Shashank Khaitan has had an impressive filmography as a director as all his three films - Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017) and Dhadak (2018) - have been hits. As a result, there are a lot of hopes from his upcoming film, Govinda Naam Mera. At the posh Dharma Productions office, the popular director spoke exclusively to Bollywood Hungama about the film, it’s direct digital release and why so many of his films got stalled after the announcement.
Govinda Naam Mera EXCLUSIVE: “Karan Johar aur Rohit Shetty ko actors aasani se mil jaate honge. Hum jaison ke saath aisa nahin hota hai” – Shashank Khaitan
What feedback have you from the trailer of Govinda Naam Mera?
So far, it has been good. We made the film with a lot of masti and I think the audience has got the hang of it. As per the feedback that I received, people have loved that there’s an element of mystery along with the masti. I don’t think people expected it. That has become the talking point. The glamour and commercial element notwithstanding, I always hope that the audiences connect with the content and story. That has happened with Govinda Naam Mera. Also, ever since the song ‘Bijli’ has released, people have got further excited.
The trailer is well-cut as one doesn’t come to know what actually has gone wrong in the lives of the protagonists. Did you take a lot of time to finalize the promo?
It was a complicated process. There’s a lot more entertainment and madness in the film. What we have shown in the trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. When we got the first version ready, it was nearly 4 ½ minutes long. We realized that we don’t need to give out so much information. We also had a challenge as there are so many characters and such nice actors in the film. Other than Vicky Kaushal, Kiara Advani and Bhumi Pednekar, there are 10 other solid cast members. So, it was difficult. I have been working on the trailer for the last 6 months. Every time, we’d be like ‘Iss trailer mein zyada dikha diya’, ‘iss trailer mein kam dikha diya’, ‘yeh cut funny nahin hai’, ‘yeh cut bahut dark hai’. Ultimately, we got it right and the trailer caught the sur of the film correctly. And that was very important. If the sur of the trailer and film doesn’t match, the audience will feel a disconnect.
One actor that stands out in the film is Dayanand Shetty, who’s famous for playing ACP Daya in the TV show ‘CID’. And he seems to play a tough cop in Govinda Naam Mera as well…
Yes, the intention was that but we also wanted to break his image. When you think of a strong cop, he is the first person who comes to mind. And that’s what he plays in the film but his character has some twists and turns which you’ll see in the film.
Your hometown is Nashik and you have often said that the tastes of moviegoers are different in the hinterland. Is it fair to say that you subconsciously look to directing commercial films? All your films till now have been mainstream, including Govinda Naam Mera…
I don’t think so subconsciously. I have been fortunate to have travelled all over India. Since the age of 12, I have been a tennis and cricket player and hence, I have got a chance to travel to various corners of India and the world. I have been to places like Lasalgaon, Kolhapur, Sangli, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Imphal, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata etc. for tournaments. I have always been observant and I like mimicking people who talk and act in a unique manner. Like when I used to travel to Bengaluru, I noticed that my friends there spoke Hindi in a peculiar style. While picking their dialect, I subconsciously began understanding their cultures and also the basic difference between metros and 2-tier cities, not just in terms of infrastructure but also mentality. That’s what I tried to recreate in my movies. I don’t overthink. I write what comes to me naturally and I hope people can connect to it.
How was it working with Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar and Kiara Advani? You got an interesting star cast in place…
This is my first film where I was able to get the actors that I wanted. All of them were my first choices. No one refused or had date issues. This is a very rare phenomenon. Karan Johar aur Rohit Shetty ko actors aasaani se mil jaate honge. Hum jaison ke saath aisa nahin hota hai (laughs)! Vicky is a Mumbai lad. He knows the Bambaiyya accent. But we had to achieve the balance – it shouldn’t be too much or too less. As for Kiara and Bhumi, their characters were a little unusual. They play the wife and girlfriend but Govinda Naam Mera was not a love triangle. So to get the relationship with Vicky right was crucial. Also, one doesn’t have a singular relationship with the partner. For example, I love my wife but woh pyaar mein bhi multi-dimensions hai. We wanted to crack those dimensions and show how the relationships can be different from each other. But we had fun working on it and also pushing Bhumi and Kiara to get the accent correct. At times, the actors would enjoy so much that they’d go overboard. Then, we had to tell them ‘Thoda pull down karo’. Nevertheless, it was a fun process.
