The name Govind Namdeo reminds movie lovers of the brutal rapist in Bandit Queen and Prem Granth, the paralysed Thakur in Viraasat and the shrewd politician of Satya, all characters he portrayed brilliantly on screen. However, after being the lead villain in films of the 90s, Namdeo almost disappeared from Hindi cinema which in recent times has witnessed glorious changes. Though he was seen in character roles in some recent blockbusters, his fans expected more from him. And Namdeo is all set to oblige them with his first Hollywood venture Solar Eclipse which will release next year. He will also be seen playing Lokmanya Tilak in Chapekar Brothers which is set to hit theaters on September 2.
Solar Eclipse is a historical film based on the true events in the aftermath of India’s Independence, including Partition and carnage around it as well as the assassination of Mahatama Gandhi. Namdeo plays the character of Morarji Desai in the film which also features Om Puri.
In an exclusive conversation with IndianExpress.com, Namdeo talked at length about his character in Solar Eclipse, his disappearance from films and his view on the Censor Board headed by friend Pahlaj Nihlani.
How much research has gone into Solar Eclipse?
It is based on the events post Independence and mostly deals with the violence during Partition and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. I am playing Morarji Desai who was the Home Minister of Bombay state when the assassination of Mahatama Gandhi took place. The planning to kill Gandhi was done in Bombay by a Hindu outfit who thought he was responsible for the division of the country. How Desai dealt with the situation after his assassination and what actions he took, my character portrays that. We did extensive research and made sure that factually everything is accurate.
There are still certain groups who revere Gandhiji’s killer, Nathuram Godse, as their hero. How do you see that?
It’s unfortunate actually and I think people are ignorant about his contribution to our freedom. See, I am a Gandhi follower and I have read a lot about him. Holding him responsible for Partition and the violence after it is unfair. If the decision was taken, it was only after considering the situation at that time. Nobody wanted Partition, but it happened since the situation demanded it. And blaming him for the mass killing, I believe is unfair and insult to the man’s contribution to our Independence movement.
What if your movie hurts the sentiments of those groups? Recently, the Supreme Court slammed a senior Congress leader for holding RSS responsible for Gandhi’s killing. Hope your movie doesn’t do that?
The move is factually correct and I don’t think it will hurt anybody’s sentiment. Whatever is shown in the film is based on documented facts. Still if anybody gets offended, what can we say about them.
And what about the Censor Board? Do you think it will get clearance with zero cuts by the CBFC whose chairman Pahlaj Nihlani is the producer you started your career with?
Pahlaj is a close friend. We share a very cordial relationship. However, I never interfered in his work. The movie is yet to go through the certification process. I am hopeful that the movie gets cleared without any objection as I don’t think there is anything factually wrong in the film. Yes, about the recent decisions of the board, I do not agree with them. And I believe the board should be liberal in its approach.
Why is Govind Namdeo not seen in many films these days?
The industry has changed and lot of new faces have come. And it happens always. The new replaces the old ones. I used to play villain in my earlier films and now the hero himself is seen doing villainous roles or comedy. So not much is left for us to do and I am not ready to anything lesser than that. I did Siddheshwar Maharaj in Oh My God as the character had that flavour. But besides films, I keep doing theatre. When something worthy comes along, I do it. I am also doing a film on Anna Hazare in which I will be playing a villain. My next film Chapekar Brothers, in which I am playing Bal Gangadhar Tilak, is set to release on September 2. I am happy with the kind of work I am doing.
You made a mark in the industry with Bandit Queen and Prem Granth and in both the films you played a rapist. How did your family react? And where you apprehensive playing the assailant with Madhuri, who was such a big star then?
(Laughs) They were quite upset as the characters were quite opposite to my real self. But yes those characters were so powerful that they left an impression in the mind of audience. I am thankful to Shekhar Kapur and RK Films for believing in me. While I was shooting for Bandit Queen, I bagged the role in Prem Granth. While I was apprehensive during the scene in Bandit Queen, by Prem Granth I had become used to it. (Laughs). Practice ho gayi thi.
Also your character in Viraasat, where you played a paralysed man. How did you manage that facial expression and body language.
It required a lot of practice. I met a lot of patients and observed their difficulty in expressing themselves. I had several session with doctors. Initially, even that character didn’t have any dialogues, but on my insistence dialogues were added. I gave a few trials to Priyadarshan (director) and he liked it. But I had to practice hard.
Many sequels and remakes are being made these days. Your film Sarfarosh had a perfect ending for a possible sequel. Why it didn’t happen?
Actually, there were plans for a sequel. In the end the character of Aamir gets a note about Veeran (my character) and it was planned that he will get captured in the sequel. But unfortunately the script couldn’t finalised. I am still hopeful for its sequel.
All the best for your film