John Rao Janumala famously known as Johnny Lever, born on 14th August 1950, in Prakasam, Andhra Pradesh is an Indian film actor and comedian.
He was born to Prakash Rao Janumala and Karunamma Janumala and brought up in Mumbai. He started his career in 1984 and has acted in over 350 Bollywood films. He has received 13 Filmfare awards nominations in Best Comedian Category and has won the award twice.
He decided to leave school and started working at a very young age. He did all kinds of work, for example selling pens on the streets of Bombay in a special way of imitating Bollywood stars. He also danced on the songs of Bollywood stars. Hence he developed a passion for mimicry and stand-up comedy, inspired by watching comedians like Johnny Walker, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood in films and mimicry artists like Dinesh Hingoo on stage. He then decided to be a mimicry artist. To seek guidance and help regarding mimicry he met his mentor Pratap Jani and mimicry artist Ram Kumar, who helped him and taught him the basics of mimicry. Johnny also used to work as an employee in Hindustan Lever's factory in Mumbai with his father. While working he also used to entertain his co-workers in the factory by imitating Elvis Presley. At one of the functions at his factory he was asked to perform and show his talent. So impressed were his colleagues and officers of the factory by his performance that his union leader said that from now on we will call him "Johnny Lever".
After that, he started to perform in musical shows (orchestras) and after becoming famous there, he then joined the legendary music director duo Kalyanji-Anandji's group. He did a lot of shows and world tours with them, one of his first big tour was with Amitabh Bachchan in 1982. During this period he learned a lot from Kalyanji who according to Lever was also a great philosopher and a very humorous person, and also his mentor. At one of his shows Sunil Dutt noticed his talent and potential and offered him his first movie Dard Ka Rishta.
In the 1980s he released his audio cassette of mimicry/comedy, Hansee Ke Hungame, which became a super hit not only in India, but worldwide, after which he became very famous and this took him to another level. In 1986, he performed in a very big charity show called "Hope 86" in front of the whole Hindi film industry as a filler. The audience loved his performance. The whole film industry recognized his talent and producer Gul Anand offered him a film called Jalwa with Naseeruddin Shah but his first major success came with Baazigar, and after that he was seen in almost every movie as a supporting actor/comedian. Even though he had become busy with so many movies, he continued to do live shows.
One of his most memorable live performances was Michael Jackson's impersonation at the Filmfare Awards 1999. His most acclaimed performance was the character of "Babulal" in the film, Baazigar, directed by Abbas-Mustan. He is also remembered for some of his other famous characters, like "Chotta Chattri", "Aslam Bhai" etc. His performance in the film Judaai and his famous dialogues in the movie, Abba Dabba Jabba are also unforgettable. He is known as the king of comedy in Bollywood and known to have inspired many comedians and stand-up artists in India.