In recent times, one of the famous Marathi mime artists, actor and comedian, Madhav Moghe, passed away and was honored by Bollywood veteran Johnny Lever. Looking back at this whole transformation of how the presence of comedians used to be quite elemental in film until now, when young people are turning it into a full-time profession and counted as ‘artists’ by society, Johnny tries to analyze the change.
In a conversation with IANS, Johnny said: “I remember back in the day, when I was a young man, doing a full-time job and in my spare time looking for platforms to act as a comedian, all the so-called elite clubs in Colaba wouldn’t entertain a comedian. This used to be so “unsophisticated” to them. I was wondering why? Was it our jokes that didn’t identify with them, or was it the differences in humor that created the barrier? I went to the Radio Club, Colaba and tried to observe the people there. Their conversation at the coffee table, their sense of humor and they realized that it is a combination of both. Every joke has an audience, we have to serve it in the right place. “
Johnny Lever went on to add: “But it’s also true that for a long time, the comedy business was never taken seriously. That’s why maybe we comedians, mime artists, weren’t taken seriously or given the respect and money we deserved. You see, we would travel with great celebrated artists and have a little time on stage, just for comic relief. Now when I see all the young people, including my daughter Jamie (Lever) doing a full program, I realized that progressive change has come! “
While Johnny Lever believes his popularity in Bollywood movies also helped him thrive and rally more crowds, he remembers how before, especially in movies, there was a shortage of good comic book writers.
“The whole structured writing process didn’t exist for a long time and for comedy scenes, it has to be 30% writing and 70% improv. I remember how in ‘Baazigar’ they told me to include my moments in the scene while performing. Those moments were quite improvised… ”recalled the actor who is known for his performances in films such as ‘Raja Hindustani’, ‘Dulhe Raja’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Total Dhamaal’, ‘Coolie No.1’ among many others. .
However, Johnny Lever believes that there is a clear distinction between comedy that is happening on the regional scene such as in Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. He also pointed out how some content is quite westernized, while others are pure entertainment.
“Since the new culture of ‘stand-up comedy’ comes from Western culture, the style and humor are also urban at times. But it’s nice to see how some Indian comedians are creating content that is very local, fun, and adding various elements, including miming! Making someone else’s voice famous, adding a touch of humor to it, and the amount of practice it takes for proper voice modulation, believe me, is a chore. Mimicry is an art, those who do it are artists, “said Johnny.
Johnny Lever also shared how Madhav Moghe, who appeared in Hindi movies like ‘Damini’, ‘Ghatak’ and some of the popular Marathi movies, used to do an imitation of Sanjeev Kumar from ‘Sholay’, and inspired Johnny. Moghe was also associated with the Melody Makers Orchestra and traveled the world with various artists. Johnny paid tribute to the late actor as president of MAAM (Mumbai Imitation Artists Association).
“I was a young man who went to see his performances live whenever I got the chance and he was an inspiration to me. It made many sounds, including planes, trains, animals, and famous actors. It was a moment for me when I said to myself: ‘Mujhe inke jaisa banna hai’. Back then, before I quit my job, I had to show my father that I could handle our kitchen by playing small roles in movies and comedies. Today my daughter Jamie, who is also a budding comedian, doesn’t have to prove it to me! “Johnny Lever said goodbye.
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