Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Remembering Johnny Walker the Comedy King

- Swaym's Presentation -

- Lets Remember Johnny Walker -

Remembering Johnny Walker the Comedy King

Come the month of July and unconsciously I get reminded of Badruddin Qazi, aka Johnny Walker, who died in this month about five years back. The late comedian had an appeal that transcended time. He treated his own contemporaries, as also those belonging to the present generation, with equal humour. Art, he made relevant for all times to come.

My liking the legendary actor began with watching 'Pyasa', in which Walker plays the massage-man or the champi-wala. My own knowledge of the comedy king's reel life comes from watching his films, in which he was cast as the hero's friend and confidante who, with his redoubtable style, provided the much-needed comic relief.

But it wasn't the joker which Johnny Walker played always. He also treated serious roles with such ingenuity and indulgence that the characters became etched in one's mind. Remember Isa Bhai of Anand who dominated even Rajesh Khanna with his screen presence? He had the capability to make the audience laugh or weep with his earthy performances.

In Mere Mehboob, Walker played a pedestrian-poet who always has a paid and captive audience, and who are always there to wah-wah him on rendition of his off-the-cuff, impromptu tuk-bandi - heterogeneous rhyming. His pen name was 'Ghayal', and evoked an added mirth and jollity, coupled with his diagonally flashing smile worked up with a tweet that was peculiar to him.

Johnny bhai played the anti-climaxes with meticulous ease. Be it his flooring of the rival or that of himself, the desired effect was nothing but pure comedy. There was hardly any room for slapstick. That he always played the literal second fiddle to the hero in no way brought his screen presence down, nor affected his own very perfect presentation.

His bony face was a beautiful ingredient in the toolbox of his art of playing comical roles. The forked countenance, round bulging eyes, big ears, cave-like openings of the nose, M-shaped receding hairline, eyebrows and moustache running parallel on both sides down from the raised elevation in between as if they were the hands of a clock when the time is 20 minutes to four, were a perfect comedian's artful veneer. Added to this was his typical style and dialogue delivery with employed mannerisms.

Johnny Walker was a master of playing situations, when he would be seen as a spin-doctor himself spreading stories boastfully and later on exposed. Or someone who is really frightened but pretends as if he could brave it all valiantly.

His language and pronunciation was superb. If it were the demand of the scene to play an English-speaking character, Johnny Bhai's mimicry was superb and he would act exactly as if he was born and brought up in Oxford. Such incongruities of appearance and ideal realities of situations made his audiences go wild. He left his mark on every role he played.

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