Rechristened Johnny Walker after the popular whisky brand, Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi is one of the best comedians to have graced the screen. He effortlessly encapsulated the essential joie de vivre of the golden age of Hindi cinema, enjoying a respectable position in films with regard to role and screen time. Riding a strong wave of popularity through his career, there were songs written especially for him, with distributors eager to pay extra to ensure his presence, given his considerable box office draw. Credited with several firsts—the first actor to engage a manager, to not work on Sundays, and to bring colloquialism to cinema, he developed his own unique brand of humour which rendered him memorable. Appearing in all but one of Guru Dutt’s films, he was encouraged by Dutt to improvise and draw on his personal life experiences. He is known for his acts in films such as Chetan Anand's Taxi Driver (1954), Chori Chori (1956), B R Chopra's Naya Daur (1957), Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958), Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957), CID (1956), Naya Daur(1957) and Mere Mehboob (1963) down to more recent appearances in Chachi 420 (1997). Honoured with the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his role in Madhumati as well as Filmfare Best Comedian Award for his role in Shikar (1968), Johnny Walker acted in no less than 300 films in the course of his career.
Born on 11 November, 1926, in Indore, he was the son of a mill worker. When the family moved to Bombay, Kazi, as he was known, took up various small jobs including selling ice candy, fruits and stationery, till he landed a job as a bus conductor with Bombay Electric Supply & Transport. His flair for comic antics caught the notice of actor Balraj Sahni, on the sets of Hulchul (1951), who suggested that he perform his drunken act for Guru Dutt. Dutt was won over, giving him a role in Baazi (1951), as well as apparently christening him Johnny Walker, after the scotch label, a doff of the hat to his role of a drunkard.
Walker’s heyday lasted through the 50s and 60s, as he featured in several successful films such as Mere Mehboob, C.I.D., Pyaasa and Chori Chori, which made him a star, no less. He even had an eponymous film - Johnny Walker (1957) which chronicled the comedic escapades of a Bombay-based alcoholic, Murli Manohar. The film wasn’t a success; however, he was perhaps the only actor to have had a film title bearing his name. The latter part of his career was affected by the demise of Guru Dutt, who had been his mentor, even though he worked with renowned filmmakers such as Bimal Roy and Vijay Anand. Changing times came with their share of challenges. Belonging to an era of clean humour, minus double entendre and vulgar jokes, he was unwilling to adapt to the changed priorities. He prided himself on the fact that he had acted in 300 films and the Censor Board never cut even a single line.
Appearing on screen for the last time after a gap of 14 years, he featured in the Mrs Doubtfire remake, Chachi 420 (1997). He also produced and directed the film Pahunche Huwey Log (1986).
Married to Noorjahan, sister of actress Shakila, the couple had three daughters and three sons.
Johnny Walker passed away on 29 July, 2003.