wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
Swapnil Joshi puts in a valiant performance in a film that otherwise quite simply doesn’t make the cut. Preachy and message-heavy but treated the way films were about three decades ago, Govinda tries too hard but has very little to show for it.Read more
The female lead character in Govinda is a woman named Shraavni (or Shravani; I’m not sure how it is spelled.) A vivacious, fun girl who doesn’t take a second to turn tough when the time calls for it, who doesn’t blink before making a sacrifice for the man she loves and yet one who doesn’t particularly adhere to what our hypocritical society self-righteously defines as a ‘good Indian woman’. Her character is easily the best thing about the film. Considering the rest of the film, though, I couldn’t help wonder if, how the character turned out, was a bit of an accident.
The man Shraavni is in love with is named Rajan; a street-smart, resourceful fellow who is supposedly studying for the MPSC exam, but is more interested in putting all of his time and effort into celebrating every Hindu festival with fervour. This, we’re told, is what constitutes devotion to the almighty. What primarily brings this film down is the fact that, starting from the protagonist Rajan, every character in the film makes his character sketch abundantly clear, before going on to behave completely out of character at crucial junctures in the film.
With a plot and treatment that would have seemed far more at home in the 80s, the film’s intentions are no doubt noble. It wants to talk about principles like honesty and sincerity; about the responsibilities that are on your shoulders when you’re in love with someone; about the importance of family and friends; about the necessity to preserve one’s culture; about the plight of politics in our country; and perhaps about some other issues that I may have missed while trying to separate one from the other. In short, Govinda is a veritable potpourri of values that people probably don’t have time for in this day and age.
While director Aatmaram Dharne briefly skirts with all these morals and principles in the first hour, in the second hour he goes full throttle into shoving the various messages that the film wants to convey down the audiences’ throats, with characters stepping out to deliver sermons in full seriousness.
The film does hold your attention for longer than you expect it to, though. The primary reason for this is Swapnil Joshi’s performance as Rajan. Despite his character’s flip-flops – no, not footwear – he invests himself completely into Rajan. He does look a tad too old to be playing the age he supposedly is in the film, but you look past that because of Joshi’s conviction in the character. Girija Joshi, who plays Shraavni, isn’t particularly great. But you root for Shraavni nonetheless.
Now technique has always been a problem with Marathi films because of their limited budgets, and this film is no exception. It bears a dated look throughout, and depends on far too many close ups to make up for the lack of production value. Indeed, sometimes one can’t help feel a little sorry for the film, and hence be a little too lenient in judging it. But the sad truth is that some crisp, mature writing would have made it into a different film, its technical problems notwithstanding.
Because of the film’s 80s-style treatment and emphasis on values, the film may make for a fair family watch on satellite release - it has the kind of chest-beating traditionalism about it that the more self-consciously conservative amongst us might actually enjoy. However, that is precisely the kind of treatment that people are most likely to forget about the moment the film is over. One can’t help feel that subtlety would have probably been more successful in making the message stick; particularly since contemporary India could undeniably do with some of the values the film speaks about.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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