Johnny Lever has established a brand image in comedy. Yet he remains a people’s man
Johnny Lever off-screen is no different from the character you see in films. His mannerisms, the rib-tickling humour that have come to be his trademark are all there even when he is relaxing in his hotel room amidst close friends. This top comedian who has carved a niche for himself is almost a brand name in cinema. Yet, the comedian is down-to-earth, simple, almost oblivious of his popularity. 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 luck. There are so many talented persons. But how many have made it big?” he asks.
John Rao a.k.a Johnny Lever hails from Ongole district, of Andhra Pradesh. Born and brought up in Mumbai, he almost lost touch with his mother tongue. “My Telugu has been revived, courtesy, my wife who doesn’t know a word of Hindi. Now, my children also speak Telugu at home. In Worli, which is dominated by Telugu-speaking people, the Marathis also speak Telugu.”
Johnny Lever says: “Once it was the facial expression and body language that made a comedian popular like Charlie Chaplin or closer home - Rajababu, Mehmood, Padmanabham. Today, the trend is talking comedy. At times, it will assume vulgar proportions. Vulgarity is easy, whereas it requires an effort to be suave and humourous.
Comedians enjoy a platform now, which did not exist a decade ago. I have done 300 movies while Mehmood had not done so many in his entire career. But I consider the veteran comedian as a fortunate actor since he left an indelible mark in the history of humourous films.” He never fails to mention his gratitude to Kalyanji-Anandji duo for giving him his first break in 1981 with “Yeh rishte na toote”.