Twenty-year-old Jesse Janumal could be any student at Jai Hind College at Churchgate. But when you see him perform on stage, you know there is more to him than meets the funny bone. Son of actor-comedian Johnny Lever, Jesse is steadily on his way to Bollywood. And all these college fests that he’s winning, are just “practice”.
“I never acted in school. I only started in college and then participated in lots of these festivals,” says Jesse, who is currently completing his last year B.Com. Popular among colleges kids, Jesse has been winning theatrical competitions and stand-up comedy shows among other activities at these festivals.
While he shies away from the attention he gets, a lot because of who his father is, he makes sure he enjoys it too. “It’s okay… sometimes it’s good. But when it gets intrusive, I don’t like it,” says Jesse, who is planning to head to New York after his graduation to attend an acting course.
Though his father has only seen him perform twice, he knows what he shares with him is beyond that. “I have not visited his film sets too often either, but he knows I have something in me, which is why he encourages me. He also realises that acting comes to me naturally,” says the young artiste, whose sister is another actor-in-the-making, but is currently studying in London. “Dad wants us to finish our studies. He’s not always funny and can be quite moody, but most of the time he’s fun.”
Has Bollywood already knocked at his door? “Yes. I don’t get the offers directly, but some people have asked my father whether I would be interested. I was asked when I was much younger also, but I never wanted to be a child actor. Not like it was planned, I was probably too shy. I knew I wasn’t ready and I’m still not. But I will be an actor, not just a comedian.”