In the West, we often see OTT releases having a limited theatrical release. With Govinda Naam Mera, can we expect at least one or two shows in certain cities? After all, this seems like a film that can be best enjoyed with hundreds of moviegoers amid collective laughter…
No filmmaker in the world can claim that he/she doesn’t like a theatrical release. We need to understand that when this film was made, the situation was not favourable. When the film got ready, we were at the peak of the third wave. We had no idea how much time it’ll take for the theatrical business to recover. So our decision to skip theatrical release was correct, considering the situation at that time. And we filmmakers are greedy. We’d love to have special screenings for the public in cinemas. But I guess such kind of model will emerge in the future. The way the relationship between VCR and theatre developed correctly, similarly, OTT and theatre’s relation will also get streamlined. One thing is definite – for the sake of growth, both platforms have to be united.
You had announced a film named Me Lele, starring Varun Dhawan. Is Govinda Naam Mera a tweaked version of Mr Lele?
The basic idea was the same. When Varun was supposed to do the film, the background of the plot and the tonality were a little different. We were going to go on floors in March 2020 but we couldn’t do so due to the lockdown. I got more time to work on the script and my way of looking at it changed. I had imagined this film with Vicky at the very beginning. He was shooting back-to-back and couldn’t be a part of it. Then I discussed it with Varun. He liked the idea and came on board. Ultimately, the right casting has happened and the right people to take the story forward have come together.
Before going on floors with Govinda Naam Mera, did you try casting Varun Dhawan?
No, as he was busy. He signed our film, JugJugg Jeeyo (2022), by then. At that point, we took a call that I’ll go ahead with the film. Vicky, meanwhile, had shown interest and he came on board.
You announced several films or began work on projects like Screw Dheela, Bedhadak, Rannbhoomi, Yoddha and an espionage thriller with Varun Dhawan, and sadly, they got stalled or postponed indefinitely. When it happened back-to-back, did it mentally impact you?
It did in a way but then you realize that it happened due to logical reasons. Be it Screw Dheela or Bedhadak, we had the enthusiasm and desire to shoot these films. But things were changing financially and even theatrically post pandemic. As for Rannbhoomi, we are still struggling with VFX. And way back when I had planned Rannbhoomi, its budget was coming up to nearly Rs. 350 crores. Hence, we all took a pragmatic decision to not go ahead and get more informed about the technology. Moreover, I had never made a VFX-heavy film before; I still haven’t made one. I read that Sanjay Leela Bhansali sir was wanting to make Bajirao Mastani for years. He also made announcements and finalized the cast and then he had to stall the film. Ultimately, he made it in the best possible way. So, this is a part of the business. But let me assure you, all these films you mentioned will be made. But it’ll take time. Luckily, the scripts of all these films are ready! It’s just a matter of time. Technology would progress in such a way that it’ll be cheaper to make a film like Rannbhoomi and that it makes for a wholesome cinematic experience.
What are your plans after Govinda Naam Mera’s release on December 16? What will you direct next?
I’d like to take a nap first! But on a serious note, I have a few things in mind. I haven’t locked it yet. Since so many of my announcements take place, I need to sit down and evaluate. At the same time, I have produced Yodha with Dharma, starring Sidharth Malhotra. I need to work on its release as well. By God’s grace, I have enough work. As for my directorial venture, I do have plans. This time, I’ll not make any announcements (laughs)!
Recently, it came to light that you appeared in Arjun Kapoor’s debut film Ishaqzaade (2012), in the song 'Chokra Jawaan'. How did it happen?
I wanted to assist director Habib Faisal and I auditioned for the role. Habib sir said, ‘If you do this (act in the film), I’ll let you assist’. Toh dono kaam ho gaye mere.
Why did you never talk about it?
I guess I didn’t intend to.
Do you have plans to get into acting as well?
I am ready. I have a cameo in Govinda Naam Mera. If there’s any director who wants to sign me, they are free to call me!
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