Johnny Walker: The Family Man

After the post about Johnny Walker, the actor, the famous comedian’s grandson Nabil Khan brings us another post about his granddad. And with two lovely photos too, of which this one in particular made me go all mushy and “Oh-so-sweet!!!”-ing:

Enough gushing. Over to Nabil, now:

Mera Superman: My Nana

My Nana cannot be described too easily in words and maybe that is why I always have a difficult time explaining how he was. To the audiences who loved and adored his work, he may have been Johnny Walker, but to me and all of the other grandchildren, he was just our “Nana” or “Dada”.

I will never forget his distinct style, his voice and his gestures. In one aspect of his life, he lit up the silver screen with his comedic persona while in his personal life, his grandchildren lit up his world and brought out the comedian in him. It’s not very easy to explain how simple he really was.

He was a very modest man and aside from the occasional suit that he would wear to a meeting or any occasion, most people would find him in his signature white kurta and pajama. He never believed in extravagance that wasn’t justified and even explained to us that some things just aren’t necessary for one to be happy.

Most days, he would love to lounge in his favorite chair in the garden at the house. He was an active person and even in the later years of his life, he maintained his routine of walking on the ground floor of the house as the kids played in the garden. Sometimes, I would even join him for his brisk walk from one end of the garden to the other end. He would normally never take a break but for his grandkids, he would. He never minded the distraction that we provided him because to him, it was everything and to us, he was everything.

We never really knew what he really did or how big an impact he actually had on the film industry until we were about 12 or 13. We always understood the fact that he was an actor, but the magnitude of his success was unknown to us. He never discussed it or talked about it with us and he never thought it was necessary for us to be influenced. He always said that his comedy was always clean and that the Indian film industry wasn’t what it used to be when he started acting.

During his last visit to the US, where a majority of his kids live, he mentioned to me in the car the hardships that he went through on a daily basis just to make sure that his siblings had food on the table. Walking miles on a daily basis just to provide for a better life for his family. He told me how seriously he took his first audition in front of Mr. Guru Dutt because he knew that at the end of the day, it could lead to a potentially better life for his family.

He was kindhearted to say the least and always did whatever he could to help those in need. He strongly believed in charity and he slowly used the wealth he came across from the film industry to raise his family out of poverty and provide them with a better life. Although he was never able to have a proper education, he was always proud of the accomplishments of my brother and I. He always said that one day, we would be successful and here we are today. Knowing how happy he would be to see us succeed and progressing daily brings me immense joy not only because it’s where we wanted to be, but we know that it’s what he would expect from us.

In the end, what I’d like to say is that he made an everlasting impact on everyone’s life, no matter if they met him for a minute or knew him for years such as myself and the rest of our family. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face because he always knew that his heart was clean and that he had no regrets. He was an honest and humble man to say the least. He made an everlasting impact on the Indian film industry but more so he left me and the rest of my family with memories that have had an everlasting impact on our lives. He was, is, and always will be, a legend, a hero but most importantly, my version of Superman.

I love you and miss you Nana! You have brought happiness into our life and shown us a perfect example of an absolutely perfect human being. What more can we ask for? Besides for you.

Text and images © Nabil Khan


66 thoughts on “Johnny Walker: The Family Man

  1. Finally – I get to see what Mrs. Johnny Walker looked like!! I’ve tried much over the years to find out who/what actress Shakila’s sister looked like. There was a time when I thought she was the lady opposite JW in his famous song from Mr. and Mrs. 55 “Jane kaha mera jigar gaya ji”.

    Great stuff and wonderful to see and read. Thank you so much Nabil!


    • Noor (Mrs Johny Walker) was Shakila’s sister and she acted in a few movies too. To see how she looked like in her movie days watch the song “chhota sa ghar hoga baadalon ki chhaon me” (Naukri) where she plays Kishore Kumar’s sister.


      • Thank you, Atul! I’ve seen Noor act, of course – as Johnny Walker’s love interest in Aar Paar – but I had no idea this song was also picturised on her (truth to tell, this is the first time I’ve watched Chhota sa ghar hoga, even though I’ve heard it before. She’s so pretty. And – though perhaps it’s just my imagination, considering I know she’s Shakila’s sister – there is a slight resemblance between them, na?


        • I think their eyes and forehead looked quite similar.

          To compare here’s this wonderful song from Tower House.
          Pause and watch Shakila at 3.36


          • Yes, you’re right – it’s the upper half of the face that’s similar. I was especially struck by the resemblance between Noor and Shakila when I was watching Aar Paar recently; even though they don’t share screen space, you can see they’re similar, particularly in Noor’s scenes with Johnny Walker.

