Director: Shashank Khaitan
Writer: Shashank Khaitan
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, Kiara Advani, Renuka Shahane
Here’s the good news about Govinda Naam Mera— writer-director Shashank Khaitan’s attempt at a comedy thriller is so ridiculously convoluted, it’s impossible to give away spoilers in a way that they would make sense. In fact, when a character in the film does attempt to explain the hows and whys of the plot, those listening to him start feeling dizzy and pass out. This could be a reaction to spiked drinks, but the confounding twists of Govinda Naam Mera are more likely to leave one feeling woozy than any dubious narcotics. The bad news is that in spite of an excellent cast and a story that includes everything from infidelity to murder, a cameo by Ranbir Kapoor and pina coladas on a beach in Thailand, Govinda Naam Mera feels boring.
Govinda (Kaushal) is a back-up dancer who dreams of being a choreographer and is fighting his stepbrother to claim ownership of a bungalow that was originally their father’s. He’s also the henpecked husband of Gauri (Pednekar) and the boyfriend of fellow back-up dancer, Suku (Kiara Advani). Gauri and Govinda’s marriage appears to be on the rocks, but she refuses to give Govinda a divorce until he pays her the Rs. 2 crore her father had to pay as dowry. All of Govinda’s hopes are pinned on the court declaring him the owner of the bungalow, but the universe has other plans. Soon enough, Govinda finds himself in a situation where a drug lord is beating him up; a police inspector is home-delivering death threats; his girlfriend wants to break up with him; and he’s making drinks for his wife and her boyfriend.
All this sounds more entertaining than Govinda Naam Mera actually is because, through the overwrought but lazy writing, Khaitan attempts an ode to the madcap comedies of the Nineties, particularly those starring Govinda. Unfortunately, being stupid in an entertaining way requires more skill and smarts than this film possesses. Govinda Naam Mera could have been about the unglamorous life of a cog in the Bollywood wheel, whose labour goes unrecognised and whose dreams are dashed daily. It wants to be a Drishyam-esque crime thriller, in which a sprawling plot with random details is revealed to be a neatly-planned stratagem. The film could have been a story about real estate in Mumbai, where developers and construction companies circle like vultures around every inch of green(ish) space. Judging from the poster, at one point someone thought Govinda Naam Mera could be an exploration of love and marriage in today’s day and age, updating the classic triangle of pati, patni aur woh (the husband, the wife and the lover). Unfortunately, it’s none of these things. All we get is a messy jumble of half-baked ideas.
There’s a lot in the film that makes no sense. For instance, why does Govinda get himself a gun and then go around waving it in front of his wife and domestic help? Also, surely it can’t be a coincidence that the man who supplies Govinda with the gun is also the one who literally has him by the balls. (Somewhere in the afterlife, Sigmund Freud must be stroking his beard gleefully.) A lot of the jokes in Govinda Naam Mera are digs at Govinda’s failed attempts at being an alpha male and we’re encouraged to laugh at him for being meek and submissive. His domestic help orders him around and he makes her a cup of tea instead of the other way around. At one point, Gauri lounges on a sofa while Govinda dances for her (the soundtrack is provided by her boyfriend, who sings tunelessly). She collapses with laughter at the sight of Govinda doing Hrithik Roshan’s dance moves because it’s supposed to be hilarious that Govinda thinks he can mimic that icon of masculinity. We’re supposed to be torn between feeling bad for Govinda and wanting to laugh with Gauri. Perhaps some will find this to be relatable content. The rest of us can ponder why an actor as talented as Kaushal has to resort to this in an attempt to prove his ‘mass’ appeal.
Silly, escapist fun would have been perfect for a streaming feature (particularly at this time of year), but Govinda Naam Mera is too laboured to be entertaining. The script is also riddled with outdated clichés, like Shahane, who plays Govinda’s mother, twisting her mouth into an exaggerated grimace to show she’s partially paralysed. There’s also a disturbing leitmotif of women lying about being victims. For example, one woman fakes a medical condition in order to milk sympathy for herself in court. There’s also a video that is edited (by a woman) to make it seem as though a man has physically abused his wife when in fact they were role-playing in bed. To think that these are the ‘jokes’ being written in 2022 is astounding.
Pednekar is the only actor who consistently extracts something entertaining out of Govinda Naam Mera’s mediocre script. Her sharp-tongued Gauri is very much a caricature of the domineering housewife, but Pednekar’s performance makes her funny and adds some of the nuance that the writing lacks. Kaushal shows flashes of good comic timing, but struggles to make us care for Govinda. It doesn’t help that he has little chemistry with either Advani or Pednekar. That said, Kaushal and the rest of the cast deserved better than what the storytelling of Govinda Naam Mera affords them.