He’s been around for more than two decades, drawing guffaws for his comic acts. But lately, his comedy has lost sheen.. he admits he needs a facelift. I meet the hansi ka badshah, Johnny Lever at his Lokhandwala home to get a quick update on him:
Haven’t heard much about you of late.. what have you been up to?
Nothing much, except work. I have films for Shravan and Abbas Mustan coming up. And if at all my show Johnny Ala Re, has a second season, I hope to be a part of it.
Isn’t your comedy becoming monotonous?
You know, that’s the reason why I have cut down on my work over the last four years. I get calls from directors telling me, “Johnny bhai, use your old technique.”
Why should I? I want to break that monotony. I can’t keep doing the same comic stuff over the years. There must be some essence in the role. There comes a time in every actor’s life when one has to rediscover oneself.
What do you think of the comedy scenario in the Bombay movies?
The scenario has changed. It is not how it used to be. There are only a handful of good comic flicks made these days. Originality in our stories is lost and movies are being inspired by Hollywood.. so does comedy.
Today’s films are full of double meaning one-liners.. is that all one needs to make the audience laugh? I have grown up watching Mehmood, Kishore Kumar saab , Johnny Walker and Om Prakash. They were the gold mines of comedy.
<b1>Do you cringe when you see some of your recent, mediocre films?
( Laughs )When I take up a project, I’m not foretold its fate.. I don’t know whether the film will shape up well or not. Personally, I feel my talent has been underused. I have more to offer. I’ve acted in over 300 films.. so many of them were for friends. Sometimes, the roles haven’t been good but I couldn’t have turned them down.
Often my friends point out that I haven’t contributed to a particular film at all, or my comic timing wasn’t bang on. I tell them I’m human and bound to make mistakes.. I hope I don’t repeat those mistakes.
I hear you charge a lot of money.
I’m not telling you how much.
Have you ever come across insecure actors, who throw a fit when they realise the best lines are reserved for the comedian?
Yes, I have. There are some actors who have an interest in comedy but they can’t say this openly. They do feel insecure about the comedian walking off with all the applause. In fact, I have seen my lines being changed and scenes being reworked to suit certain actors. It upsets me to see actors reaching a pinnacle and still thinking about chopping a comedian’s role.
But there are certain actors who give us complete freedom.. like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Govinda and Ajay Devgan.. these actors will never indulge in petty politics.
I hear your son wants to get into films.
He’s just 17. In fact, he’s good at comedy. I am ready to push his talent and will always be there to support him.
Which is the funniest role you have played so far?
The ones in Narsimha , Baazigar and Kareeb.
Whatever happened to your production plans?
I have been looking for a good comedy script for seven years but I haven’t managed to find anything worth my taste. I also need a good director.
Ever thought about film direction?
Ah, that would be really interesting.. but it will take a while before I slip into direction. There’s still a lot left in acting.