|Born||Johnny Walker (Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi)
11 November 1926
Indore, Indore State, Central Provinces, British India (present-day Madhya Pradesh, India)
|Died||29 July 2003 (aged 76)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Years active||1951 – 1997|
If you’re not too familiar with the name Johnny Walker, you’ll most likely know him by his celebrity life. We take a look at his acting career and how he’s entertained generations of fans from the golden age of cinema to the silver screen.
Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi born 11 November 1926 – 29 July 2003, better known by his stage name Johnny Walker, was an Indian actor who acted in around 300 films. He was best known for his humorous roles in Indian films, notably being typecast as a hapless drunkard.
Early life of Johnny Walker
Kazi was born in 1924 to a family of Muslim mill workers in Indore. When his father lost his job, the family moved to Mumbai. Kazi, who got a job as a Bombay Electric Supply & Transport bus conductor, took it upon himself to entertain his passengers with his comical way of calling out bus stops, his hilarious impressions and tricks.
Throughout his youth, he dreamed of being involved in films, idolizing Noor Mohammed Charlie and practicing stunts that he saw on-screen. He got a break in the film industry after actor Balraj Sahni encountered him and introduced him to actor and director Guru Dutt without the latter’s knowledge after being amused by Kazi’s antics.
Family of Johnny Walker
Johnny Walker married Noorjahan, Shakila’s sister, despite the opposition of her family. They had three daughters and three sons, of whom one is actor Nasir Khan. Regretting that he had been forced to leave school in 6th class, he sent his sons to the US for schooling. Despite often playing the roles of a drunkard, Johnny Walker was a teetotaller and claimed to have never drunk alcohol in his life.
Career of Johnny Walker
Johnny Walker nurtured his desire to work in films and entertained passengers while working the buses with amusing routines, hoping that he would at some point be spotted by someone with a connection to the movie industry. His wish came true, although the details are unclear. Actor Balraj Sahni saw him, perhaps on a bus or perhaps while Kazi was amusing the cast of Hulchul, a film for which he had obtained a bit part, with an extemporized routine as a drunk. Thereafter, Walker appeared in Baazi (1951) or acted in Hulchul. Walker appeared in all but one of Dutt’s movies and the director encouraged him to ad-lib. He was primarily an actor of comedic roles but towards the end of his life became disenchanted, saying,
“Earlier, comedians had a respectable position and an almost parallel role with the protagonist, now it is just to bring a touch of humor. I don’t buy that.” His attempts to portray heroic personae in the eponymous Johnny Walker and Mr. Qartoon were not successful but films such as Mere Mehboob, C.I.D., Pyaasa, and Chori Chori made him a star. His heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s and his later career was affected by the death of Dutt, who had greatly influenced it, in 1964. He worked with directors such as Bimal Roy and Vijay Anand but his career faded in the 1980s.
He was unwilling to adopt the cruder form of comedy and changed priorities that had become the vogue, saying that “In those days we used to do clean comedy. We were aware that the person who had come to the cinema had come with his wife and children … The story was the most important thing. Only after selecting a story would Abrar Alvi and Guru Dutt find suitable actors! Now it’s all upside down … they line up a big hero and find a story to fit in. The comedian has ceased to be a character, he’s become something to fit in between scenes. … I opted out because comedy had become hostage to vulgarity. I acted in 300 films and the Censor Board never cut even one line.”
Johnny Walker was particularly satisfied with his work in B. R. Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957), Chetan Anand’s Taxi Driver (1954), and Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958). His final film came after an absence of 14 years when he took a role in a remake of Mrs. Doubtfire titled Chachi 420 (1997). During the intervening period, he had a successful business dealing with precious and semi-precious stones.
- Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his role in Madhumati
- Filmfare Best Comedian Award for his role in Shikar