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    Johny Lever: “Yes, I am making a Comeback”

    [Interview by Faridoon Shahryar]
    Saturday, July 08, 2006
    There was a time when his mere presence in a film helped its box office result. His comic timing with Govinda still stands unmatched. After a brief lull, he is back in his own element with hits like ‘36 China Town’ and ‘Phir Hera Pheri’. Paresh Rawal, the master comic actor vouches for his “Observation Powers” in studying the comic elements in day to day life. Meet, the one and only, Johny Lever. The man with the midas touch. And undoubtedly, one of the finest comedians of all times! He is also in news these days for his show ‘Johny Aala Re’ on Zee TV that has been aggressively promoted by the channel and which started off with a TRP rating of 3, which is considered good for a fresh show. IndiaGlitz caught up with him in an upbeat mood and he also promised to do a video interview for our BroadBand section soon. Over to the man who blazed away to humorous glory with hits like ‘Baazigar’, ‘Khiladi’, ‘Daraar’, ‘Raja Hindusthani’ and many more.

    How is the response to ‘Johny Aala Re’ your first foray in the world of television?

    It has been getting mixed reports. It has just started, I am sure it will pick up gradually. We have to do something special and we shall make sure that something special comes out of it. I am getting the positive feedback from the people. I am trying to change my items in every episode. In all the television experience has been very good. It’s a lot of hard work and it is difficult. I am learning new things. In films, I worked like kings while working in TV is like being a laborer. But it’s good to be a laborer for a change.

    You shined in ‘Phir Hera Pheri’ in spite of the huge crowd of fine actors with a comic tinge

    It was a great experience. We worked very hard on the circus sequence and it’s good to see people clapping the maximum on that scene. It is as if it is real circus happening before one’s eyes.

    The Big Chimpanzee had a lot of fun at your expense

    (Laughs) It is difficult to evoke laughter when animals are involved as one never knows how it will be taken. Some people start finding faults when it comes to animals these days. We were lucky than no animal conservation people bothered us. Hope they had a good time too watching the film.

    It was good to see your performance in ‘Phir Hera Pheri’ and in ’36 China Town’ you convincingly outsmarted comedy king Paresh Rawal. Would you term it as a comeback considering you were not much around for a couple of years?

    You can call it a comeback. It’s like what they say on TV: ‘Milte Hain Chote Se Break Ke Baad’. That’s exactly what I did. I took a break as I was doing too many similar kind of things and I wanted to avoid that. I also decided not to do films merely because a friend is making it. I became repetitive and I was not liking it. I wanted to bring freshness back in my comedy and I am glad that I am succeeding. My comedy depends on observation. During the last two years I had been watching lots of films, plays and lots of TV, be it the Saas Bahu serials, cartoon network, Astitva, BBC. Or in other words, anything and everything. And I was just observing the changing trends and as to how I can bring some element of novelty in my work. I also got to spend time with my family and I think I needed that badly considering there was a point of time when I was mostly away in shoots.

    What is your view point about shows like ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’ and other shows based on comedy that have become so frequent on TV and now you have joined as well

    It is very good that comedy is becoming popular. I am very happy that this thing is happening. It is good that new people are coming. But a lot of work is still remaining before they find acceptance. ‘Rang Laati Hai Henna Paththar Pe Ghis Jaane Ke Baad’. They would have to go through the grind. I started off in 1980 by doing stage shows, by doing mimicry of other famous artistes. Then ‘Jalwa’ happened. Recognition came with ‘Khiladi’ but I became big with ‘Baazigar’. And then I never looked back. Still, it took me several years before I could establish myself.

    Who are your favourites when it comes to comic actors in Bollywood ?

    From the older generation, I liked Kishore Da, Johny Walker, Mahmood and Jagdeep. In today’s generation I would say Paresh Rawal is No. 1. I enjoy working with him. Rajpal Yadav is very good as well.

    Any plans of working with your favourite Govinda, with whom you teamed up in so many hits?

    Not at the moment. But you never know anything about the future.

    What are your forthcoming films?

    We will be starting another sequel of ‘Hera Pheri’ and then there’s ‘Babu Watchman’. Talks are going on for a few others, but I don’t want to take up too much of work. I have become a bit choosy. I want to do good work. And I won’t compromise on that any more.

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