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Bidding Adieu To Johnny Walker And Leela Chitnis, Yesterday’s Superstars

Chitra Parayath

Johnny Walker, the ‘ Gentleman Comedian’ of yesteryears famous for initiating millions of guffaws died on July 29 after a prolonged illness.

Born to a mill worker from Indore, Badruddin Jamaluddin Qazi on May 15, 1923, he worked as a bus conductor in Bombay till he met and struck a close friendship with the famous Film Director Guru Dutt, who re-christened him after the popular whisky label Johnny Walker.

Johnny Walker’s popularity soared in the 50’s and early 60’s. His songs ‘Sar Jo tera Chakraye’, ‘Jungle mein mor naacha’, ‘Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan’ enjoyed immense popularity, and music directors composed tunes keeping his personality in mind. In the 70’s one saw very little of the old Johnny, he did have a small but poignant part in Anand(1971).

In 1997, Johnny played a make up man who helps transform the hero (Kamal Hasan) a Mumbai ka Chokra to a Matunga Mami.

Johnny Walker will be missed for his gentle humor, his wit and his effervescent presence. Johnny Walker acted in over 300 films, noted among them are Anand (1971) Mere Mehboob (1963), Madhumati(1958), Naya Daur (1957), Cori Chori( 1956),CID(1956), Choo Mantar (1956), Mr. &Mrs. 55.(1955), Aar Paar(1954) and Baazi(1951)

He leaves behind his wife Noor, three daughters and three sons.

Leela Chitnis, superstar of the 1930’s passed away at Connecticut Nursing Home on July 14. She was 93.

Her films with Ashok Kumar, Kangan, Bandhan and Jhoola were popular hits in the 1940’s. Her eloquent eyes and gentle facial features made her an instant success with movegoers and theater lovers alike.

In the 50’s Leela was cast mostly as the long-suffering Hindi movie mum. The most famous among those were her turns as Raj Kapoor’s mother in Awaara(1951); Dilip Kumar´s mother in Ganga Jamuna(1961), Vyjayanthimala´s mother in Naya Daur (1957) and her mother-in-law in Sadhana and as Dev Anands mother in Kaala Bazaar (1960), Hum Dono (1961) and in Guide (1965).

Her last appearance was in the Kamal Haasan-starrer "Dil Tujhko Diya" in 1985.

The popular bhajans like Tora manwa kyon ghabraye re Ramji ke dware (Sadhana) and Na main dhan chahoon na ratan chahoon (Kaala Bazaar) were filmed on her. Leela Chitnis moved to the United States in the 1980s. She had lived for years at a Danbury Nursing Home, where she died of complications from a fall.

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