Johnny Lever, who features in the remake of Coolie No. 1, on the secret of staying relevant.
Q. You have over 300 films to your credit. What does it take to stay in the game for 40 years?
It’s the audience’s love that has kept me relevant. What’s also important is how passionate one is about their work. When you start out, there is a lot of hunger, but once you get success, it vanishes. I, though, do every film like it is my first. I work with languages, dance, body language and facial expressions; it’s the variety, the masala which has ensured I endure.
Q. How much do you ad-lib when you act?
Without our input it won’t happen. Writers and directors want me to elevate the words and make them my own. It is part of the system now. In Baazigar, one of the standout films of my career, my bits in the script were totally improvised. If something comes to me that can make the scene better, I add it.
Q. You have ensured your humour is never offensive. Is that important to you?
Our seniors did it too. Kishore Kumar is a genius, he made us laugh and he never said or did the wrong thing. Mehmood too. It takes a lot of hard work to keep it clean and make people laugh. I want families to enjoy my work. I tell my kids you don’t need to stoop low for laughs.
Q. When will audiences get to see a Johnny Lever stand-up special online?
Hopefully soon. I was one of the first to do stand-up in India. I have been doing it for three decades now. People didn’t understand it then. Comedy was essentially mimicry at the time. Now stand-up acts are trending.