Two consecutive weeks and everyone is ranting about that one name – Govinda. Critics have said multiple unkind words about both Kill Dil and Happy Ending but even the staunchest, bitterest criticisms doesn’t point towards Govinda. He is above all wrong now; but not very long ago (probably a little more than a decade and half) he has faced flak for his garish clothing, his tacky films and his loud acting. I find it very hypocritical that people who think of loud films as nothing better than outlandish, are singing praises of Govinda – columns after columns. I would have doubted their genuineness because Bollywood’s opinionated veterans often tend to follow trends and Govinda, might have been their new cool thing. But a senior journalist, I bumped into in Mehboob Studios, cleared the haze for me. Thrilled and excited, emerged fresh from a whoopee doze of Happy Ending, she explained, “You know why people have missed Govinda? It’s not the long time, it’s the simplicity of his humor that wasn’t explicit, that was funny without being loose, and funny for being funny not clap traps is what people have missed. The charisma of Govinda draws from it and South remakes’ variety of funny we have become accustomed to, is just not Bollywood. Govinda is.”
Lovers of mainstream films are looking at it as a moment to rejoice. Why so? Because, we all have probably died of an overdoze of the Khans. Not meant as any offense to them, but that’s where Bollywood’s success begins and ends with. The best of reporters always have one stock question to ask any debutant actor – “Which Khan would you prefer working with?” Govinda wave is refreshing!
Whoever is leading Govinda’s new brand building expedition is doing a damn good job at it. Moulding his image by channelizing his best, most likeable traits and placing them in sync with the current flow of affairs is what he has benefitted the best from. He barely has an extended cameo each of his recent releases,both Kill Dil and Happy Ending and yet most news pieces, articles were surrounding him. Ranveer Singh, who looked positively awed by his dazzling senior co-actor even said, “Al Pacino can’t do what Govinda can. Give him a Matrin Scorsese and see what he is capable of.” Actors, Production Houses, Directors have all put in their best bit in the rebirth of the Pop King, Govinda. Raj and D.K even introduced him as ‘Above All’ in the credits of Happy Ending.
Does the question remain, what makes him above all? He pulls himself with this new found poise and yet, is in his cheeky best like before. I have been lucky enough to engage in elaborate tete-e-tetes with Govinda over the last month. And each time, I extracted a new facet of the man’s story. He is ever thankful, ever grounded. For someone, who towers over most of his colleagues in terms of love received and adulation of the fans, he remains modest, grounded and equally endearing. He began his interview for Kill Dil with talking about how YRF, Adi(tya Chopra) and Shaad(Ali) could envision him playing a starkly grey character. Happy Ending, too began on a similar note, where he emphasized on the kindness of people who present him so well. Filled with pride and glee, he told me, “Sab kuch kaisa Happy Ending jaise nazar aa raha hai!” I correct him. Happy Beginning. Afterall, there are still cinema snobs like my Mashi(Aunt) who guffaw at the thought Govinda in a YRF film! (Old School Thought!)
And his edge, is his humor (which has changed amply since the 90s). But the reason why Govinda hasn’t lost his sparkle is because he believes in, “Jaise Chahe Waise Hasa Lo. It’s Great!”
He had begun to believe he has lost his midas comic touch. He was worried he won’t have the same fluency, the same zest. “Sometimes what you like, you don’t get and what you get, you don’t like. Sunita (my wife) taught me how to keep working through it all.”
After a profound pregnant pause, he sums up how he has tackled criticism all his life, “In an interview I had read, Charlie Chaplin’s co-stars retold a story of how they kicked him in a scene. But neither those kicks are remembered nor those characters. Only Charlie Chaplin is remembered. And the laughs are remembered.”
Govinda’s second innings is not about character roles and critical acclaim, which is invariably coming his way. With a smile, he admits, he is too commercial to go that way. He notes, “It’s important for an actor to rise above their personal tastes and deliver what people like.” People often like crass, he thinks, so be it. In an earlier remark, about rejecting a Marathi film with Salman, he had said, “Arey, Art Film kaun karta hai.” So, I almost was aware of the space his thinking flows from.
He has no qualms about admitting who he is and what he is. No matter which adjective you prefix against his name, pretentious will never be one of them! Amongst his upcoming films, the most luminous one is Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos. Very frankly, he mentions, “I was very impressed with Barfi!. But when I first heard the film’s title, I was not ready to watch the movie. Who names their film Barfi? Then my wife told me, the film has almost no dialogues. I was shocked! But when I watched the film, I loved it.” Though many are speculating that he plays Ranbir’s father in Jagga Jasoos, Govinda maintained he is not!
Probably Govinda, after refurbishing himself as G isn’t ready to settle for fatherly parts at a time when the Bollywood Superstars are often box office hawks, giving very little scope to anyone else to thrive. But Govinda is not threatened, “When you are doing natural acting, you are not competing you are rather complimenting. You need to realize that it might not be your film but you are getting a good role.”
Life has changed. Things have come far ahead from where he had left it. He half disapproves, half appreciates, “Looks have become the subject of a film. Production value has become the subject of a film. Pehle aisa nahin tha. Actors are now producers. It’s a big change. Promotions bhi aise stage laga ke kartey hai, which is erm, good for them.” We laugh.
He is aware that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon. He is no Nawab, like his last co-star! He recounts,”I didn’t have money for a cycle. I didn’t have money for a raincoat. I was always used to second hand things. There was this Bengali man’s dhaba where I would eat. He would feed me and never embarrass me by asking for money. Jab main hero ho gaya, usey maine kaafi paise diye. Uss zamane mein do-teen lakh bohot hotey they. He shifted to Calcutta after that. There was a Ticket Checker in the local train, I would always bump into and everytime he would leave me with a warning. Bohot travel kiya hai bina ticket ke.” Hardships, Fame, Success and Failure later, the unfazed man is back with his usual spunk.
Tupac Shakur’s couplet floats in my mind as I sum this up – “Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.” That seems to resonate with the journey of Bollywood’s Pop King and how he became the rocking Mr G. Phaad Ke from Govinda!