A Bollywood actor whose comic timing helped him ride a wave of popularity in the 1990s particularly when teaming up with director David Dhawan, Govinda was born on December 21, 1963, in Virar, a suburb of Mumbai.
His father Arun Ahuja was also associated with the film industry.
Govinda made his debut in the 1986 film ‘Ilzaam’ and worked in more than 120 films.
After completing his graduation in commerce he practised dancing and acted in a few commercials before landing his first role in ‘Tan-Badan’, directed by his uncle Anand. In June 1985 he started shooting for ‘Love 86’. Very soon he signed dozens of films.
‘Ilzaam’, his first released film, did well at the box office. He followed this with various kinds of roles in different genres of films. During the 1980s he and actress Neelam appeared together in several films such as ‘Khudgarz’ and ‘Hatya’ that did well commercially.
Other Govinda-starrers that were successful in this early phase include ‘Dariya Dil’ (1988), ‘Hum’ (1991) and ‘Jung Baaz’ (1989). In 1989 he worked with director David Dhawan for the first time in ‘Taaqatwar’, an action film. Another film ‘Ghair Khanooni’ starring Govinda in the same year was also a hit.
Govinda and Dhawan proved a winning combination in the 1990s, delivering a series of hits such as ‘Raja Babu’ (1994), ‘Coolie No. 1’ (1995), and ‘Hero No. 1’ (1997). The 1993 film ‘Aankhen’, starring Govinda and directed by Dhawan, became one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade.
Putting Govinda’s remarkable rise in the 1990s in context, writer and filmmaker Gautam Chintamani wrote in Hindustan Times in 2012: “[I]t wouldn’t be incorrect to say that Govinda was, in fact, the interim king of box office between Bachchan and the Khans. Known for his comic timing Govinda has regularly surprised with interesting performances that go beyond his unique brand of absurdity. In ‘Hatya’ (1990) he plays Sagar, a tormented artist who can’t get over the death of his wife and child but gets a second shot at life when he rescues Raja, a deaf and dumb child who is the only witness to a murder. In ‘Awaargi’ (1990), he plays a singer who falls in love with his understudy (Meenakshi Shesadari) who is also silently loved by a gangster (Anil Kapoor). This little known Mahesh Bhatt film is almost like an inspiration to Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Rangeela’ (1995) and offers a much more realistic resolution.”
Deconstructing the Govinda phenomenon when it was still at its peak, the writer and critic Amaresh Misra wrote in 1999: “India’s personality of gestures arrived in the ’90s, as Govinda — the actor who from early on shunned cliched mannerisms or ‘talent’, and refrained from making a virtue of hairless woodenness. When the elite were going crazy setting up a revivalist agenda, discovering greatness in bloodless family values, this character played a village yokel who says —if my father has a bull, I will defy him, ride the bull like a hero, and raid the village. And if girls go crazy over style, I will become a lawyer or police inspector or a retarded patient.”
Post 2000 Govinda’s dream run came to an end. Films like ‘Shikari’, in which he played a negative role, failed at the box office.
He tried his hands at politics and contested the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from the Mumbai North constituency on a Congress ticket, winning handsomely. While campaigning he promised his priority would be improving health, education and transportation in the area, if elected. He ended up defeating his rival, a five-time sitting MP, by more than 50,000 votes.
As an MP Govinda faced some tough questions for allegedly underutilising his MP’s area development fund and staying largely absent from the Parliament. Meanwhile, his film career hit a rough patch though he attempted to do various kinds of films.
In an interview published in the film and entertainment website smashhits. com, he said: “Nobody advised me to stop doing comedies. I decided to do so on my own. I am tired of acting in comedies. It’s essential for me to look different. So, I am producing different types of movies. I wonder what did I gain by doing comedies for 19 years? In fact, I got nothing. Hence I thought of doing something new.”
However, Govinda’s real success as an actor had come in comedies, at an intersection of a decade in which India changed more rapidly than any other decade after independence and a unique acting talent that made people laugh and smile. As the film critic Shubhra Gupta wrote in The Indian Express: “That feeling of brightness and lightness and effortlessness was Govinda’s key to spreading his brand of cheer. His short, stocky self, decked in blinding costumes, moving and shaking to a rhythm that was completely his own, was a happiness virus. He was, and still is, one of the best dancers that Bollywood has produced. When he dances, each pore moves, from his toes, to fingertips and eyes. He brought that same sense of rhythm to his speaking parts, so that even when he was doing the same thing over and over again, you couldn’t help cracking a smile.”
Also on this day:
1972 — Jaganmohan Reddy, Indian politician from Andhra Pradesh, was born