Wednesday, July 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India

M A I N   N E W S

Comedian Johnny Walker dead

Mumbai, July 29
Legendary comedian Johnny Walker died this afternoon at his residence in north-west Mumbai after a prolonged illness, family members said.

Walker, whose real name was Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi, was 79. He is survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. Johnny Walker’s actor son Nasir was by his side when he breathed his last at 1.10 p.m.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has expressed grief at the death of the veteran comedian, describing him as an icon in the field of film comedy. In a message, Mr Vajpayee said Johnny Walker’s impeccable style lent a new meaning and respectability to the genre of comedy in Indian cinema. — UNI

National Capital Region--Delhi



Gentleman comedian passes away
Minu Jain

New Delhi, July 29
The man who immortalised Mumbai in that classic song “Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan...” quietly passed into eternity in his beloved city on Tuesday. Johnny Walker was 79.

Generations to come will remember the man who made his audiences smile gently and laugh uproariously without resorting to a single vulgarity or double entendre.

“Those are the cheap tricks to gain attention, pure comedy is the result of hard work,” he said famously.

The gentleman comedian, who was born Badruddin Qazi, reigned the film world in the 1950s and 60s. No film was complete without a cameo from the son of a mill worker in Indore, who left an indelible mark on the big, bad world of Mumbai cinema.

The massage man in Guru Dutt’s “Pyaasa”, who livened the screen with his sheer exuberance, or the affectionate Gujarati stage producer, who befriends the man dying from cancer in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Anand”, Johnny Walker always commanded the screen. And lived on in memory.

This story, like all other great stories, has had humble beginnings.

Badruddin Qazi started life in Mumbai as a bus conductor. And he would have continued to be so if the late actor Balraj Sahni had not spotted him entertaining passengers in a bus.

Sahni was then penning the script for “Baazi” and immediately recognised the talent in the man. He is said to have told the nonplussed conductor: “You are the best man I can ever get.”

It was on the sets of “Baazi” that Badruddin Qazi met director Guru Dutt, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Badruddin Qazi became Johnny Walker after Guru Dutt changed his name to the popular brand of whisky.

There was no looking back after that. The talented actor-director and the fledgling comedian had an enduring partnership and went on to make great films like “Pyaasa”, “CID”, “Mr and Mrs 55” and “Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam”.

Dutt even crafted special solo scenes with Johnny Walker, like the “Sar jo tera chakraye...” song in “Pyaasa”.

The great humorist once said: “If it was not for Guru Dutt sahib, I would have remained a bus conductor. I had a great understanding with him that made my career.”

“Baazi” gave him a foothold into the industry and the other films, which followed, established him forever.

From then on, he became one of the industry’s most sought- after personalities and worked with some of the best directors like Bimal Roy and Vijay Anand.

Then the 1980s dawned and Johnny Walker’s comedy seemed to fade away just like the sepia-tinted photographs of his old films.

It was probably just not in keeping with the times — when a lewd gesture or crude sit-coms seemed to bring on the laughs rather than a witty line or just the subtly changing expressions of a talented actor.

He tried to produce a film but was disillusioned with the industry and dumped the project.

The offers became fewer.

He was last seen in 1997 in Kamal Haasan’s “Chachi 420”, a remake of the Hollywood comedy “Mrs Doubtfire”, for which he returned to the screen after a gap of 14 years.

Once again, Johnny Walker brought alive the part of the make-up man, who transforms the separated father (Kamal Haasan) into a buxom governess. He said he came back for the role because Gulzar, who he admired greatly, had written the script.

In his last years, Johnny Walker shunned television, except for sports programmes — even though son Naseer was a budding TV actor — because he found it vulgar and tasteless.

“What do I need? A house, a car, a telephone and financial security. I have all these and I lead a happy, retired life,” he said in an interview.

The man, stated to be deeply religious, said he was happy with his grandchildren and watching the trees grow in his suburban Mumbai house in Oshiwara.

Inspired by comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Johnny Walker has left a legacy of 300 films behind. But no heirs to his brand of gracious, gentle comedy.

The world of Indian cinema has been left with a void. — IANS

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