            By the way, do you know who was the woman whose photo is shown in Aye mere dil-e-enaadaan> As far as I remember, she was supposed to be Shakila’s mother, but I don’t remember if the actress actually appeared in a part onscreen… she looks a lot like Shakila too!


            • Yes, I had the same thoughts that the woman could be related in some way. My print of Tower House is very bad. IIRC the mother whose picture it is, is shown at the end. I wanted to check the cast, but can’t find the dvd. Will get back here when I find the dvd and ‘if’ i see a name that could be the character in the picture.


              • Thank you! By the way, someone just left an interesting comment on this post itself about the actress I always thought was Yasmin (who co-starred with Johnny Walker in Mr & Mrs 55). Do have a look – very interesting!


    • Says a lot about the man who could, even though he was so successful and had acquired an almost iconic status, think that way…

      By the way, came across this today; an ad released by Amul Butter when Johnny Walker passed away. Just shows how much he was, and is, loved.

      Amul - Johnny Walker ad


        • You’re welcome. :-)

          And what I really like about Amul’s ads is that they’re always so topical. No major tamaasha, no full page full colour spreads, but succinct, relevant – and, as here – often very poignant. This one is such a fine tribute.


      • I can imagine the change that took place in cinema must have been a difficult adjustment to make. What a lovely and humble soul he was, i could see this in a way from the characters he played i guess i have a sisth sense of detecting how actors must be in their real lives.

        BTW What’s the translation of the aye dil hai mushkil Johnny bina yahan…. written in the advert above


        • Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahaan (in the original song from CID) literally means “Oh my heart, it is difficult to live here”. In the Amul ad, Ae dil hai mushkil Johnny bina yahan means “Oh my heart, it is difficult to live here without Johnny”. Isn’t that sweet?

          There is something about him, even when you know he’s acting, that shows him for the sort of person he was – a sort of simplicity, a sense of being a very genuine person.


  2. I have just read the article written by Nabil—So simply put, but, encompassing his Nana ‘s personality through his heartfelt thoughts.
    I remember this billboard of Amul.It shows how much people loved him and still do.
    Thank you again for sharing Abba’s life works with all.
    Best of regards
    Tasneem Khan


    • Thank you, too – and I still have that one post of yours to publish, to finish Johnny Walker Week! Thank you so much, to both you and Nabil for sharing your memories about your father: you’ve brought him alive so vividly, especially to us who only have known him so far as a great comedian. It’s wonderful to get to know another side of him.


  3. *sigh*
    I too missed the significance of that picture dusted off, but I am thrilled to see them together in that first pic. So lovely.
    Can’t believe that we are actually communicating here with so many family members of our dearly admired Johny Walker.
    Thank you Nabil for this opportunity, and of course dusted off :-)


  4. Shakila Aunty is my Maasi–she is the one in the picture posted from the movie Tower House”.I would like to add Shakila Aunty had some of the most beautiful songs which are still popular today.”Babuji dheere chalna ,pyaar mein zara sambhalna”, “Ankhon hi ankhon mein ishaara ho gaya,baithey baithey jeeney ka sahara ho gaya”, “baar baar dekho hazaar baar dekho ke dekhney ki cheez hai hamara dilruba taali ho”, “lekey pehla pehla pyaar bhar ke ankhon mein khumaar jadu nagri se aaya hai koi jadugar” & many more.
    Also,Yasmin is my friend,daughter of S.M.Abbas,film director.She is not the one in the song with Dad in Mr & Mrs 55.This is another family friendship that is still carried on by the children!!


  5. There is a picture hanging on the wall. In the film she is the mother of the character played by Shakila.
    We are wondering who she could be as she shows a remarkable resemblance to Shakila and Noor.

    The framed picture on the wall comes on almost immediately as you ‘play’.


  6. I dont know who the lady in the picture is –no one from the family.Thanks for the beautiful song!!
    Also a big Thank You to Atul ji for the clip of the” Naukri” song.
    Just an interesting note: My mummy-Noor had a small role in the film ‘Do Bigha Zameen”,she is the landladys daughter who rents out a room to Mr.Balraj Sahni when he come to the city.


  7. Another song “Udhan khatole par udh jaon tere haath na aaon” from the film “Anmol Ghadi “.The song is sung by the Melody Queen – Noorjahan & picturised on my mummy Noor!!!! .She played the childhood role of Noorjahan.


    • Mrs Khan, thank you so much for your contributions about the lesser-known appearances of your mother in cinema! Prior to this, the only film I knew of in which your mother acted was Aar Paar. Even though I’ve seen both Anmol Ghadi as well as Do Bigha Zameen, I had no idea that was your mother. So lovely to see her again, and to know who she was. By the way, on behalf of all the film lovers who visit this blog, I’d like to ask you if you would like to share any memories you might have of your mother or your maasi with us? A guest post (or two, or more?) We’d love to know more – if you would like to write for us!


