've been swindled because of this selfish nature."  More importantly, they have lost Delhi!  This takes the air out of both men as they stop struggling with each other.  Kader, still angry, speaks out against the Europeans again.  He adds that the British are now taking out a terrible revenge on the Indians.  They have tied Indian soldiers to the mouths of British cannon and then fired the cannon blowing the soldiers to pieces. 

Later Ruth goes down to see how the pigeons are.  She picks a nearly dead pigeon up and cries over it. 

Mariam tells her mother that they have won Delhi, so there is no need for them to be scared now. 

Javed goes out to fight the British.  Kader gives him a rifle and they go together.  They go to Indian headquarters. 

Later Javed talks to Mariam in front of Ruth.  He says he should have never given his word based on the ups and downs of battles.  He still wants to marry Ruth.  Javed asks Ruth to talk to her mother and for her mother to talk to her daughter. 

Mariam tells Javed that her mother has just died.  She then says that her mother will need a Christian burial.  Javed wonders how he will pull that off.  Actually, they have a small service with just a few attendees in a Christian church. 

Mariam now wants to go back to Auntie's house.  Javed escorts them there.  Before he leaves Auntie's place, he tells Mariam that he will break her obstinacy yet.

Javed is back with the army.  Kader and Javed ride into an ambush.  They start taking heavy casualties.  And then the British attack from the front. 

A wounded Indian soldier is brought into his house.  A woman cries over the body of her husband. 

The Europeans hang more Indian soldiers. 

Ruth asks her mother if Javed will return safely?

Javed is in the thick of the fighting again with the British.  The two armies hit each other head on.  The fighting is very intense.   The sword of Kader is knocked out of his hand.  Javed throws him his sword, but then Kader is hit by a saber blow.  He falls off his horse, but his boot gets caught and his horse drags him away from the battle. 

Reinforcements arrives for the British and the Indian soldiers start retreating.  Javed tries to tell them to stop, but it is useless.  He is left alone on the battlefield with the dead and the wounded. 

Qadar comes to warn Auntie and the Europeans that the British soldiers are headed to their town.  Again Ruth asks about Javed.  This shocks the women around her.  Firdaus tells Auntie that they can leave the Europeans behind if the British are coming.  Ruth says Auntie and the others can stay with them too and she will see they are not harmed.  Firdaus says no. 

People are running to get out of the city.  Javed comes to his home, but no one is there.  So he rides to Auntie's house.  No one is there either. 

The roads are packed with fleeing refugees.  Javed rides his horse in search of the women.  He goes past wagon after wagon, not finding them.  His wife shouts out to him and he comes over to her.  She is deflated, however, when all Javed does is ask about the Europeans.  Firdaus says they are in the local church back home.  He rides off to find them.  He reaches the church.  He bangs on the church door and tells Mariam that he wants to see Ruth one more time.  Mariam opens the door but she just tells Javed to go away.  She then shuts the door in Javed's face. 

Javed is obviously very dejected and he starts walking away from the church.  Ruth opens the door and shouts out his name.  And now she walks over to him.  He looks at her for awhile and then gets back on his horse. 

"Javed Khan died in battle.  Fifty five years later, Ruth Labadoor passes away in London, unwed."


A love story that is not a love story and yet is a love story.  The action is set in the 1857 Indian Uprising in India.  The hero falls head over heels for a young white woman 3/4 British and 1/4 Indian.  He goes to elaborate measures to be with this woman, but he is constantly thwarted by the young lady herself and her half-British and half-Indian mother.  The man is determined to do whatever it takes to get the girl.  He even takes Ruth and her mother and grandmother away from an Indian friend who has provided them with a safe house from the vengeful rebels.  But the hero also provides a safe house for the "Europeans", but they are more or less at least semi-hostages.   The Europeans stay in the safe house a long time and Ruth comes to know her captor.  And her attitude over time starts to change to a positive one toward the man.  If he had the  time, he would have scored a success with Ruth, probably. 

Junoon is an Urdu word, but used very commonly in Hindi, meaning obsession or passion.

It was a tough situation for a love story to blossom.  Ruth, her mother and grandmother daily faced the threat of being killed by the Indian natives.  The women do a lot of suffering from being scared and very worried.  That's not fun to watch and there's a lot of it.  It takes a long time before Ruth changes her mind toward Javed.

Anyway, it's a good love story, but a weird one too, the love stemming first from a man with an obsession for a woman, who does not love him.   So, yeah, it's a good love story set in history and with,  at least. a path to  love. 

Shashi Kapoor (as Javed Khan) and Jennifer Kendal (as Mrs. Mariam Labadoor, Ruth's mom) did especially well in their roles.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


  Meerut  --  The city lies 70 km (43 mi) northeast of the national capital New Delhi.  New Delhi is situated within the metropolis of Delhi in Northern India.

  Nawab  --  a native governor during the time of the Mogul empire.



A rumor went around that the British were using paper cartridges for their rifles that were greased with beef and pork fat. This was, and is, against the religious beliefs of Hindus and Muslims, respectively.

1857 (May 10)  --  The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the East India Company's army in the town of Meerut, and soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region. The rebellion posed a considerable threat to Company power in that region, and was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858.


1858 (June 20)  --  fall of Gwalior ends the Sepoy Rebellion. 




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