"Anusha Rizvi has been a lover of cinema since her childhood. “I am from that generation that had seen the Sunday movies that used to be aired on Doordarshan. My parents made me watch all the Bengali films made by maestros like Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. When I was young , they took me to watch Aamir Khan’s Raakh, which I found to be quite explicit. I am a complete film buff and a big fan of Sridevi and Govinda,” smiles Anusha."
If you're not familiar with Anusha Rizvi, don't worry -- she was kind of overshadowed by the producer of her film Peepli [Live], Aamir Khan. And if I wasn't already keen to see her film (I am, oh, I am) before, she would have totally won me over with that confession that she loves Sridevi and Govinda.
Here's the thing: I think I love both Sridevi and Govinda for some very similar reasons. Both are fine actors, great dancers. Both have a gift for comedy, especially of the slapstick variety. Most importantly: both have the capacity to light up a screen in a way that draws the viewer in, that is joyous and just exquisitely wonderful. That's not to say that every film they made was a gem; but even in the worst of their films, they still manage to bring something lovely to the screen.
(I could get all philosophical about why that's so, and toss out words like "authentic" and "authenticity", but as much as I think they truly apply to performers like Govinda and Sridevi, I think they tend to be so overused -- so misused -- that it's not a discussion I really want to get into right now.)
So it always seems surprising that they only ever made one film together -- it would seem that pairing them would be a match made in cinema heaven. Problem is, I think the only reason they ever made one film together is because they made one film together, and that film? Was Gair Kaanooni (1989, dir. Prayag Raj).
And Gair Kaanooni? Is messy, convoluted, cliched, and often baffling. However, the most baffling thing about the film is that it has an impeccable pedigree. The director, Prayag Raj, wrote the screenplay for Manmohan Desai's Amar, Akbar, Anthony. Kader Khan, who wrote the dialogues for Desai's film, was the dialogue writer for Gair Kaanooni. The music is by Bappi Lahiri, the choreography by Saroj Khan, and the cast? Govinda, Sridevi, Rajnikanth, Kimi Katkar, Kader Khan, Shashi Kapoor: everything was there to ensure that Gair Kaanooni would turn out to be a spectacular film.
But it's not. It is, decidedly, not a very good film, except in five specific moments:
1. When Govinda is on screen (anytime, but most especially the "Tik Tik Tik" song where he and Kimi dance on a giant clock.)
2. When Sridevi is on screen (every moment).
3. When Rajnikanth is on screen.
4. When Govinda and Rajnikanth are together on screen (in fact, I think these are the film's finest moments).
5. When Govinda and Sridevi are together on screen.
The unfortunate thing is, none of these 5 things happens very often in the film, especially in the first, oh , 45 minutes or so.
But Gair Kaanooni strikes me as a decidedly cursed film. Not only could that cast and crew not deliver a stellar film, but the film itself creates problems for those wishing to view it for Reasons 1 to 5 above. Either the film inexplicably stops working in the player; or, it works, but has these severe and inexplicable edits (one right in the middle of what might be the best song in the movie); or it causes destruction in its wake.
Okay, that last point might be debatable, but in any event: Gair Kaanooni clearly had the potential to be something other than what it turned out to be, which is, alas, pretty much One Hot Mess. Okay, One Hot Mess with some pretty stellar moments.
One of them being this (and I apologize for the poor quality, but this is the only clip I've managed to scrounge up of this song, and that's the one that will contain an inexplicable edit if you're unlucky): this is "Pahije Mala Pahije Mala", and Govinda and Sridevi are just delightful in it:
So. I still think they should work together again. I think Sridevi should come out of retirement, and make a film with Govinda. Or a film with Govinda in it. I'll talk more about that on Friday.
Tomorrow? Part 2 of Mr. India, in which I look at the costumes of Sridevi's character Seema.