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Why Govinda snubbed Devdas and didn’t watch Barfi!

The Hero No 1 wasn’t keen on doing an alcoholic cameo in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus.

Mayur Lookhar

Though he was hailed as Hero No 1, one of the mysteries of Govinda's career is why he hardly worked with the more accomplished and powerful filmmakers of the 1990s.

It is not as if Govinda did not receive plum offers, but the actor always went with his heart. For instance, in the late 1990s, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is said to have offered the role of Chunnilal in his magnum opus Devdas (2002) to Govinda, but the actor turned it down. The role was eventually played by Jackie Shroff. 

Nearly two decades later, the actor opened up on why he turned down the acclaimed director.

“Yes, Sanjay Leela Bhansali did offer me a role in Devdas," the former star said while promoting his upcoming film Aa Gaya Hero. "Money has never been a consideration. I wasn’t keen on doing a cameo in a big film. If Sanjay was a friend, then perhaps I would have done it. Neither did Shah Rukh Khan call and request me to do the role. If it was Salman Khan, I would have willingly done it.

"Chunnilal? I asked myself what kind of character is this. Besides, why would I play a character which has no resemblance to me in real life. I have never been much into alcohol and here I was asked to play an alcoholic,” says Govinda.

While he wasn’t offered Anurag Basu’s Barfi! (2012), Govinda did not watch the film for he thought the title was misleading. "I was invited for the premiere, but I didn’t go," he said. "I thought this could be some romantic sob story. It was only later that I was told that though it’s named Barfi!, Ranbir [Kapoor] plays a mute in it.” 

Govinda was playing Ranbir's foster father in Basu's Jagga Jasoos and had even shot for the film, but it is unclear whether those will make the film. Reports at the time suggested that the actor and director had a fall out, though Govinda had clarified he had finished shooting his portions for the film.  

For the longest time, Govinda did not sign up with Yash Raj Films, the biggest banner in Hindi cinema today, until he took up Kill Dil (2014). So, was he deliberately shying away from top producers and directors?

“It was impossible for me to work with them at a time when I had other commitments," he explained. "I had to be loyal to filmmakers whom I had already committed to. I just didn’t have dates for the rest."

He recalled how Yash Chopra once told him that he (the veteran director) had nine flops whereas Govinda would shoot for three hours and deliver hits. "I was 23-24 and had a dozen hits – Darya Dil (1988), Khudgarz (1987), Sindoor (1987), Hatya (1988), and so on. All I told Yashji was that sir, mujhe joh mauka mil jaata hai, main usi maukey main kamaal kar sakta hoon [Sir, I humbly accept what I am offered, and make the most of the opportunities that come my way]. More importantly, the audience needs to like it. If the audience wanted to see me in different roles, then I would have taken them up. I have no regrets in my career. I am grateful to God for whatever success he gave me.”

Govinda will next be seen in his home production Aa Gaya Hero which is set to be released on 3 March 2017.