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January 16, 2000


    There's an old Hollywood saying that an actor's overall success or failure depends on two major factors.

    Of course, there are any number of factors that make a difference, but most of them aren't within the actor's control. The two that are can be summed up as "the films you choose, the films you lose."

    Govinda's first and biggest career mistake came from these two factors. The films he chose to do and the films he lost out on.

    Look at the latter first: At the peak of his popularity, Govinda was offered the plummest pick of roles, films, and banners. Every director wanted to work with him.

    That classic statement that's a hallmark of exciting talent was applied to him, "I want to show the world a different side of Govinda" by some of the biggest directors and producers in the biz.

    His King of comedy image was seen as an advantage rather than a disadvantage back then: He had so many more areas left to explore. His dramatic scenes in films like Hero No 1 and Raja Babu were held up as example of superb histrionic ability.

    In this period, Govinda was offered some fantastic roles and projects. To name a couple: He was offered a major starring role by the great showman Subhash Ghai in his upcoming film.

    It was a complete change of persona and would have truly explored a different facet of his talent. Under the helm of a director like Ghai, he would have been able to prove that his talent could be tamed for bigger purposes.

    Sonali Bendre and Govinda Yet he turned the role down. Something few actors have ever done when approached by Ghai. The role was snapped up by Anil Kapoor who now holds it up as one of his career-best performances.

    The film was Taal.

    Govinda's reason for rejecting the plum offer? Officially, it was said to be because he didn't want to do a 'two hero' film.

    A reason which sounds like a joke today when you consider that Akshaye Khanna stood no chance against the Anil Kapoor character in the film or even against Aishwarya Rai's character.

    Govinda in Anil's role would have stolen the entire film, overshadowing even the stunning Ash.

    Unofficially, of course, the other reason that was touted was that Ghai wasn't paying Govinda his expected price.

    But Ghai never pays any star his price. At least not the kind of price that he could get from a solo star vehicle. Because, after all, Ghai himself is the star of his own films, his perfect tuning with audiences and the craft making every film a complete moviegoing eperience, not just another Friday pastime release.

    Whatever the real reason for his rejecting the offer, Govinda failed to realise what he was missing out on.

    He made the same mistake with another film: Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas.

    Bhansali went to Govinda with the role of Motilal, the friend of Devdas. Again, a two-hero film.

    But the other hero happened to be Shah Rukh Khan. And the role was not just a side-hero part or even a guest appearance like Akshay Kumar's bit part in Dil To Pagal Hai.

    It was a fully developed performance with shades that Govinda had never really played before.

    Imagine the buzz it would have added to the already high-profile film: Shah Rukh and Govinda together onscreen for the first time.

    Govinda An unusual and exciting combination, as exciting as the Amitabh-Govinda combo in Bade Miya Chotte Miya, or the Amitabh-Shah Rukh combo in Mohabbatein. It would have been electrifying.

    Yet, he turned it down. Saif Ali Khan was later chosen for the role.

    It would have understandable if Govinda had rejected roles like these for other, more exciting and major film projects. But think about what he chose to do instead.

    He signed on a string of forgettable No 1 films. With the occasional foray into so-called 'different' films like Shikari.

    The first dug him deeper into the rut he was already in, while the latter turned out to be total disasters.

    Even his slightly more ambitious attempts like Hadh Kar Di Apne, costarring Urmila or the Haathi Mere Saathi remake with Manisha failed to generate more than a lukewarm response.

    In fact, Urmila's Khoobsurat, a similar film released around the same time costarring Sanjay Dutt was much better received.

    There were clear indications that Govinda was attempting his own career planning.

    This probably justified his turning down prime projects like Taal and Devdas, among many others.

    He seemed to be attempting two things during this phase: One, to consolidate his 'total entertainer' image and make himself the undisputed leader in this category. Two, to market himself as a brand in his own right, exploiting every facet of his marketing potential.

    The first was a good idea, theoretically. If he had picked good directors, good scripts and good productions, he could have enhanced his reputation in the same way that Jim Carrey or Robin Williams have done in Hollywood.

    But by picking second-rate makers and co-stars and third-rate scripts, he lost the faith of the audience.

    And by flooding the theatres with so many mediocre releases, he made the same mistake that Mithunda had made -- none of his films seemed any different or better than the previous ones.

    It was as if he thought he could go on churning out the same substandard fare and people would continue to lap it up. Instead, they got severe indigestion and changed their diet to make sure it didn't include Govinda-pav again!

    Govinda As for the second tactic. True, stars were cashing in big-time on product endorsements and ad campaigns. There was big money to be earned this way, and there was no reason why Govinda should not get a slice of the pie.

    But while SRK and other media-savvy stars were careful to pick good scripts and good directors, even making sure that the brands they endorsed with quality brands, Govinda seemed to go out of his way to do the opposite.

    He made silly ad films like the Limca one, in contrast to the very classy Pepsi ones that Shah Rukh was doing. He endorsed B-class and even C-class brands like Lux Underwear, spouting lines like "Yeh andar ki baat hai".

    Perhaps the reason why he did it was he thought they fitted his image. That was his mistake.

    It is a bad idea for a star to live up to his image. He should let his image attempt to live up to his own actions.

    Shah Rukh never said, "I became a hit by playing negative roles. So let me pick only negative roles."

    In fact, he went and did the most romantic leads imaginable and his image changed to match his choices.

    Govinda, on the other hand, became silly and predictable. None of those choices enhanced his image.

    In fact, with every decision, he seemed to be following in someone else's footsteps.

    Now, with his TV show, Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke for Sony, he is stepping into Big B's shoes, in a sense.

    This was okay for a supporting star like Anupam Kher, or even Manisha, but not for a major BO icon.

    Even if the game show does turn out to be a superhit, it is yet another example of Govinda's career confusion.

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