Johnny Walker (May 15, 1923 – July 29, 2003) is the screen name of a talented Indian movie comedian, who acted in over 300 movies. He was born as Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi in Srinagar, India, the son of a mill worker. The family shifted to Mumbai (Bombay) when the textile mill his father worked in closed. Looking after his 15-member family was tough for the father. Five family members died young. Badruddin tried his hand at different occupations, including the job of a conductor in Bombay Electric Supply and Transport (B.E.S.T) buses. (He was posted mainly at Dadar bus depot, but worked on several routes.)
While issuing tickets as a B.E.S.T. bus conductor, Badruddin used to entertain passengers aboard with some antics. These antics caught the attention of actor and script-writer Balraj Sahni
in 1950 while he was once traveling in a B.E.S.T. bus on which Badruddin, then 27, was working as a conductor. Sahni was penning at that time the script for the movie, Baazi
(1951), and introduced Badruddin to Guru Dutt
as a candidate for the role of a comedian. Badruddin's screen test consisted of acting as a drunk, and he did it so well that Guru Dutt gave him the screen name, "Johnny Walker", after the famous Scotch whisky brand. (Interestingly, Johnny was always a teetotaler.) Later Johnny was cast as the hero in a movie, Johnny Walker
(1957), which was named after himself.
He had a close friendship with Guru Dutt, who would often change scripts of his movies to accommodate a role for Johnny. The untimely death of Guru Dutt in 1964 deeply impacted him.
During the 1970s through the '90s, he had a few small roles in movies. His role in Anand showed that he could excel in a serious role even if it was for only a few minutes. His last performance was in actor/director Kamal Hasan's Chachi 420 in 1998; he had performed at the request of musician/director/writer Gulzar who had scripted that movie.
Johnny Walker married Noor, a sister of actress [Shakila]
He met Noor in 1955 on the sets of Guru Dutt
's Mr. and Mrs. 55
. Johnny and Noor had three daughters: Kausar, Tasneem, and Firdaus; and three sons: Nazim, Kazim, and Nasir. Nasir is a well-known movie and TV actor.
Johnny Walker was a humble man, who kept a low profile even at the peak of his career.
The above are the main movies in which Johnny Walker performed. IMDB's web site provides a complete list.
Two Memorable Performances
Johnny's most memorable roles were in the movies, "C.I.D" and Pyaasa
, wherein he sang the songs,Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan
--a paean to the city of Bombay-- and Sar Jo Tera Chakraye
, respectively. The latter song was developed during a visit by Guru Dutt and Johnny to Kolkata (Calcutta) before the filming of Pyaasa
. While once having breakfast at a roadside joint, they happened to watch a local masseur apply his talents to a gentleman's head, and Guru Dutt asked Johnny to keep that scene in mind.
In view of the comedian's high popularity, in the 1950s producers would insist that a movie song be centered around Johnny. Johnny's popularity began to wane in the 1960s with the rise of actor/comedian Mehmood. "Filmmakers were no longer interested in my kind of clean comedies, and I thought it's time for me to bid goodbye," he once later said.
- "Johnny Walker’s impeccable style lent a new meaning and respectability to the genre of comedy in Indian cinema," said Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Johnny's death. Vajpayee was the prime minister of India at that time.
- "Every time there was a function on Independence Day or Republic Day, I was asked to get all these people to perform. [Indian Prime Minister] Pandit Jawarlal Nehru would request especially for Johnny Walker and Mukri. I could get them as they were my friends. Today that he is no more. I miss him," remarked Indian actor Dilip Kumar on Johnny's demise.