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With Govinda Naam Mera, Vicky Kaushal Clinches Title Of '90s Hero

Govinda Naam Mera is an overwritten mess, but that doesn't stop Vicky Kaushal from shining.

With Govinda Naam Mera, Vicky Kaushal Clinches Title Of '90s Hero
Poster for Govinda Naam Mera

Last Updated: 02.48 AM, Dec 18, 2022


This is #CriticalMargin, where our critic Ishita Sengupta gets contemplative about new Hindi films and shows.


Few things are worse than watching a film by a filmmaker who underestimates the intellect of their audience. But the worst is watching a film by someone who overestimates their own intellect. The difference is subtle but crucial. When subjected to the first, there are higher chances of being treated as a prop — a toaster really — where things are dumbed down till the last conceit. The latter includes being subjected to lackluster characters who are too dumb to know they are dumb. With Govinda Naam Mera, Shashank Khaitan has firmly secured his place in the second category. 

The Vicky Kaushal-starrer is what is often dubbed in Bollywood lingo as a “masala entertainer”. By virtue of its narrative interface alone, the casting feels inspired. Granted there is Bhumi Pednekar who reprises her role as the modern housewife, much like in Pati Patni Aur Woh (2019), but this marks Kaushal’s first foray into a more commercial cinema. The actor, one of the finest talents working today, has been hitherto mostly seen in staid outings. His latest is evidence of his versatility, with Kausal taking every underwritten joke and making it sing. Even in an otherwise bloated, forgettable outing, Kaushal shines bright like only he can. The rest of the film, however, is an exercise in boredom. 

Khaitan’s filmography, mostly in collaboration with actor Varun Dhawan (they have done two films together: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania) has often done something interesting with the mainstream male hero. It has depicted him as a man brimming with machismo but abjectly uncomfortable with it. Even his otherwise horrid short in Netflix’s anthology Ajeeb Daastaans centred on a bulked up man (Jaideep Ahlawat) living inside the closet. The idea is never not interesting even when poorly executed. In Govinda, he tellingly harks back to the most beta male actor of the ‘90s. 

Govinda (Kaushal) is a choreographer living in Bombay. In an otherwise space starved city, his house has rooms for many. Except, he is struggling to find his footing. The rundown bungalow, a catch in Mumbai, is an inheritance from his father. But over several years the place has been the point of contention between him and his step brother. Then there is his wife Gauri who is quick to dismiss him. She would divorce him if he paid her two crores, the amount her father spent on the wedding. This has halted his other plan: to marry his girlfriend Suku (Kiara Advani)

He would kill Gauri if he could. He already bought a gun, but Govinda — the dancer son of an action-hero father — can barely kill a fly. Even when pressed from all corners, the most resistance he can manage is a plea to pronounce his name right. 

When the film is occupied with escalating problems for Govinda (his dangling divorce, his wheelchair-bound mother, the police officer he owes money to, a powerful man he has managed to anger and owe money too), Govinda Naam Mera remains largely fun. It helps that Renuka Shahane as the mother is consistently watchable even in outright tone deaf scenes. And Kaushal is spot on in even clunky scenes, bringing in a winning naivete to his pressed circumstances. 

But then Khaitan has this crazy plan to outwit the audience. The second act consists of one crowded scene after the next. Revelations unfold, and timelines move back and forth. By the time the film arrives at its third act, the screenplay is shooting darts from all sides hoping for something to stick. Nothing does. 

At a runtime of 140 minutes, Govinda Naam Mera comes across as a wasted opportunity of what could have been a genuinely bonkers film that had presumably set out to have some fun. It is one thing to retain intrigue for the characters but Khaitan (also the writer) creates a set of cardboard characters that rely on contrived plot inflections to look interesting. In fact, for a film named after the male protagonist, his arc is the most inconsistent and bafflingly unconvincing.  

It also does not help that Dharma Productions’ idea of what a middle-class household looks like is horribly skewed. Although none of the characters comes from an affluent background, their life choices and clothes bear no authenticity. That Advani is a struggling background dancer and can afford a place like she does in Mumbai is a mystery that will keep haunting me. 

If the film achieves anything at all, it is in serving as a showcase of Kaushal’s sharp comic timing, dancing flair and all-round acting expertise. Govinda will do nothing for him but maybe it will push the thought that the successor of the ‘90s hero is not a Dhawan but a Kaushal.