Waiting, because she’s yet to give her first shot in front of the camera, though she’s got some impressive stills shot as part of her portfolio (see the images to believe). But that doesn’t mean she’s not well-versed with fame. There are rumours that she’s going to make her debut opposite Shahid Kapoor. Reportedly, big filmmakers like David Dhawan, Abbas Mustan and few other big names are keen to launch her; sources believe that even Salman Khan has taken the responsibility.
All this superficiality is tempting enough to know what lies beneath. And this is what makes her the kind to be interviewed even before she’s through with her debut project. Narmmadaa, daughter of Entertainer No.1 Govinda, is confidence personified when I meet her at a five-star hotel in suburban Mumbai. We sip icy colas as the tape rolls to capture Narmmadaa talking the talk in her first-ever full-fledged interview.
Some speak of their desire in flowery words. Many never say it. Maybe because they feel they can never live their dream. And there are others who go on running after their goal, heads down, without any grand declarations. When other star kids stepped into tinselville with a lot of gung-ho, fervour and hyped-up hullabaloo, one girl quietly went about her work and is almost all set for a stunning debut.
Self-admittedly an introvert, this girl says, “You will have to really get things out of me since it’s my first proper interview.” I accept the challenge as I hand over my dictaphone to the talented and enigmatic Narmmadaa.
“I always wanted to become an actor,” Narmmadaa reveals. “At 17, I was through with the fact that I wanted to become an actor. When the time came to actually tell my parents, I was very much sure and put it across to them. And they were pretty cool about it. They said, ‘No problem. First finish your studies and at the same time, start getting ready to be trained as an actor’. My father (Govinda) informed me about the pros and cons of the profession. He told me that I have to be very patient.”
Does Narmmadaa feel that somewhere her parents’ expectations from her were different? “I’m really blessed that they always gave me my space. They never forced me to do anything. Even if I wanted to become a fashion designer or an actor or any profession of my choice, they were with me.
If I want to get into films tomorrow, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop enjoying. I think it’s not good to stress yourself. One should enjoy life also. It’s my age to be with friends, go for holidays and parties and have fun. At the same time, I’m equally focused and working on all the necessary aspects that would qualify my standing as an actor. It’s always good to be a slow learner than just trying to take everything in one day,” she reveals her thoughts.
Narmmadaa’s upbringing was like any other star kid. “I was never treated as a normal kid,” she says feeling very privileged. “My friends and teachers used to treat me as Govinda’s daughter. And I used to take full advantage of that and run away from school in lunch breaks. My dad never forced me to study. In that sense, he was a very good dad,” she laughs out loud. “I never used to get tensed thinking about the results simply because I knew that I didn’t want to become a doctor or an engineer. I did my 12th and I did a basic fashion designing course because I was very much into fashion. But my father didn’t want me to become a fashion designer.”
Narmmadaa has learnt film-making abroad. Did she do well in her years of studying film direction? “Oh yes. It was dad who suggested that I go abroad to learn film-making. I went to London and America, and learned lighting and few other aspects of filmmaking. I also did a make-up course.” But why didn’t she learn proper filmmaking? “That’s because the institutes abroad are quite different from Bollywood. I mean their method of teaching and the syllabus is different. It’s better to assist a good filmmaker first rather going abroad and doing it theoretically. It’s always good to have an experience than just going to a school,” she explains.
Does that mean she would begin her career by assisting a big film-maker? “I don’t mind doing it because most of the debutants actually assist first to understand the behind-the-scenes world better. But my father would never ever let me assist any film-maker. I asked him once but he strictly refused because he knows what kind of work the assistants have to do. Frankly speaking, I won’t be able to do it. Sometime back, there were stories that I was going to assist some film-maker. My father would prefer to take me to his shooting locations. He would rather make me sit in one corner to observe what’s happening. He didn’t want me to work as a labourer.”
Being a concerned father that Govinda is, doesn’t she think that at times, his over-protectiveness could also hamper her decision-making process? “It could be and it couldn’t be also,” Narmmadaa thinks for a while and answers. “He’s protective like every other father. Being in the industry for so long, he knows what is right and what is wrong. That’s why he guides me a lot. It always happens when a star kid is coming, especially a girl. People always take star kids for granted considering that it’s an easy game. I really don’t like this thought. I have to break this norm. I want people to take me as a normal girl. My dad is quite chilled out with me going for parties, or going out with friends. People make a big issue in the industry, I don’t know why,” says the doting daughter.
