Swarg was the first ever movie with which I took notice of Govinda’s acting skills, though the film was nothing more than a typical family drama. But over the years, this talented actor became an indispensable part of the movies for me as I grew.
Govinda initially wowed the audiences with his superb break dancing skills in Ilzaam. And films such as Hatya and Dariya Dil which paired him with actresses such as Farah, Kimi Katkar and Neelam, made audiences take notice of him. But during the 80’s he largely appeared as yet another actor trying to make his mark in Bollywood. It could be attributed to the fact that most of his films during this time including some multistarrers were largely a part of the atrocious films churned by Bollywood in the 80’s. I strongly feel many of his performances during this time had a strong hangover of Amitabh Bachchan’s acting which was also visible in his dialogue delivery. A facet of his talent which would make him stand out from the rest of the Bollywood was not yet visible. It however was waiting to happen in the form of his extremely successful collaboration with David Dhawan.
Although their combo had tasted their first success with Swarg, still it wasn’t a film which gave them a unique notice-ability as an actor or director. But that changed with Aankhen, their first monstrous hit which catapulted them into the big league. And the success of films such as Shola aur Shabnam, Coolie No.1 etc. ensured that there was no looking back.
The reason for Govinda’s growing popularity can be attributed to his ability to improve and evolve as an actor. From the late 80’s to the early 90’s there was a slow but continuous improvement in him as an actor. Comedy was an important part of Hindi cinema since time immemorial but most of the stars during the 80’s didn’t do comedies in large numbers.
The demise of Kishore Kumar, Bhagwan Dada fading away into obscurity and Mehmood getting old created a vacuum in Bollywood and a need for an actor who could step in their shoes. There were actors such as Kadar Khan, Shakti Kapoor and Johnny Lever who did comic roles, but never were they cast in the lead role like a Mehmood or a Kishore Kumar, except for an occasional film such as Baap Numbari Beta Dus Numbari. And this is where Govinda clearly found his groove.
Be it dancing effortlessly or mimicking other actors, mouthing inane lines or putting on absurd get-ups, there was nothing that Govinda couldn’t do and make it appear so effortless. This is what endeared him to the audiences in a big way. For the audiences who were getting tired of seeing formulaic action films, family dramas and love stories, Govinda’s comedies came as a much needed breath of fresh air and gave them their money’s worth. In fact many of Govinda’s comedies most notably Dulhe Raja and Deewana Mastana (two of my most favourite Govinda films) can still make one smile if watched after a hectic day at work. Having experienced this personally, yours truly can vouch for the same.
Of course, there were directors such as David Dhawan, writers such as Rumi Jaffrey, Anees Bazmee whose talents bought a method to the madness in these movies. But Govinda’s inimitable skills as a performer ensured that only he could indulge in tomfoolery with such a precision and make it seem so enjoyable. Here was an actor who didn’t mind playing the fool as long as it worked and entertained audiences. Most of the David Dhawan comedies depended on witty dialogues and physical comedy to make it work. And very few actors could make it look so effortless like Govinda. After all how many actors can wear clothes with ridiculous colour combinations such as a red trouser, green t-shirt and a yellow shirt? And yet ensure that the audiences never took their eyes off the screen. How many actors can speak gibberish like Govinda’s character did in Akhiyon Se Goli Maare, deliver nonsensical dialogues like Hata Sawan ki Ghata and yet make it seem so fun?
Very few actors have the ability of making some well written but absurd, silly gags and dialogues, fun yet implausible storylines work solely due to their acting abilities like a Govinda. And actors such as Johnny Lever, Kadar Khan, Shakti Kapoor and actresses such as Raveena Tandon, Karishma Kapoor complemented his skills and made the movies so much fun to watch. Even an Amitabh Bachchan in Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan appeared as rather inconsequential in front of Govinda who stole the show as the con man with a shrill voice. And who can forget the songs from his films such as Akhiyon Se Goli Maare, Kisi Disco Main Jaayein which had almost everyone swaying to its tunes.
However talking about only the comic talents of Govinda would be a great disservice to his acting talents. For he has impressed with the diverse roles he did. Be it as a grieving widower in Hatya, an honest cop in Khuddar, a youngster reluctantly taking over the reins from his deceased brother in Zulm ki Hukumat (A solid adaptation of The Godfather which deserves a separate post), there was a hardly any role which he could not perform convincingly. Many plain atrocious films he did in the latter part of his career such as Hadh Kar Di Aapne, Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiya was tolerable only due to his presence.
But as they say too much is too bad, which happened with Govinda’s films specifically towards the start of the millennium when most of his films started appearing as jaded. Though films such as Kunwara, Joru Ka Ghulam etc. were entertaining, it seemed audiences were slowly getting tired of the Govinda brand of humour and barring a Jodi No.1, most of these films didn’t do well. Although he did some different films during this time such as playing a negative character in Shikari, but it surely didn’t help his case. Furthermore his entry into politics and the rumours of his not so punctual ways only made things worse. During this time, there was also a Priyadarshan and a Akshay Kumar who were slowly reinventing themselves with films such as Hera Pheri which slowly but surely spelt demise for Govinda’s career as a star. Moreover the delayed release of some of his films (for various reasons) only made things worse.
Few years later Govinda re-emerged on the scene with films such as Partner, Salaam E Ishq, Life Partner, Do Knot Disturb, Naughty at Forty. But barring a film or two, Govinda clearly did not seem at ease doing such mediocre films most of which didn’t appeal to the audiences, nor did justice to his talent. Clearly what he needed was a revival and a change of image.
Despite Bollywood churning out mediocre commercial fare with an amazing regularity, it still has seen some exciting films made by directors with some interesting concepts in the last few years. And this is perhaps the right time for this hugely talented actor to start a new innings in Bollywood. Films such as Kill Dil, Happy Ending and Jagga Jasoos have cast Govinda in roles that seem quite interesting and have given these films a unique buzz.
Sadly his role in Kill Dil thanks to the poor writing and terribly less screen time left a lot to be desired. I am sincerely hoping that his roles in Happy Ending and Jagga Jasoos give him his much needed and long due comeback. His performance in Kill Dil proves that the man still hasn’t lost his spunk. The only time when this Shaad Ali film perks up is when Govinda appears on the screen especially during the latter half. And his dance moves can still give the younger lot a run for their money which is evident in Kill Dil and the below song from Happy Ending.
I also hope that directors cast him in roles which explore more than his comic and dancing abilities. One rarely comes across artists as talented as Govinda. For this reason itself, I believe this man truly deserves a comeback which is befitting to the enormous talent he possesses and the actor we have loved and adored for a long time.