Shashank Khaitan’s straight-to-streamer film aims for the anything-goes flavour of 1990s comedies. Govinda Naam Mera pays a sideways tribute to the namesake actor, who elevated a string of laugh fests revolving around nonsensical plots and overwrought characters.
The Disney+ Hotstar release stars Vicky Kaushal as a choreographer’s assistant with a wife he wants to divorce for the girlfriend he wants to marry. Govinda (Kaushal) can’t wait to dump Gauri (Bhumi Pednekar) for Suku (Kiara Advani). Gauri won’t give Govinda a divorce until he settles the matter of the bungalow they share.
The bungalow was passed on to Govinda and his mother (Renuka Shahane) by his father. A Tamilian action director whose “complexion is as black as his heart”, the since-departed father has another wife and son tucked away. Naturally, they lay claim on the house too.
The case is dragging on in court. Govinda owes his lawyer Kaustubh (Amey Wagh) as well as the police officer Javed (Dayanand Shetty). An assignment to shoot a music video for a talentless rapper who is the son of a drug dealer goes belly up, as does Govinda’s every other plan to befriend Mammon.
Has any other Mumbai resident been busier? The frenetically paced and intermittently funny Govinda Naam Mera works hard to mine comedy out of contrived chaos. Khaitan’s screenplay shimmies up and down the list of cliches associated with the capital of finance and the Hindi film industry – the grammar-mangling argot, the pursuit of a prized piece of real estate, crushing debt, drugs, crooked cops, Marathi-speaking fixers, a sassy maid. Only a Dawood Ibrahim-style gangster is missing.
The cheerful immorality that greets a murder is the most Mumbaiesque thing about the 131-minute movie. There’s a killer line about “Ma-Ka-Bo” – the north Mumbai suburbs of Malad, Kandivali and Borivali where a builder character has made his fortune, as have his real-life counterparts.
The gags that land well are always the ones that aren’t trying too hard. But as events move back and forth in time, with titles helpfully informing us whether Govinda’s latest crisis took place three days or three months ago, the humour gains a desperate edge.
The cast obligingly hams all the way to the abattoir and back. Some of them are more in tune with the intended ants-in-the-pants mood than the others.
Bhumi Pednekar’s Gauri, who lounges around in the Mumbai heat in satin negligees, is a one-note spoiler of Govinda’s dreams. More impressive is Kiara Advani, who vamps furiously as a cut-price femme fatale. Dayanand Shetty channels his wealth of experience in this crackpot version of the television show CID. Renuka Shahane has the sorry job of overacting in her every scene.
Amey Wagh is a good foil to Vicky Kaushal, who is great form as the cuckolded Govinda. Kaushal’s fundamental nice-guy image and proven willingness to go with the flow hold him, and the film, in good stead as it wobbles dangerously and then sinks with the same sure-footedness with which the real-life Govinda made his screen moves.