The journey of Hyderabad’s ‘Jaani’ Walker

“Kambal ki aad se macchar ka

Deedar adhoora, rehta hai

Jab tak na kaatein macchar tum ko

Sona to adhoora rehta hai”

Ask any 1990s-child about their childhood pop culture icons, their memories will echo with Kumar Sanu’s deep baritone voice. Yet, the perversion of such lines puts the song Ghoongat ki aar se dilbar ka in a different light. Some might even balk at comedian, actor, and singer KB Jaani’s satirical version of this classic tune from the old Aamir Khan-starrer, Hum Hai Raahee Pyar Ke.

Reciting some lines at a mazahiya mushaira

Though, the most ardent Kumar Sanu fan cannot hold back laughter when comedian Khairuddin Baig “Jaani” croons his own lyrics to the tune of the renowned singer’s love ballad.

“Kangaala hai main ne bhot apne pant ko,

Oh dhoban tera phir bbhi naam aa raha hai

Jahaan main likhon likha na jaaye

Aur Nirma tera phir bhi naam tera”

Then in the jingle voiceover tone, the current host of Siasat TV’s Hyderabadi Sitare says, “Nirma Super li jiye!”

MS Education Academy

Much before performing on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and his memorable roles in Deccani films, Jaani incorporated such mimicry alongside stand-up acts during his Intermediate days.  From his childhood, he was inspired by the play Adrak Ke Panje and artistes like Kamal Raza.

 “Besides the sheer hilarity occurring during these evergreen plays, the costume changes and the way the sequences were acted out enamored me. So I thought, if these peformers could do it, I can too!” remembers Jaani.

The beginnings

KB Jaani with Adnan Sajid Khan before his Gullu Dada days

In the tenth standard, he and his friends used to stage plays and stand-up acts in his haunt of Old City. Though it was only at age 17 that he began taking to the stage. Jaani then got his push in Raichur, Karnataka — where there was somewhat of a platform for comedians —  much before people began tuning into the TV show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge every weekend.

Shows did not happen frequently during that time as they do today. Plus, this was not a time where someone’s stand-up routine and YouTube page were accessible online via various digital channels.

Clearly, comedy would not (yet) be enough for sustenance. Hence, he joined an orchestra where his vocal talents would not only help pay the bills, but also enable him to churn out more parodies.

Regaling audiences is something that has given Jaani satisfaction

However, soon enough one show organizer also told him, “The stand-up comedy scene is not exactly flourishing. Don’t put all your eggs in this basket.”

Jaani states, “Then I had to become all three — a comedian, singer, and a mimicry artist — in one.” Hence, again he then joined an orchestra as a second singer. One of his musical comrades in this group was none other than Adnan Sajid Khan. This talented performer would then go onto immortalize one of the wittiest, wackiest personages in Hyderabad’s cinematic lore, Gullu Dada.   

Jaani recalls one story on his journey from turning his passion into a full-fledged profession.

With Bollywood great Johnny Lever

“One time in Raichur some friends and I were returning to Hyderabad from doing a show, for which we did not get paid. Even without the ticket we then returned to the train station. While waiting for the organizer to show up with the tickets, we just sat down to have some samosas,” he narrates.  

The organizer did not give them the return tickets to Hyderabad. They were unable to even satiate their hunger with their snacks. Yet the train was departing from the tracks.

Then a DDLJ-like situation emerged, except Jaani was no Shah Rukh Khan and organizer surely was not Kajol.  A happy Bollywood ending did not follow either.  

Jaani among Shekhar Suman and Navjot Singh Sidhu, hosts of the erstwhile TV show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge

Jaani elaborates further, “We rushed towards the train while still hoping that the organizer would come and hand us the tickets. He then somehow came running towards us, but he was not able to hand us the tickets. The conductor caught us and told us to get off at the next station of a rural area. Spending a night in that village and returning to Hyderabad brought about another set of obstacles.”

New horizons

The new millennium proved to be a fillip to Jaani’s career. In 2000, he did an All-India road show called Timepassgiri which went on to become a huge hit. Though five years later, two watershed trends would help him cement his place in Hyderabad’s arts scene. The first was The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, which injected stand-up comedy into people’s living rooms every weekend. The second was the release of the Deccani comedy movie, The Angrez.

Little do many know that the role of Chaouche in the Hyderabadi laugh riot was offered to Jaani. But due to his increasing post-laughter challenge stand-up engagements and his ailing mother, he declined. Though after the Laughter Challenge, he hosted other humour shows like Haste Haste, aired on ETV Urdu.  

Hosting “Haste Haste” on ETV Urdu

The multi-talented individual then rose to stardom with his role in the second installment of the Gullu Dada franchise. “Adnan Sajid Khan promised to use my comic timing and acting abilitie. He kept his word by casting me in his second movie,” he praises.

The film went onto become a success in Hyderabadi households here and abroad.  He then went onto make people laugh in corporate shows. Roles as an endearing Andhra-cop and a stuttering henchman of a loveable goon would then follow. This only made him more recognizable both in Hyderabad and overseas, where he enjoys performing. 

Be it Jeddah, Riyadh, or Dubai, they get a new audience with whom there is some old affinity. “People abroad enjoy your material with love. Through our humour, we take them back home and also get them up to speed with what is going on in Hyderabad since they left,” claims Jaani.

Looking to the future

Personal obligations prevented Jaani from working in Bollywood films. Though with OTT platforms — somewhat devoid of dynastic lobbies — reigning supreme, especially in pandemic-ridden times, is Hyderabad ready to hop aboard the online streaming bandwagon? And is he ready to jump on it as well?

The funnyman then answers, “Inshallah. Deservedly so, OTT has made a place for itself and has allowed other up and coming talent to shine. But even OTT content requires capital and producers. In Hyderabad, we need good producers to step forward. The talent is there, but folks with financial capacity and creative vision are needed to also help steer the ship in the right direction. While the enthusiasm for OTT content is understandable, money and the right people are key to getting this medium of entertainment off the ground in this city.”

With fellow Deccani cinema stalwarts

In 2016, he stated that there is no godfather for Hyderabadi comedians for them to flourish on a national stage. However, the comedian feels that does not apply anymore. “Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and etc. have become godfathers in a way by enabling someone to disemminate his/her material right away,” he points out.

Plus, with the COVID vaccine slowly making its way through the country, it will not be long before audiences stop worrying about whether they must inoculate themselves or maintain distance amongst fellow audiences.

That too, with Jaani up on stage.

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