The ‘Hero No. 1’

by September 22, 2018 0 comments

Hero No. 1 - The man who stepped backEstablishing himself as an authentic entertainer, Govinda is yet again ready to make a comeback with a comedy movie. He shares his mother’s mantra of ‘not getting tired and not giving up’ with Saimi Sattar.

Gone are the bright orange, skin-tight trousers, multi-coloured shirts and blazers that were inspired by the hues of the sun. Dressed in a formal black three-piece, the only hint of the flashy Govinda of yore are the shiny, black, pointed shoes that have a self pattern consisting of squares. And there is a marked change in the man. One can see the exasperation in his face when he realises that having spoken non-stop for three hours, he would need to continue the exercise for at least another half-an-hour. However,   the irritation does not filter down to his attitude – a far cry from the tales of tantrums and unprofessional behaviour that was whispered about earlier.

The actor is straightforward, greets you warmly with a something special for each individual and is philosophical about his take on life in the industry and outside. “You are a very good soul,” he announces just as I begin to settle down. The pronouncement, he says, was prompted by the fact that he had eyed me patiently waiting my turn on the side.

The Virar ka Chokra, as he was popularly referred to at one time, has travelled a long distance from his humble origins and tough times while reinventing himself often – from an action hero to a romantic to one with impeccable comic timing – the last being where he found his mojo. And he credits it all to his mother. “She told me that you can’t fashion idols from dry earth and that thought worked. The wet earth is connected to nature. If you connect your art to nature, you can find a lot of new characters. You can see heroes around you and you feel that it would be amazing to see them on the silver screen. If you close your fist or your mind, you can’t express yourself. If you close your ear, then you can’t say the truth. To begin with we need to open our minds, hearts, thoughts and keep the doors open,” says the actor philosophically, looking out in the direction as if trying to recall a long forgotten story.

The actor, who with his string of comedies – Raja Babu, Coolie No 1, Hero no 1, Partner, Saajan Chale Sasuraal and more — was at one time practically considered a stress-buster by corporate India. “If I am the source of entertaining people and taking away their stress, I don’t mind. But as far as a tag is concerned, it can change if someone does a strong film that compels people to accept them in a role. Akshay Kumar was a fighting hero, then he started doing comedies and now he has rebranded himself as someone who does nationalistic films,” he explains.

An actor, who had a phenomenal 14 releases in 1989, 11 in 1988, nine in 1990 and 1994, seven in 1997, six each in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2000, most of which were blockbusters or close to it, Govinda has not been seen very often. His last outing an action film, Aa Gaya Hero, in 2017 failed to create much of an impact on the box office. So it is with two comedies, Rangeel Raja and Fry Day, a genre that he is best known for, that Govinda returns to the big screen. “These are family entertainers but at the same time they are tied to love and have an element of comedy. They will convey many messages in a funny manner. They will definitely have an indirectly serious side to it. Unlike the comedy in contemporary films, which is very direct, this is more subtle. Mujhe shobha nahin deta woh,” says the 53-year-old who likes Ranvir Singh among the newer lot for his comic timing and acting.

Besides comedy, it was his flair for dancing with gay abandon that set Govinda apart from the other heroes. Recalling the video of a university professor who was imitating his steps at a marriage, he chuckles. “He was dancing with his family during a marriage without a clue that it would become viral. Of the people who imitate me including actors, he comes the closest. Pahunche huen baap hain woh,” he says with a laugh which is reminiscent of the many films that he has acted in.

That’s the effect he has had on people with his laugh-out-do-it-loud demeanour. A warmth which translated into a genial workspace where he worked with several hit jodis whether it was his pairing with Shakti Kapoor in 42 films “which made people roll with laughter”, Kader Khan (41 films) or his heroines like Neelam and Karishma Kapoor (10 each). But did any of his friendships extend beyond the movies? Whatever was written about  then, Govinda has now detached himself from all the speculation over his equations with people, men or women. “I couldn’t understand the system of friendship — vidhi, taur tariqe nahin samajh me nahin aate (I do not understand the rulebook of social grace and manners). I just kept working. I couldn’t afford time for cultivating relationships. Everyone in my family was struggling at that time. How we could move ahead in life was the struggle that I was faced with. We were trying to extricate ourselves from the tough times. So I had no time. My mother had made me promise at a very young age when I was 13 that I could not get tired or use bad words for anyone. That’s all I did and do,” he says, dispelling doubts that he had regrets in an industry considered punishing if you fell from its grace.

Another place where he briefly dabbled and then made a quiet exit was politics. He contested elections against Ram Naik who was considered invincible and won the Lok Sabha seat in 2004. “The way politics works, you should continue in it only if you understand it well. There is always action and reaction there. One should stay away if one does not have the courage to tolerate things. At that time, mummy had passed away and I was the father figure of a family where everyone was very young. I did not want to impose my burden on the others. If I had continued to do that, it would have been very selfish for they were suffering because of me and the environment,” says the actor.

His closeness to his family, especially to his mother, who he invokes several times during the course of the conversation, is apparent. “She is divine. She kept the family together she sacrificed her entire life for the family.” And he does not forget his journey, which was tougher as compared to youngsters today. “Now they can showcase their talent even through mobiles. There are more options available. There is no need for films or even Doordarshan to show that they can act like that or I look like this. Earlier we used to spend hours outside a producer’s office and then you had to dance in their office. Then they looked you up and down and told us to lose weight. Now the world’s best facilties are available on the phone. You have the theatre in your palm and can watch the movie as many times as you want. When I was young, just to watch a movie, dande khaane padte the. Ram Ram,” he guffaws.

But there are other places too that have witnessed a change, content for instance. “It is very nice. With the web, a new medium has been found where you can follow your heart. The content is extremely modern and westernised. It will cut down the political part of the art,” he says as he signs off.

Writer: Saimi Sattar
Courtesy: The Pioneer

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