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Common man’s comedian Johnny Lever
Common man’s comedian Johnny Lever

Johnny Lever has established a brand image in comedy. Yet he remains a ‘people’s man’

It’s no surprise if you feel a sense of familiarity with the man you encounter for the first time. For Johnny Lever off-screen is no different from the character you see in films. Compliment him on his unique blend of talent — he comes up with a ‘reality byte’ like, “Talent is an essential ingredient but success also needs that amazing feature called luck. There are so many talented people in this field. But how many have made it big?” he asks.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, he almost lost touch with his mother tongue Telugu. “My Telugu has been revived courtesy my wife who doesn’t know a word of Hindi. Now, my children also speak Telugu at home. On comedy in Indian cinema and its changing face, Johnny Lever says, “Once it was the facial expression and body language that made a comedian popular such as Charlie Chaplin or closer home, Mehmood. Today, the trend is talking comedy. At times, it assumes vulgar proportions. Vulgarity is easy to mouth and tickle the front-benchers. Whereas, it requires an effort to be suave and humourous. There is a reversal of sorts in the fortune of the comedians of late. Comedians enjoy a platform now which was never in existence a decade ago. I have done around 300 movies till date while greats like Mehmood had not done so many films in their entire career. But I consider the veteran comedian as a fortunate actor since he left a mark in the history of humourous films.”

That is quality work, according to Lever. He never fails to express his gratitude to Kalyanji-Anandji for giving him his first break in 1981 with “Yeh rishte na toote”. The mimicry artiste has come a long way and now plans to produce “a movie with a message”.

His inspiration? Mehmood’s Kunwara Baap.

RANEE KUMAR

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