Remembering Bollywood’s Gentleman comedian Johnny Walker on his 13th death anniversary today.183 views
One of the earliest and best-loved comedians of Indian Cinema, Johnny Walker brought smiles and amusement to all whenever he was on film. Christening himself after the famous Scotch whisky, Walker would drive audiences wild with laughter with his squeaky voice, pencil-thin moustache and his now-classic drunken antics. Everyone, cast, crew and audience alike, loved his iconic image of the hero’s comic and often drunk sidekick, who would cause comedy to occur in the film. Ironically, his drunken image was a stark contrast to his real-life persona, which was that of a sober and humble soul
He was born Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi on May 15, 1923. The son of a textile mill worker, he did not find life easy; he was one of a family of fifteen members, out of which five relatives died young, and the mill where his father worked closed down, causing the family to come to Bombay. There Kazi tried his hand at several jobs, and eventually secured a post as a bus conductor in the B.E.S.T (Bombay Electric Supply and Transport) bus service.
Kazi would often be seen working on the Dadar bus depot. Sometimes he would entertain his passengers with antics that would send them into splits of laughter, and he had an uncanny ability for inventing such routines on the spot. This knack got him spotted by actor/writer Balraj Sahni, who was writing Baazi (1951) for Guru Dutt at the time. Sahni introduced Kazi to Dutt, who was so impressed by Kazi’s performance as a drunk that he immediately wrote a role for him into his directorial film Baazi (1951).
His performance in Baazi (1951) was so well received that Walker and Dutt would later on work together in films. Dutt cast him in some of his own memorable films; some of Walker’s most loved roles are Master the pickpocket in C.I.D. (1956) and the masseur Abdul Sattar in Pyaasa (1957). Walker always had the best comic lines and the most popular and hummable tunes in Dutt’s films. Dutt and Walker were also the best of friends and often went out on expeditions together, and on Dutt’s suicide Walker was deeply shocked and grieved by the loss of his friend.
His popularity reached such heights that he got his own film, Johnny-Walker (1957)! He was also hired by other directors to act in their own films, the most notable of these being B.R. Chopra‘s Naya Daur (1957), Bimal Roy‘s Madhumati (1958) (the latter for which he won his first Filmfare Award), and K. Asif‘s Mughal-E-Azam (1960). Despite his fame, he was a humble soul and kept a low profile.
He slowly began to fade out in the 1960s, as Mehmood took over as the new king of comedy. He kept working in films, though, most notably in Shikar (1968), for which he won his second and final Filmfare Award; and in Anand (1971), where he was unusually seen in a serious role and even more unusually excelled in it, showing the remarkable talent he still held.
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