Wading through the busy streets of Mumbai, I reach a 16-storeyed building in the suburbs. Entering the lift, my level of enthusiasm is sky-high. As I step to the 15th floor, an array of Charlie Chaplin drawings on the wall suggests where I’m heading to. I walk into the door and am greeted by humble soul with a wide grin. Dressed in a pink polo t-shirt and blue denim it was none other than the ace comedian, Johnny Lever.
In person he is no different from how we have seen him onscreen for decades – a man with a funny bone. During the 40-minute interaction, often he cracks a joke backed with his precious comic gestures. Here’s the excerpts of a tete-a-tete with him:
Q: Please tell us something about your journey from the stage to movies and back to stage.
A: It has been fantastic. I never expected people will again like and appreciate my stand-up acts. I started my stand-up career in 1975. In 1980s, I made my debut in the Hindi film industry. Its been 33 years since I’ve been the part of the film industry. I started my career with stand-up acts and wish to conclude it with stand-up acts only. For me, the stand-up act is really special. People are loving and enjoying my live shows. This gives me immense happiness.
Q: How smooth was your transition from the stage to the movies?
A: Actually, the stand-up acts that we deliver is direct interaction with the audience. Its a give and take process between the presenter and the audience. Whereas in movies, the action-reaction happens between the characters. Working for television, movies and live shows are different. Stand-up act is totally different from all these. It has a special rhythm to itself. A unique chemistry to itself. For example, I don’t perform well on TV, no one is going to break it. Similarly if I don’t act well on the 70mm screen, no one is going to tear it down. But stage performance is totally different. One needs to be prepared for the worst including rotten tomatoes. The is rokada business (money business). No drama. Just give and take. That’s the difference between both the medium.
Q: So, which medium is more comfortable for you?
A: As I started with this I’m in sync with it and know from my experience and knowledge what my audience expects of me. Having a basic knowledge of it I know what has to be delivered and I enjoy it. Working on stage feels live. It feels really good. With movies, its totally different. You may work today, but you are always unsure whether the movie will release or not, whether it will get be a hit or a miss. I worked over 400 movies of which only 350 released. 50+ movies have not realeased at all. It’s a seperate department altogether. The fun and thrill involved in live show is absolutely amazing. Live show audience is categorized into two section. One who prefers theatres and others who love stand-up acts. The stand-up lovers are artistic in nature. I refer to them as artists. Though both are different yet I’m comfortable with both the mediums. When I used to do stand-up acts I used to find acting really difficult. It took me over 10-12 years to learn and understand the knack of acting. Moreover, the learning process goes on forever. No one can say that I’m thorough with acting. Neither Dilip Kumar ji nor Amitabh Bachchan ji have ever said they are the perfect actors. I’ve learned something from both the mediums, hence I’m comfortable with both.
The undisputed King of Comedy in Bollywood is back with a bang. This time not on the big screen but live on the stage with Johnny Lever Live.