Which director would Narmmadaa love to debut with? “He should be a good film-maker, somebody who knows his job. I don’t expect him to make a blockbuster. I don’t even mind starting with a new film-maker. Among the veteran film-makers, I would love to work with Rakesh Roshan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Mani Ratnam, Priyadarshan, Abbas Mustan, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandarkar, Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hirani, Aamir Khan and David Dhawan.”
That’s quite an impressive list. “Hmmm…wait, not David uncle,” she rectifies and laughs. “Not that I don’t respect him as a film-maker. It’s just that I don’t want to start with him; I’ll work with him after my debut film. I know David uncle since I was a child. He’s like a family member.” And what about the king of romance Yash Chopra? “Oh yes, Yash uncle too,” grins Narmmadaa. “How can I forget him? In today’s times, we see film-makers diverting from the beaten path to venture into newer script ideas and subjects, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. I don’t really need an option to choose because everybody comes up with their own unique style and different school of film-making. As an actor, I’m open to working with all of them.”
Usually, newcomers start off with love stories; the recent examples being Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. But Narmmadaa disagrees, “Most of the newcomers in the recent times have achieved success because they debuted with different scripts and not just romantic films. You could find the romantic angle in almost all the films, whether action, comedy or thrillers. Asin debuted as a sweet girl-next-door in ‘Ghajini’ but then that’s an Aamir Khan film,” she informs.
“At least for the starting three or four years, I won’t be doing something that is de-glam. See, I’m not doing films to make money or to prove a point. It’s wrong if you go ahead with that intention. I’m doing it because I like cinema. So initially, when I start, I would prefer to be choosy and go slow. I want to do films that would make me happy. Besides the subject, the movie should have good songs.” Just like her dad’s films? She smilingly agrees, “Yes, I would love to do something like that because I want to enjoy the entire process.”
What if a film came up where she’s needed to act with her father? Would she be inhibited to perform in front of him? “Of course yes, because in that case he’ll be the actor Govinda first. And for a newcomer, it’s certainly a big deal. He’s such a senior artiste. Frankly speaking, I consider and respect him as a teacher more than a father. When I was young, half the time he would be busy shooting. We couldn’t spend time with each other. So he’s more like an actor to me in that case. Whatever little time we get for each other, he would teach me. Many people have asked me this question. I have always told them that I would love to work with him only after I’m two or three films old.”
Does Narmmadaa think that her dad could launch her, though he’ll always be there as a father? “I wouldn’t mind if he launches me,” she laughs. “For a debutant, it’s very important for everything to fall in place. Even if I get launched by any small director or in a small-budget film, the subject has to be really good. Agar Daddy nahi bhi launch karte toh bhi I don’t mind.”
So what does it take to be an actress? After a long pause, she says, “You always have to be very plastic,” she laughs. “Besides, you need to be size-zero and you should always be in the news for link-ups and controversies.” Bigger the controversy, bigger the star? “As long as you know what the truth is,” she makes it clear.
Does Narmmadaa know her assets and limitations? “Yeah, I’m still working on them. I work very hard on my diction, because I believe good diction enhances your performance. I have discussed it with my father. He helps me. But at the end of the day, it’s always good to know your strengths and weaknesses yourself and work it out. So the process is all going on,” she nods her head giving me a feeling that she’s leaving no stone unturned to appear as a good actor on screen.
Criticism can be a scary word in the dictionary of a newcomer. Had Govinda inculcated in her the repercussions of coping with the bouquets and brickbats? “Yeah, I’m well prepared for that. But I really don’t care about these things because I have seen ups and downs in my father’s career.
When I was young, there was a time when my father’s films weren’t doing well. It used to hurt me a lot. I don’t really care now because I’ve learned to overcome all that during my growing-up years and learn to move on in life. He taught me how to take things as and when they come. In fact, if somebody criticises you, you should think about it and work on that,” says Narmmadaa.
Has it ever happened that her father narrated a scene to her and asked to enact it? “I have asked him but whatever he teaches me, I just can’t do it. He’s too perfect. If you explain a scene to him, he’ll do it exactly the way you want him to or maybe better. I really don’t understand his kind of cinema because it’s very different. He keeps on doing new things every time. The good thing about dad is that he’s a very good observer.
He observes people, their way of talking, mannerisms, behaviour and if he comes across any funny character, he tries to incorporate that in his film. Once, he had given me a dialogue, which was like ‘Maine toh kabhi aisa socha hi nahi tha ki tum mere saath aisa karoge. Main tumhe kitna pyaar karti thi.’ He asked me to do it. So I tried my bit. But the dialogue was too filmi that I couldn’t stop giggling, and my mother was staring at me from far. Even she started laughing. Eventually, it turned out to be a big comedy scene,” Narmmadaa recollects.
