Following Nabil Khan’s heartwarming post on his grandfather, legendary actor Johnny Walker, another post… this one is on Johnny Walker, the actor. Not just the loving family man, but the very accomplished thespian who still commands (as you can see by the popularity of these posts!) a fine fan following.
Over to Nabil, now:
Born as Badruddin Kazi, Abba had humble beginnings which flowed through into the later parts of his life as well. Early in childhood he shouldered the responsibility of his entire household. He attempted many odd jobs from selling potatoes to even working as a bus conductor. He was really fond of mimicking and would do so while working. One day Mr. Balraj Sahni was in the bus and noticed Abba as he was mimicking and acting. He would entertain the passengers by acting as a drunkard and this caught Mr. Balraj Sahni’s eye.
He was approached by Mr. Balraj Sahni who asked him to barge into Guru Dutt’s office as a drunkard. Mr. Guru Dutt was initially surprised and then impressed at Abba’s performance given the fact that Abba never drank. Guru Dutt then gave Abba his first break in the film Baazi.
Then onwards there was no looking back and Abba worked in well over 325 films from the mid 1950’s to the 1980s. His performances and his acting would win over the hearts of the audiences and he became an iconic comedian in the Indian Cinema at that time. His work includes super hit movies like Aar Paar, CID, Mr. and Mrs. 55, Choo Mantar, Madhumati and Naya Daur just to name a few of his great movies. Abba was the first actor to have a movie named after him, Johnny Walker, as well as a song – Sach kehta hai Johnny Walker, ghar ki murgi daal barabar from the movie Aji Bas Shukriya (1958).
The greatest thing about Abba’s comedy was that it was not vulgar nor were there any double meaning jokes. His comedy was always clean, funny and natural and as a result, the Censor Board never cut a single dialogue.
Aside from his acting in the movies itself, his songs were also very melodious and memorable. Among these are songs such as Champi tel maalish (Pyaasa), Main Bambai ka Babu (Naya Daur), Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan (CID) which were not only popular in their day but also are today.
After a long hiatus from the film industry, and upon being convinced by Kamal Hasan himself, Abba decided to take on his last movie role in Chachi 420 in 1997. After completing his journey in the film industry for almost five decades, Abba was home where he led a complete and content life with his family. After struggling with kidney failure, Abba passed away on 29th July 2003, at the home, where he always wanted to be, with his family beside him whom he loved immensely.
Today, our family still remembers him every time we hear his name, see a song or watch his movies. His memories are lived on through people who enjoyed his work and through the smiles that he left on people’s faces.
Text and image © Nabil Khan