Johnny Lever –
This is the unusual story of the journey of a boy whose family once came from a village in Andhra Pradesh and settled down in the vast slum of Dharavi in Mumbai. His father found a job as a casual laborer in the well-known company, Hindustan Lever. The boy whose name was John Prakash Rao Janumala and who was brought up as a Roman Catholic was not interested in studies and took to selling pens, pencils, and other small toys on the pavements in places like Dharavi, Sion, and King Circle and was soon popular in these areas because of his mimicking some of the most popular Hindi film stars. The family soon shifted to Antop Hill which was known for its underworld and violent activities, but the boy kept growing up as a comedian. He later joined his father at Hindustan Lever and won the hearts of all his fellow workers with his mimicry and it was they who gave him the name Johnny Lever and then there was no looking back for him.
by ALI PETER JOHN
Johnny Lever became what was called a “must item” at many big shows
– He started performing outside the LIC building at Nariman Point and other popular points in the Churchgate area and was a big draw among officer-goers. He was once noticed by the well-known actress and Tv personality, Tabassum, who introduced him to music directors Kalyanji-Anandji, who took him on their shows and that was the beginning of the show business for Johnny Lever and he became what was called a “must item” at many big shows performed all over the world.
– He made his entry in films with a film called “Jalwa” starring Naseeruddin Shah and soon Johnny Lever was a must in all kinds of films and from Dharavi and Antop Hill, he moved to the posh locality of Lokhandwala where it took him and his family a long time to adjust in an expensive and sophisticated building called Oxford Towers where Juhi Chawla was his neighbor.
There is a general belief that Johnny Lever works miracles
– All was going very well for him when his son was diagnosed with a lump in his throat which was suspected to be cancer, but Johnny who believed in the power of prayer went down on his knees and prayed for three days and three nights and when he showed his son to the doctor again, there was no lump to be found. It is from that day that Johnny Lever has become a firm believer in prayer and all his prayers are addressed and directed to Jesus Christ who he says is the only god who listens to the prayers of the rich and the man in the streets without any discrimination. These days he holds prayer meetings every Sunday in the drawing-room of his house which is packed to capacity with people of all castes and all communities. There is a general belief that Johnny works miracles, but ask him and he says’ “who am I to work miracles? I only pray to my Jesus with my whole heart, soul, and mind and believe that he can grant me the favors I ask for and he has not let me down even once, then how can I not trust him and keep asking him for favors for himself and mostly for others who come to me with so much faith?”
He told Johnny about the growth that was found in Hrithik’s throat
– Some years ago, Johnny was shooting on a foreign location for a film being made by Rakesh Roshan with his son, Hrithik Roshan as the hero. The unit was busy shooting and Johnny saw Rakesh looking very worried. He went up to him and asked him what the matter was. Rakesh did not keep his fear a secret. He told Johnny about the growth that was found in Hrithik’s throat. Johnny paused for a moment and then asked Rakesh if he could pray over Hrithik and a desperate father couldn’t help but say yes to him. Johnny shut his eyes and prayed for 10 minutes and then asked Rakesh to get Hrithik examined. The examination revealed that Hrithik was free of all fear and there was no suspicion about the growth in his body at all. Johnny just said, “Prays the Lord” and went about praying to the buffoons in the next scene in the film.
Johnny got into his Duster, a very expensive and luxurious car, and said, “Let’s go, Ali bhai”
– I personally don’t have to rely on stories told by others to know about the wonders or call them miracles if you want, to know about the prayers of Johnny that make things possible. I have this personal favorite story of my own which is an experience with Johnny. Even at the risk of repeating this story, I must tell it, because I still find it difficult to believe it. I once asked Johnny if he would come with me to my favorite hospital, the Holy Spirit Hospital in Andheri East as it would give the patients and the nuns and nurses a good time because the very sight of him could bring joy and laughter to them. He readily agreed. He got into his Duster, a very expensive and luxurious car and said, “Let’s go, Ali bhai”. I was already feeling excited and very happy for the hospital and its inmates. It was a joy to see the boy who was once living in Dharavi driving a Duster which only Suniel Shetty and Jackie Shroff, both passionate lovers of cars had.
We reached the hospital and I had kept his visit a secret even from Sr. Sneha who was the managing director of the hospital. But Johnny Lever could attract even the smallest child and he expressed his desire to go around all the words and there was little less than a pandemonium all around, with even patients trying to get up from their beds to catch a glimpse of the man who brought laughter in these times when crying and mourning and mourning had completely taken over. Johnny had led that infectious smile on his face all the time.
Sr. Sneha led him and because of him led me to the parlor where the nuns met for an important meeting and he was feeling quite uncomfortable. The meeting was started with a prayer and Johnny was comfortable again. Sr. Sneha told Johnny how happy they all were to welcome him in their hospital and that they were as happy as any of his other fans.
“10lakh ka cheque teen din se mere table par pada hai, leke jao isko” Johnny Lever
Johnny had one very good look all around and closed his eyes and got up from his chair with a jerk as it were and put up both his hands and closed his eyes again and we all looked at him in the perplexed state. And before putting his hands down, he just said, “ I donate 10 lakhs to the Cancer Center of the hospital”. He didn’t say a word more and the nuns looked at him as if he was playing one more of his jokes, but he was dead serious, but there were no words or actions to show that he was serious. The nuns were happy that Johnny Lever had come and made their evening bright…
On our way back, Johnny showed me all his pockets and said he did not have a Naya paisa on him, but he had still made that declaration before the nuns. I too had known “ Johnny Bhai” for more than 30 years was stumped by him for the first time and did not know what to say to him.
Neither the nuns nor I spoke a word about Johnny’s declaration about the 10 lakhs for exactly a week. On the eighth day, I received a call from Johnny bhai”. And he said, “Arre kya brother kidar hai bhul gaya kya merko, thik hai merko bhul jao, lekin woh cheque ne kya gunah kiya. 10lakh ka cheque teen din se mere table par pada hai, agar aapko zyada taqleef nahi ho toh woh cheque lekar jaaye brother” I was a bundle of feelings, but I first ran to Oxford Towers and when I saw the cheque, I was tempted to believe that it was nothing but a miracle, but Johnny said it is only the power of my prayer.
….one of them has even ended up being a Minister in the cabinet of Yogi Adityanath
Johnny must have worked a thousand such miracles through his powerful prayers. He is one of the richest followers of Jesus Christ, but he makes sure that a major part of the money he makes goes for the welfare of the poor and the needy. And the more he gives, the more he receives in the form of more and more one-man shows, a field in which he has broken all records and set new trends even though hundreds of mimicry artists have been trying to mimic him and have been failing miserably and one of them has even ended up being a Minister in the cabinet of Yogi Adityanath…
While Johnny Bhai has still kept that dark and dingy room Dharavi intact, because like he says, “Yaha sab kismat kamal aur kismat ka khel hai, isme bade bade log phasse huwe hai toh main kis khet ki mulli hoon. Kal agar kismat ne mujhe mere paap ki sazaa mujhe di toh main usse sweekaar karne ke liye tayyaar hu. Yehi mujhe sikhaya hai mere Jesus ne”.