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Johnny is back to his antics

The funny man will be seen in 36 China Town. Upen?s launch pad| Will the film click?

india Updated: May 05, 2006 17:37 IST

While comedy in Hindi films has changed for the better, one actor conspicuous by his absence is Johny Lever. Acclaimed for his ability to evoke laughter by even standing in a frame, Lever seemed to have disappeared from the big screen.

In 36 China Town, he resurfaces after “two-three years,” as he informs. At Filmistan Studios, where he’s shooting a song for Phir Hera Pheri, we catch up with the laughter king for a tete-atete during the evening tea break.
From being a part of almost every film you disappeared from the silver screen for a long time.

What prompted you to take a break?
I was waiting for a good role. After a point of time, I realised I was just repeating myself. The only difference in the characters I portrayed was that if one was a sardar, the other was a south Indian and so on. I thought I would take a break from films and concentrate only on shows for some time. Meri to do dukaane hain na. Mean while I also ventured into television for which I was working on for about a year. It’s a show for Zee called Johny Aala Re. The break was essential, so I took it.”

Couldn’t you suggest changes in characters as it was getting repetitive?

Johnny Lever will be seen in36 China Town.

One can’t really be too demanding and choosy because the producer who’s investing his money has to make good returns on it too. An artiste is help less that ways, because he has to deliver what the audience wants.

Fortunately, I continued to reinvent my self in whatever way I could.

And what did you do during the break?
“I used the break to do plenty of homework, got to know and understand myself better as a person, and most importantly, spent a lot of quality time with my family. One needs to thank the Almighty too, for all the good things one has got in life. I had been looking for a chance to spend time with my family, go on a holiday and this break came in at a good time for all that.” Didn’t it bother you that in your absence others would have entered the industry and emerge as your competition?

“When you’re on a battlefield, you should know how to fight your way to victory, and you’ve to be very well-prepared for it,” he philosophises. You’ve to be ever ready like the fire-fighters. The moment you get a call, you have to reach wherever you are required.”

So what was it about 36 China Town and Phir Hera Pheri that you agreed to act in them?
I got good roles in both of them. Earlier, people used me to create light and funny moments in their films. Their attitude was like, itneserious scene ke baad logon ko thoda hasana chaahiye. To Johny Lever ko yahaan daal do.” A good role is one that moves along with the story, like Baazigar and Kareeb for example. Similarly, I agreed to 36 China Town and Phir Hera Pheri because my characters in both films have a graph and are significant in moving the story ahead. After Baazigar, this is one good role, in 36 China Town, where I’m playing a gambler. The script is fabulous allowing plenty of scope to perform. In Phir Hera Pheri, I’m playing a small-time bhai, who wants to become a bigger bhai.

It was satisfying working in them. What else is in store?
I’m doing fewer films now and concentrating more on TV so I can show my talent properly.

It’s different and requires more hard work. There’s some interaction with the audience, my stand-up acts, skits, impromptu and inspired from daily news. I’m glad comedy is being taken far more seriously now. The Great Indian Laughter Challenge being a recent example, opening doors for new talent.

I’ll wait for a good role while I work on my TV show. And if you’re ready to finance, then I’ll make a film too.

First Published: May 05, 2006 20:00 IST