On 14th August 1957, Bollywood actor and comedian Johnny Lever was born in Prakasam, Andhra Pradesh. Lever is one of India’s most popular comedians and has been a source of inspiration for many other Indian comedians.
Born as John Prakasa Rao Janumala, Johnny Lever grew up in Mumbai where he attended the Andhra Telugu School. Because of financial constraints, Lever had to drop out of school and he began picking up various odd jobs to help his family financially. One of his jobs included selling pens on the streets of Mumbai, which he did by mimicking Bollywood actors. Apart from Mumbai, Lever spent a few of his growing up years in the old city of Hyderabad where he learned the unique styles of comedy acting and comic timing. Inspired by comic actors like Johnny Walker, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood, young Lever decided to become a mimicry artist. For help in this area, Lever got in touch with his gurus, Pratap Jani and Ram Kumar, who taught him the basics of the art of mimicry.
Johnny Lever also worked in the Hindustan Lever factory in Mumbai along with his father and while at work he would entertain his colleagues by imitating Elvis Presley. He was also asked to perform at a function organized by Hindustan Lever, after which his colleagues began calling him Johnny Lever.
Eventually, Johnny Lever began performing in musical shows organized by Tabassum Hit Parade and after earning a name for himself gradually went on to join the acclaimed Kalyanji-Anandji, a music director duo. Lever did many shows and world tours with them; his first big tour was with Amitabh Bachchan in 1982. At one of these shows Lever was discovered by veteran actor Sunil Dutt who offered him a role in his film Dard ka Rishta.
Lever released his first comedy album in the 1980’s titled Hansee ke Hungame which became popular not only in India, but around the world as well. During this time Lever had also begun doing commercials.
In 1986, Lever performed at a charity function called Hope 86 in front of the entire film industry and was highly appreciated by the audience. Following his performance, Lever was offered a role by Gul Anand in a film called Jalwa with Naseeruddin Shah.
Lever’s career began by him releasing an album in which he mimicked various Bollywood actors and created some famous characters, such as Chela Ramani while doing that. Johnny Lever made his debut with the film Tum Par Hum Qurban, followed by Dard Ka Rishta, Jalwa and his first hit film Baazigar. Despite acting in films, Lever continued doing live shows and is remembered for his performance at the annual Filmfare awards held in 1999 when he had imitated Michael Jackson. Lever is remembered for many of the famous characters he played, such as Chhota Chattri and Aslam Bhai. Apart from films, Lever had his own show on Zee TV called Johnny Aala Re and was on the panel of judges for a stand up comedy reality show called Comedy Circus.
Johnny Lever is the president of the Cine and TV Artist Association (CINTAA) and also the Mimicry Association of Mumbai (MAAM) and has performed at thousands of shows worldwide. Having won many awards and honours for his films, like the Filmfare award for Deewana Mastana and Dulhe Raja, Johnny Lever remains among India’s most well known and loved comedians.
Also on This Day:
1862: Bombay High Court was established
1947: India was partitioned into India and Pakistan after the All-India Congress accepted the British plan for the partition
1988: Morarji Desai was conferred with Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civil honour of Pakistan.