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Sunday, August 10, 2008

What is your Smile number?

Govinda! Why would any sensible person even watch his movies, let alone relax to them? If you asked this question, then let me ask you something in return. Could Marlon Brando/Lawrence Olivier/John Gielgud walk into a hospital in a blue dress, blonde wig and white stockings; introduce himself as “Bruce Lee ki behan, Choos Lee”, and then beat up 10 bad guys using a stretcher? If you fail to see the point of the above exercise, then I suggest you donate your eyes to science, since they're not much use to you anyway.

I could go on and tell you how entertaining Govinda's movies are, but that isn't the point of this article. The key question is – why is the man such an amazing stress-buster?

The most obvious reason is, of course, that he's side-splittingly hilarious. The health benefits of laughter are well-documented, so I shan't dwell on that. Instead, I shall address the question – Why him? Of all the incredibly talented comic artists the world over, why this particular red-sock wearing maverick? When you settle on your comfortable couch and reach for the remote, what makes you stop at Coolie No. 1, instead of the 7,000th rerun of F.R.I.E.N.D.S., or even the DVD of Yes, Minister that you picked up from the British Council on your way home (you insufferable snob)?

The answer is this – Govinda represents humour stripped down to its fundamentals. This is humour that exists in a realm outside of context, knowledge and culture. When Joey fixes a pretty blonde with a knowing gaze and mutter “How yoo dooin'?”, its not really funny unless you have watched the previous season, and realise the contextual implications of that statement. In Deewana Mastana, when Juhi calls Govinda on the phone and tells him that she would like to meet, his pajamas drop, revealing his striped chaddis, while the rest of him carries on as if nothing happened. If you were a Brazilian, watching a version of the movie dubbed in French, you would laugh. Hell, if you were Noam Chomsky, and had just switched channels a second before this scene you would still have laughed (unless there were people around, perhaps).

Legend has it that Homo Sapiens discovered the idea of comedy somewhere around 10,000,000 BC. I firmly believe that it involved a chap distracted by a comely cave-maiden, whose sabre-tooth tiger-skin loincloth chose to fall off at precisely that moment. That individual had awakened a stimulus that has since ensured the survival of the human race – had it not been for our ability to laugh, a million years of war, famine, death and pestilence would have led us to leap lemming-like from the nearest cliff. This is what Govinda taps into with unerring regularity. His brand of comedy traces a path directly from the senses to the humour-centre of the brain, while bypassing the higher functions, which are no more the collected concrete detritus of too much civilisation. There is no other part of the brain that needs to be taxed in order to enjoy this outrageous silliness. No references to remember, no wordplay, no hunting through Wikipedia to answer the question – What was so funny about that?

The caveman's idea of comedy was two guys hitting each other over the head with a leg of antelope until one of them passed out and Govinda has taken the metaphor to heart like no one else. At the end of the day, what better way to relax than to lie back and let the master tickle your brain directly through the eyes, until you dissolve into a gentle stream bubbling with giggles.

Movie Checklist:
  1. Saajan Chale Sasuraal (1996) – Through a completely unbelievable sequence of events, Govinda ends up married to both Karishma and Tabu. Hijinks ensue.
  2. Deewana Mastana (1997) – Govinda pretends to be retarded in an attempt to woo Juhi, with stiff competition from conman Anil Kapoor.
  3. Gambler (1997) – If only for the songs Meri Marzi and Stop That!
  4. Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan (1998) – Govinda completely overshadows Amitabh in this story of double-double roles. Chhote miyaan subhaan allah!
  5. Aamdani Atthanni Kharcha Rupaiya (2001) – Govinda is the only good part of this Duryodhana-award-winning turkey, where he puts accusations of misogyny to rest.
  6. Partner (2007) – Because he's still got it, baby!