INTERVIEW | Conversation with Veteran actor Govind Namdev
Namdev, along with some of his co-stars of the recently released film OMG 2, have appealed to the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to reconsider its ‘A’ certification.
Actor Govind Namdev has made his name-playing characters with various shades of villainy. From Bandit Queen (1994) to OMG (2014), he has blazed his road with cinematic violence, evil-doing, and being a thorn in the side of the film’s protagonist.
But this time, it is he who faces a challenge. Namdev, along with some of his co-stars of the recently released film OMG 2, have appealed to the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to reconsider its ‘A’ certification.
TMS spoke to the actor about his appeal, his views on how villains have changed in Bollywood, and how Satya (1998) in which he played Bhau Thakurdas Jhawle, was a milestone in Indian cinema. Excerpts from the conversation:
OMG 2 has been quite successful at the box office. Congratulations!
I am very happy, especially for the writer and director of the film, Amit Rai, and producer Akshay [Kumar]. Amit is a fairly new director, his last film, Road to Sangam (2010), was released a long time ago. This is a refined work. It is an issue-based film [it is about the importance of sex education in Indian schools] and the issue has been portrayed well. I am happy that the audience has accepted it
Recently, you made a statement about why the CBFC board’s ‘A’ certification is “senseless”. Why is it important for youngsters to watch it?
What we wanted to say in this film concerns the younger generation, teenagers, mainly. Sex education is a must. In our society, young people, be it a young boy or a girl, remain in the darkness about sexual desires and impulses. They learn half-baked things by reading certain kinds of books, or know half-truths from peers. Because they are misguided, it causes panic and it may lead them to feel suicidal, as we see in this film. Our society is such that parents do not openly talk to their children about what is a good touch, a bad touch, or what to do when sexual thoughts come to mind. There are people who take advantage of the ignorance of the young. They sell them illegal drugs or scare and blackmail them. Our youth’s ignorance in sex education is not a recent issue. It is there in every generation. In our youth, we faced it too.
In your statement, you made a remark about Adipurush releasing with almost no censoring, while OMG 2 got an ‘A’ certificate and 24 cuts. Since both films have different subjects, why the comparison?
I do not want to criticize any film. However, the way the characters have been presented and visualized isn’t that questionable. [Adipurush was criticized because it was considered by many as being irreverent to the source material of the epic, Ramayana.] But it received an open pass, [Adipurush has been certified as ‘U’], while this film [OMG 2], which deals with an issue, specifically about teenagers, has been given an ‘A’ tag. If you have passed the film, it means that you agree with what we are showing. Yet, the people that it is made for are being stopped from watching it. Some 2-4 cuts with a U/A certificate would make sense. But an ‘A’ certificate makes no sense at all. When people went to watch the film with their children, either they had to be left behind or all of them had to come back without watching the movie. No one thought that a film like OMG 2 could get an ‘A’ certificate.
You are a Bollywood veteran. The audience has seen you portray villains and ‘negative’ characters. In recent times, have you seen a change in the way such characters are written?
Yes, there is a huge difference. Earlier, stories used to be written solely with entertainment in mind. The hero and heroine should romance, and the villain must create conflict—that was the formula. And of course, the victory of goodness over evil. Because it was believed that the stronger and more evil the villain, the more the qualities of the hero would come to the fore. Although goodness takes quite a few punches when it meets evil, the power of a film would come from the intensity of struggle of this embodiment of goodness and yet ultimately triumph over evil. Audiences prefer realistic stories now. Stories that are related to common people and the way they live. Consequently, filmmaking has also changed. Realism is also expected from the film’s villain.
Satya, one of your best films, just celebrated 25 years this year. Was it ahead of its time?
Satya was a turning point in Indian filmmaking. The way Ram Gopal Varma conceived the story and presented it was unprecedented. It did away with a central hero and a heroine. Yes, Urmila [Matondkar] was part of the cast but the rest of the team were people from the theatre circuit. Ram Gopal Varma presented the story in a raw manner. It was after Satya that people started making movies without a hero and a heroine and with actors who were skilled enough to carry the film on their own shoulders.
Since you were a theatre actor at first, what adjustments did you have to make to work in cinema?
I witnessed many actors struggle with having to adjust. Theatre actors tend to be a little over the top with body language and dialogue delivery. I was aware that this was a ‘problem’ for cinema. I knew that when I would act for films, I would have to perform only for the one camera that captured my close-up shot. And in that one shot, I will have to convey all the emotion. I had practiced as before joining films, I did television plays.
We have not seen many OTT productions. A coincidence?
When OTT first took off, I had decided that I didn’t want to jump on that bandwagon; I wanted to do only films. I had some objections to the subjects that OTT productions covered at that time. But the subjects started to change and I revised my position. In fact, I have two OTT projects that are coming up soon. One is Ret (Sand), which is about the sand mafia and will stream on Prime Video. The other one is Chhota Yadav, where I play an interesting character called Bihar ka Bahubali.
What other upcoming projects can you tell us about?
I have a few films coming up. I am a part of Woh Ladki hai Kahaan, starring Taapsee Pannu and Pratik Gandhi, Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur, and Gandhi Talks with stars Vijay Sethupathi and Arvind Swamy, known mainly for their work in the Tamil industry. Also a film with Aditi Rao Hydari, called Khoobsurat Padosan. The film was produced by Bappi Lahiri, but unfortunately, he passed away before the film was released. So his daughter continued with the production.