Acing up his act

Long haul: Govinda believes in nothing but hard work and good fortune. In a frank chat, he talks about his career choices

Govinda

If FryDay was my Love ’86, Rangeela Raja will be my Ilzaam!” exults Govinda, talking about his career’s first two films, which were a hit and a super-hit respectively.

Govinda grins when asked how the patch-up between Rangeela Raja producer Pahlaj Nihalani and him happened, since they worked together in three hits, Ilzaam in 1986, Shola Aur Shabnam in 1992, and the all-time blockbuster Aankhen in 1993, and then had issues.

“We did not have major differences,” he says. “When I met him about three or four years ago, I just pointed out that all my films with every Sindhi producer — Vashu Bhagnani, Nandu Tolani, Ramesh Taurani — had worked, and among them, Pahlaj-ji and I had the best track record! After that, it was just about the right script.”

The actor, who is the kind you feel you know well within the first 15 minutes of first meeting him, and stands minus fuss in a food queue with the media at a 5-star hotel buffet, is especially upbeat with the success of FryDay, though the trade figures say otherwise.

Seriously, he tells you, “You know, if a multiplex chain decides in advance if a film is good or bad, a hit or flop, without seeing the actual response, it is not correct. They cannot say, ‘This is my friend’s movie, so it is good!’ and ‘This guy has had four flops in a row, so his film must be bad!’”

“The actual fact is different,” he goes on. “Any theatre showing FryDay is crowded. But people are not finding the right screens or show timings to watch what they want!”

No one is God

Govinda does not like people playing God.

“And ultimately, it does not work! I have seen the biggest, the most powerful, and the most intelligent bite the dust. Bhaagya (luck) is everything,” he declares.

He also recalls how he was always laughed at for his ways of doing pooja, prayers and other religious rituals every morning, and for every film. “I cannot be double-faced,” he smiles. “I have seen people secretly doing all these things, even wearing a huge teeka on their foreheads, and then pretending to be very modern to the outside world.” And he makes the classic “Yo!” gesture.

As for numerology, he points out that he has no reason to disbelieve it, and explains why. “I myself am a product of numerology! From the poor and helpless Govind to my mother christening me Govinda in 1986 that changed everything. It’s the effect of No. 9. Today, even my bungalow has that number!”

Isn’t it also a fact that he would blindly sign films that had the same titles as old Dharmendra movies? “Yes, because I feel that a film’s luck is also dependent on its title, and all those films had been hits!”

He adds, “Dharam-ji and Dilip-saab gave me so much love and respect and even taught me so much when I worked with them. At one point in time, after my initial success, I had signed a huge number of films, and when Dilip-saab came to know of it, he advised me, ‘Leave 25 films!’ I told him that I had used up the money they had paid me. He told me to borrow money, but do what he had said, and I did exactly that!” he smiles broadly.

Pahlaj Nihalani, he tells us, was the first big-name producer who mentored him and predicted that he would become a star and earn lots of fame and money. “When he handed me the signing amount for Ilzaam, I looked at the cheque and my eyes could not believe what they were seeing! I did not sleep for four days! But I bought a saree and a gold chain for my mother and felt very good as I presented them to her and said, ‘Mommy, paise aa gaye!’”

He adds, “I think people who come up from such terrible poverty, as I did, have a different perspective or world view. During the Emergency, we would not eat a vegetable for days and our meals would be dry roti and watery dal.”

His mother (late singer Nirmala Devi) would tell him, “Keep working. Whatever is written will happen!” It is this equanimity that has held Govinda in good stead through all the ups and downs of his career, which saw success from his earliest films peaked between 1992 and 2007, and has faced a lull since.

“When you are watching the world and the world is watching you, it is best to look inwards, think, and correct yourself,” he smiles. “Jo pind hai wohi brahmand hai (it is yourself, in the final analysis, that is the world).”

With so much philosophy ingrained within him by his mother, how did he ever get into politics? “That’s why I ran away — actually, I left with hands folded humbly — from politics!” he replies with a laugh. “There was no ‘philo’ there, only ‘sophy’ or safai (they cleaned you out)!” he guffaws. “I realised one should do only what one is good at!”

Twice the fun?

Coming to Rangeela Raja again, what is good about ‘two’ Govindas (he has a double role) sharing three heroines, we ask mischievously? With a mock-sad face, he says, “I expressed this anguish to my producer. But we should all work hard at whatever our bhaagya hands us,” he says naughtily.

Govinda also dismisses the theory that he overshadows his co-stars — the Hindi colloquial term being ‘kha jaate hain’ or ‘devours’.

“Let me clear this once and for all!” he tells you. “For me, it was always about just getting work. People said that my first home production, Hatya, in which I did not dance or do comedy, was a mistake, as I was, at 23, playing father to a small kid. At 30, they told me that I was a fool to sign Marte Dam Tak with Raaj Kumar, who would devour all co-stars, but I went on to do Jungbaaz with him as well. They repeated this when I signed up for Izzatdaar with Dilip-saab.”

He goes on, enumerating some of his films on his fingers. “In Ilzaam, Shatrughan bhaiya was the hero, in Sindoor, I was the third or fourth hero, and even in Dariya Dil, it was Kader Khan-saab who was the actual hero! So people may feel anything, but I never believed in anything other than doing my work on sets. And by the way, I eat only one meal a day, nothing else!” He guffaws again. Govinda also refuses to categorise any phase of his career as the best. “I am thankful to my profession for the money and popularity it has given me, and for letting me see the world. But at 13, when I did not really understand what it meant, I had promised my mother, who initiated me then into the Gayatri Mantra, that I would never betray her. All my blessings and joys, and the fact that I can sleep well today, is my base. I have been a good son, husband and father, and ups and downs are a part only of my work or business, not of my life.” He repeats sagely, “As I said, jo pind hai wohi brahmand hai!”

So, who among the youngsters does he think will follow in his shoes? “How can I say that when I never thought I would become Govinda?” he wants to know. “Success comes from God. The thought that you should fit into someone’s shoes is wrong.”

 

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Acing up his act

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