    • Dear Tasneem…in that case your mother Noor also acted in “Dard” where she plays the young Munawar Sultana as she,s the same child actress in “Anmol Ghadi”


  8. You are welcome :-)

    Thank you for clearing our doubts about the picture.

    I do remember the role your mother played in Do Beegha zameen, but haven’t seen Anmol Ghadi …yet, but manged to check the song out in youtube. Such a sweet cute song.
    There are several lovely closeups of your mother.


  9. Tasneem,

    Your Mom played the childhood role of Noor Jehan in Anmol Ghadi, but the song itself is sung by Shamshad Begum and Zohra Bai Ambala Wali. The part picturized on your mom was sung by Shamshad and the part picturized on boy was sung by Zohra Bai.

    Isn’t it a coincidence that both childhood and adult parts were played by “Noor” (Your Mom Noor and Noor Jehan respectively :) )


    • Please let us know if Yasmin played any role at all in Mr and Mrs 55. Also please let us know if she worked in any other picture.

      I read somewhere that Yasmin was the name given by Gurudutt to Vinita Butt of the jane kahan mera jigar gaya ji fame. But this info may be wrong.


      • Surjit, I think you may be right about Yasmin being the name Guru Dutt gave to Vinita Butt, since the credits of Mr and Mrs 55 list Yasmin, not Vinita Butt. But I’m not sure.



  10. JW Saheb was one of the most unfairly underrated actors who did not score the Star billing but many a film was worth watching only because of his characteristic presence!
    In acting ability he was head and shoulders above many of the mediocre “Giants” (pygmies in disguise!!!)of the last 3 decades including the 3 Khans and AB put together. Isabhai in Anand was a case in point

    One amusing story I have heard was that he was spotted by a young music student when he visited Sydney a short while before he passed away. The student was overwhelmed by seeing him and after respectfully approaching and identifying him, he was in awe to see the great man in his presence and being able to talk with him. After a while JW Saheb noticed that the young student had taken no notice of his younger companion. Upon inquiry the student denied any recognition of the man who was then a well known “star”- Hritik Roshan and that threw JW Saheb into an exclamatory guffaw! Little was he willing to admit that his talent earned him respect far beyond the admiration that overgrown juveniles have for the programmed plastic “heroes and heroines”

    He is a mood lifter and he is well and truly alive for his admirers through his films- I am lucky to have DVD’s of seven of his films


  11. I derived an enormous amount of pleasure reading this article, many, many thanks Nabilsaab and Dustedoff.

    I have a question which maybe Nabilsaab or someone here can provide clarification on; in several films I’ve watched, there’s an actor called Tony Walker appearing alongside JW, who bears an uncanny resemblence to JW. Indeed, they have the same slim build, identical hairstyle and moustache. Is TW a younger sibling or is this like the Mehmood and Junior Mehmood situation?

    JW and TW can be seen together in these two songs:

    Zara Bachh Ke (1959) – Ae Ishq Isse Barbaad Na Kar

    Johnny Walker (1957) – Munh Se Mat Laga

    In the first song TW is lip-synching to G. M. Durani’s voice. In the second song he is the chap in the black suit who occasionally is lip-synching to Manna Dey’s voice…


  12. Such a lovely photograph of Johnny Walker and Noorji, who is, as someone pointed out above, rarely seen. Tasneemji, thank you so much for sharing. I am writing a PhD on your father. I would love to write to you and ask you some more details if you don’t mind. I started the work four years ago and at that time had made a trip to Bombay and met your brother Nasir Kazi who met me and clarified so many of my doubts.


  13. Thanks Mr Nabil Khan and thanks to Mrs. Tasneem Khan for the wonderful information about ace comedian Johny Walker. I have just penned an article on Johnny Walker for a magazine (29th July happens to be his anniversary) and I shall share the link here once it is published.
    Tasneem – any idea about your father’s youngest brother Wahidudin alias Vijay Kumar? Is he still active? I don’t think he was interested in cinema, isn’t it! But he did act in a 1961 release Wanted along with Saeeda Khan.

    BTW, in an era, when actresses find it hard to resist the limelight, I really admire your mom for staying away from limelight transforming herself into the role of a housewife. You children are so lucky for having parents like Johny Walker and Noor.

    All your father’s roles are unforgettable but the one in “Anand” – it was fantastic.
    I also saw the song in Choo Mantar. It was great.

    I love the importance that Johnny Walker gave to his family.


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