They’re both casually lying on the backs of motorcycles, which seems to be moving forward by some kind of sorcery. These are Bollywood’s customary hero ki entry before he breaks into a song. The more far-fetched it is, the more whistles it gets in a theatre. The men in question are a heavily-oiled Ranveer Singh and a relatively-staid Varun Dhawan. The songs are Tattad Tattad and Tera Hero Idhar Hai, respectively. While the 50 backup dancers gape at their leading man’s pure, unadulterated conviction – one simply cannot discount the overwhelming Govinda influence in them.
Think about it. Govinda of the early 90s, was a ‘complete package’. To many, he embodied the era in all its silk kurta-baggy pant glory. Who else could mouth the lyrics of Sonpapdi meri sonpapdi like he is singing the most romantic song of the decade. Can you imagine someone else asking you to buzz off with such elan like he did in Tujhko mirchi lagi, toh main kya karu?
But that was the thing about Govinda. While his contemporaries like the Khan troika (Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh) were playing the lover boy, the action hero or the anti-hero – Govinda was willing to play them all rolled into one. While Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt were thirsting for vengeance against the Balwant Rais of the world, Govinda discovered his own brand of nonsensical comedies alongside Kader Khan.
It was almost like the Bollywood directors were constantly telling him ‘Know your limits’ to which he replied ‘Govinda, has no limits’. He was the dutiful servant of the big house, he was the spoiled brat of the village sarpanch, he was the honest police officer, he was also the coward hiding behind a police uniform, he was the struggling everyday man trying to make sense of his chaotic life while essaying double roles.
The no. 1 series that he began with David Dhawan took a life of its own, as he went on to make the same kind of chaotic, far-fetched comedies through the late 90s. The classic trope of mistaken identity, even spilled over to Govinda’s other films like Saajan Chale Sasuraal, Rajaji and Pardesi Babu. The way he embraced the rustic, rural flavour of his protagonists, was something we got to see in Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ramleela and last year’s Badrinath Ki Dulhania. While his contemporary actors were too busy playing city blokes, Govinda managed to mainstream the Uttar Pradesh protagonist in films like Dulhe Raja and Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan.
Govinda could do anything, and with the conviction of a million watts. He could be a spotboy on a film set at one moment and then transform into the angst-ridden hero in the very next scene. He could make, getting ready in a car on his way to work, look not entirely outrageous. He made high-energy physical comedy a prerequisite, which we saw when Varun Dhawan belted out the tacky-charm of Tamma Tamma.
Or even the high-pitched humour of Main Tera Hero or Judwaa 2. Not surprising that both films were directed by David Dhawan. Shahid Kapoor did the whole the bumbling cop routine in Phata Poster Nikla Hero, which was eerily similar to Gambler. Govinda also started a whole new cringe-style statement with his wardrobe, which Ranveer Singh seems to be taking forward in his own self-aware, ironic way.
As today’s contemporary actors try to ape Govinda’s ‘pulpy Bollywood phillum‘ characteristic, while breaking into a dance with dozens of colour-coordinated backup dancers, they’ll be missing the veteran actor’s manic energy. Not to take anything away from the young actors, they have an energy and a presence of their own – but no matter how hard they try, a Govinda they will never be.