John Prakash Rao Janumala, better known by his stage name Johny Lever, is an Indian film actor who primarily works in the Hindi film industry. He is a character actor and specializes in the genre of comedy, for which he has received multiple Filmfare Award nominations and awards. He has appeared in a number of movies such as Judaai, Baazigar
, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
, Joru Ka Ghulam, Deewana Mastana, and Golmaal 3
Born on 14 August, 1957 in Prakasam, Andhra Pradesh, to Prakash Rao Janumala, an operator in Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) plant, and Karunamma Janumala, Johny Lever is the eldest of the five siblings. While growing up in the King`s Circle area of Mumbai, he had to drop out of Andhra Education Society`s English High School in the seventh grade to support his family financially. He did odd jobs and also worked as a laborer with HLL. According to Lever, it was his humble beginnings in Dharavi which initiated him into the world of mimicry and then acting. Talking of how he paved his way into the industry, he said, "We lived in a hut in Dharavi and I was therefore brought up amongst a lot of dance and festivity...Watching one of my neighbors, I got into mimicry at 14, not realizing that it would become my profession." He started by doing small shows and then later joined music composers and toured the world with them, providing comic relief in the concerts.
Lever is married to Sujata Lever and has two children: a daughter, Jamie Lever
, and a son, Jesse Lever. Jamie is a standup comedian. He is a devout Christian and has become more firm in his beliefs after his son Jesse was cured of cancer at the age of ten.
Lever got his break in 1980 with Tum Par Hum Qurban, which was written, directed and produced by the yesteryear`s actress Tabassum
. She considers him to be her find, "I met Johny Lever while I was doing a show in Shanmukhananda Hall in Mumbai. My manager saw him performing on the street and brought him in. "Although the film bombed, it opened up the avenue of films for Lever. His performance at a charity show organized by Kalyanji Anandji was noted by Sunil Dutt
who offered him a role in Dard ka Rishta
. He went on to do a list of other films in the 1980s, the notable of which are Jalwa (1987), Tezaab
(1988) and Chaalbaaz
(1989). His role in Baazigar
(1993), where he played the role of Babulal, a forgetful house help, is considered to be his breakthrough performance, which won him recognition for his comic abilities. His notable film from the 1990s are: Khiladi (1992), Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993), Anjaam (1994), Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Karan Arjun (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), for which he received the Star Screen Award for Best Comedian for portraying the role of Aamir Khan
`s friend, Balwant Singh, Judaai, Yes Boss, Ishq
, and Deewana Mastana (1997), where he played the role of Ghafoor, friend and aide to Anil Kapoor
`s character Raja, and went on to win the Filmfare Best Comedian Award. He portrayed the role of a hotel manager, Bankey, in theGovinda
and Kader Khan
-starrer Dulhe Raja in 1999 and, again, went on to win the Filmfare Best Comedian Award for his performance. He also starred in such blockbusters as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
(1998), where he played the role of the anglophile summer camp superintendent, Colonel Almeida, Kabhie Khushie Kabhie Gham
, and Koi Mil Gaya
(2001) among many other films. In 2002, he played the role of Aslam Bhai in the movie the Love Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega with an entire song dedicated to his character. For his performance in the 2002 comedy, he went on to win the Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in a Comic Role for. Apart from working in Hindi language movies, Lever has worked in a Telugu movie Criminal (1994) directed by Mahesh Bhatt
, a Tulu film titled Rang
(2014), and a Tamil Film called Anbirkku Alavillai (2011). He appeared in several hit films which include Entertainment (2014), Dilwale (2015), and Golmaal Again (2017). In 2019, he marks his comic presence in movies like Total Dhamaal and Housefull 4
, both are comedy movies which has an ensemble cast of comic artists.
An already established actor and comedian, Lever was seen hosting the television show Johny Aala Re on Zee TV in 2006. He also judged one of the seasons of the stand-up reality show Comedy Circus aired on SONY TV.
His other releases includes Pati Patni Aur Woh and Coolie No 1