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‘I am inspired by real people’

Displaying more of his versatility, Govind Namdev is moving from TV serials and films to web series with realistic themes

Over the last three decades, Govind Namdev has built a strong reputation as a versatile actor known for getting into the skin of characters. Originally hailing from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, the NSD alumnus is best known for his roles in films like Bandit Queen, Prem Granth, Sarfarosh, Satya, Kachche Dhaage, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Sarkar Raj, OMG – Oh My God, and Singham Returns. Apart from his work in theatre and films, Namdev is also known for his work in TV serials like Abhimaan, Aashirwad, Parivartan, and Mahayagya.

In this interview, Namdev reflects upon his acting journey while talking about his method, his latest films Main Zaroor Aaunga and Jhalki, and the rise of the web as a new alternative medium for entertainment.

Excerpts:
You play a detective in the latest film Main Zaroor Aaunga. What is the film about?

Main Zaroor Aaunga is entirely shot in Switzerland from start to finish. Usually filmmakers just shoot a few scenes in Switzerland but this is the first Indian film to be shot completely in Switzerland as far as I am aware. And more than half of the film is shot in the icy exteriors which have given the film a very distinct look. The film is essentially a murder mystery. While the story is set in Switzerland, it revolves around Indian characters. I play the detective trying to solve the mystery behind the murder. The film has come out really well. I feel that it is not only shot well but its narrative is also quite gripping. It also stars Arbaaz Khan, Vikas Verma and Kannada actress Aindrita Ray. The film is directed by Chandrakant Singh.

Brahmanand S Siingh’s Jhalki which also has the backing of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi also hit the theatres recently. Tell us about the film as well as your character in the film.

The film revolves around the issue of child labour. I play the part of the man who goes from one village to another in order to collect children. He fools their parents into believing that he will help them get jobs in the city. In return he pays them a small amount and assures them to send them more money at regular intervals once the children start earning in the city. In the city he forces these children to work in the factories where they are treated as bonded labour. It exposes the dark realities of child slavery and human trafficking. The film also stars Sanjay Suri, Boman Irani, and Divya Dutta.

You are set to make a foray into the world of web series. Tell us about the project.

I feel that it’s actually a very interesting concept, especially from the point of view of my character. The web series is basically focused around the land mafia of Uttar Pradesh. It’s titled The Red Land and it is slated to premiere on a new streaming platform called Gemplex on 28th October. I play a ruthless man who usurps land from people. He is the head of a powerful family which enjoys a lot of political influence in the region. But what makes the character unique is that fact that despite all the power and the riches the man suffers from impotency. For him it’s nothing less than a trauma that is slowly eating him from within. What makes it worse for him is that one day he comes to know that his wife is having an extramarital affair with his younger brother. The tension is slowly brewing up to an explosion.

How do you see web as a medium, especially as an actor who has worked extensively in movies, television as well as theatre over the last three decades?

I think the web has been a positive step taken at a time when television-based content was becoming more and more monotonous. With the advent of web, we are not only witnessing new subjects but also the treatment has been quite refreshing. Also, the production quality is at par with the movies. Since it’s a new platform we do get to see overindulgence in terms of nudity and language but I am sure all that will get settled very soon and all that will matter is the quality of content and how well it gets presented.

The filmmakers in the recent years have shown a greater affinity to realistic stories as far as Hindi cinema is concerned. How do you see this trend?

I think it a welcome change. In fact, I consider myself really lucky that I am working at a time when there are so many different avenues available for creative people. There are short films, web series, TV shows and small budget films too are doing so well at the box-office. And it’s not that the star-oriented films have disappeared. We also have medium budget films which try to walk the middle path, so to say. Since they are so many options available to the viewers that they can easily choose what they like best. The poor stuff will automatically get screened. Those subjects that are more relatable are bound to have a stronger impact on the viewers and that has a strong impact on the making as well.

How do you choose your roles? Also tell us about your acting process.

For me it is important to know who is going to make the film and who all are going to act alongside me. Then of course I look at the placing of my character. How important it is from the point of view of the story. My preparation starts right from the very first narration as that’s when the character begins to take shape in my mind. Then I start with the research work as I like to research with each of my character. The idea is to relate the character that’s there on paper with some real person around me. Sometimes, I have been able to connect a character with my father or my uncle. At times, it is a total stranger that I encounter somewhere. But forming the connection is an integral part of my character. I like to steal by observing their mannerisms, body gestures, facial expressions, or behavioral patterns.  Take, for example, the characters of Thakur Shri Ram and Roop Sahai that I played in Bandit Queen and Prem Granth, respectively. The two characters are completely different from each other but they are both inspired by real people. Thakur Shri Ram’s style of walking as well as his overall look is modeled upon my father. When I showed it to Shekhar Kapur, he liked it so much that he asked me to stick to it in the movie. Roop Sahai, on the other hand, is a drunkard who keeps chewing betelnut. I based it on my father’s shopkeeper friend. The same is true of my characters in films like OMG, Satya and Sarfarosh, among others. I strongly feel that these inspirations that I take from real people allow my characters to not only look authentic but also distinct.

How do you reflect upon your acting journey?

It has been the most satisfying journey. During my career, I have got the chance to work with so many incredibly talented people. I have really enjoyed doing the different kinds of characters that I have essayed over the years which include variety of positive and negatives portrayed. I have also been privileged to play historical characters like Lokmanya Tilak, Jyotirao Phule, and Morarji Desai. Also, I am glad that my work has been widely appreciated by the audiences as well as the people in the industry. I am really grateful to my directors and producers for showing faith in my acting abilities right from my early days in the film industry. As a performer, I can’t really ask for more.