If you are a ‘90s kid, chances are higher that Govinda topped the list of your most favourite actors back then and that you laughed your guts out while watching his madcap comic-capers such as Aankhen (1993), Raja Babu (1994), Coolie No. 1 (1995), Hero No. 1 (1997) and Dulhe Raja (1998), to name just a few. Between 1990 and 2000, he was at the top of every director’s wish-list but his career slumped drastically afterwards. Once among one of the highest paid actors in Bollywood, Chichi was supplanted by newer, fresher faces by the beginning of the new millennium, which led the actor to take a long break from showbiz. Govinda tried his best to regain his lost stardom by continuing appearing in films, taking several brief intervals in between.
Recently seen in FryDay (2018), the actor will shortly be seen in Pahlaj Nihalani’s forthcoming comic-caper Rangeela Raja, set to roll into cinemas on 16th November. In this brief interview, Govinda talks to our Mumbai correspondent, Mohnish Singh, about his new movie, why some of his early ‘90s films had taken their title from evergreen star Dhamendra’s movies, why he never felt threatened by the presence of a bigger star in his films and, of course, what keeps him going even today. Excerpts…
After FryDay (2018), you will shortly be seen in Rangeela Raja. Tell us something about the film.
Rangeela Raja is an out-and-out comic entertainer. It’s exactly the kind of film people expect from Govinda. Everyone will enjoy watching it. Pahlaj Nihalani (producer) and I are coming together after a long, long gap. I hope people love this film the way they loved our previous outings.
At the beginning of the ‘90s, you starred in a couple of movies which borrowed their title from Dharmendra’s successful films, for example, Shola Aur Shabnam (1992) and Aankhen. Would you like to share the reason behind the move?
It all started with Shola Aur Shabnam. The movie turned out to be a hit at the box-office. The title of my next film Aankhen was also taken from his (Dharmendra) 1968 film of the same name. This film also emerged as superhit at the ticket window. This kept happening for a long time, I think. I believe that the fate of a film depends a lot on its title. Titles of Dharam Saab films’ proved lucky for me.
Apart from your acting skills and impeccable comic timing, you are also known for your electric dance moves. Once I read somewhere that you used to learn dance by watching Mithun Chakraborty’s films…
Yes, that’s true. Not only Mithun Da, but I also used to watch Jitendra, Shammi (Kapoor) uncle, Dilip Saab and revered Amitabh Bachchan’s movies to learn dance. I have performed on their songs on stage. All these people are gems of our industry, our country. I feel blessed to get an opportunity to rub shoulders with these revered actors.
Govinda, what keeps you going even after spending so many years in showbusiness?
It’s a very deep question (smiles). I’ll give a very short and sweet answer to it. This is an infinite world; we cannot correct each and everyone around. So it’s always better that we keep improving ourselves first. There is not pointing fighting with each other and arguing over petty issues.
In your prolific career, you have tried everything, from comedy to action to romance. But when you attempted serious cinema, the audience did not accept you much. Why?
I don’t believe in that. When I signed Hatya (1988), many people laughed at me. They said I myself look like a kid, how can I play a father in the movie? Many people objected to my decision. Some suggested that I should stick to regular song and dance movies, which I was doing in plenty at that time. But I did not listen to them. Had I paid any attention to their advice, I would have slipped such an amazing film from my hand.
When I signed Marte Dum Tak (1987), a lot of people came to me and asked if I had gone mad. They said I would be overshadowed by Raaj Kumar’s presence in the movie. I was playing a don in the film. People made fun of that also, because I was just a 23-year-old young boy at that time. I did Izzatdaar (1990) with Dilip Kumar Saab. I played a don again. If the truth is to be told, I never listened to what people had to say about me and my choices. I was getting work. I was lucky. Many people don’t get work. So I accepted whatever interesting offers came to me.
It’s often said Govinda steals the thunder from other actors when he is there in any scene? How do you look at that?
See, when I did Marte Dun Tak with Raaj Kumarji, I was the second hero. When I did Izzatdaar, I was the second hero. Sindoor (1987) had more than three leading heroes. In Dariya Dil (1989), Kadar Khanji was the hero. I was just the other hero in the movie. I did Ilzaam (1986) where Shatrughan Sinhaji was the hero. So I never had the time to even think whether or not I can steal the thunder from somebody. When you do hard work, you don’t get time to think about competition and all of that.
Who do you think can be next Govinda of Bollywood?
See, you are asking a really big question from a small person like me (smiles). Frankly speaking, I had never thought I would become Govinda in the first place. There are over a dozen actors in Bollywood who are trying to be Govinda. They are trying to get into somebody else’s shoe. Till the time they are earning their bread and butter by doing so, good for them. It’s their destiny.