Now that she’s getting into films, does she pay attention to how her father deals with people and manage things? “I do observe and try to learn. But he’s quite a senior actor and has been doing all this for a long time. It might help me when I reach that position,” says Narmmadaa.
Govinda is known as a versatile actor. But Narmmadaa would soon be embarking in a different league altogether. So who would she look up for advice? “I can talk to my parents; besides that there are friends also.
It’s always good to take advice from as many people as you can,” she says it diplomatically. That means she has a lot of friends from the industry. “I don’t want my friends to be disclosed,” she grins. No female actor friend? “No,” she adds. Govinda and his wife Sunita are known to be quite conservative. Will he be open to her doing glamorous and intimate scenes? “I wouldn’t do something that would hurt him or I’m not comfortable in. If something is making him upset why would I do that? He’s quite open in that case,” she clears.
Govinda is mostly known for his unique comedy films. Can she do comedy too? “I would love to do comedy and it’s not just because my father is very good at it. I think it’s very easy for an actress to do a comedy film because such films don’t have enough scope for an actress. The male actors take away the cake. Girls are only there for dancing or maybe a few scenes here and there.” I’m surprised as she gets into technicalities. But what if she’s given a lead comedy role like her dad? “Well, I don’t mind but after one or two films. I want to start of as a glamour doll,” reveals Narmmadaa.
Does Narmmadaa think it’s the right time to debut, because somewhere her father is also working hard in his second innings? “I’m doing my part. I won’t be upset or get worried even if I take more time to sign my first film. My father has become very cautious. He takes decisions after thinking twice. So I can’t do something wrong myself,” she elucidates.
Does she think it’s an added advantage being a star daughter or a drawback? “It’s actually both. People go by the feeling that we don’t need to struggle as much as other girls. But then there are more people to criticise. You come with a lot of expectations and responsibilities to prove when you’re a star kid. There’s a lot of pressure,” states Narmmadaa.
Govinda has always been a controversy child. During her growing up years, how did she cope with her father’s various link-ups? She says, “Sometimes it does hurt because you feel it’s enough, and sometimes you feel like taking it with a pinch of salt. I ignored it in most of the cases and moved on, because I was aware of the truth. None of us in our house gave a damn. I was quite okay with such ridiculous news because I know that’s a part of an actor’s life. I have seen that, all my life. So I never over-reacted. He’s not a man who would hide things from his family or children because he’s a true gentleman,” says the daddy’s girl.
Now that she’s all set to face the arc-lights, what is the
image she’d like to portray? She gives me a few examples of actresses she would love to be like. “Actresses like Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Saira Banu and Nutan amongst others. I always liked such high-glam and beautiful actresses.”
Last year, Narmmadaa accompanied Salman Khan to an awards function and that’s when the media even linked her with the actor. How did she take this? “I didn’t pay much attention because it’s not true,” she strikes back. “The media can create any story. All this has also happened with my father. So I am used to it,” Narmmadaa clarifies. Did Salman react? Did he call her after the incident? “No, we met the same night for his movie screening and just laughed about it.”
Unfortunately, Narmmadaa met with an accident five years ago, which was a major turning point in her life. How did she cope with it? “I wasn’t traumatized as such. Fortunately, when the accident happened, I was sleeping. So I didn’t realize what it was. But when my father got me to Mumbai, he informed what I had gone through, which really scared the daylights out of me. I’ll always be very grateful to him because without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to come out of it. He helped me to move on in life. It was a turning point because I had to start fresh,” she informs.
In the world of the Deepikas and Sonams, how does she think she’s going to survive? How would she stand different in the race and what does she have to offer to the viewers? “People would get to see that in my first film. I can’t say anything beyond that now,” she states decisively.
There is a lot of speculation about her debut film. “Such things are happening since the time I expressed my wish to become an actor. When I did my acting course, the media also reported that. But that time people didn’t consider the fact that I was very young and the process is still on. And they made a huge buzz about it. Now that I’m prepared, I’m meeting people. I’m reading scripts. I don’t want to rush into it just because I want to get into films. Everything is changing now. It’s just up to destiny where it takes me.” Luck favours the brave, as I assure her and prepare to leave.
By the time the interview ends, I see Narmmadaa as her own person. The confidence and enthusiasm remains intact. Though it’s still some time before we can see what Narmmadaa can do, it doesn’t diminish the potential she promises with her sincerity. With a zealous smile, she promises confidently, “It will be certainly worth the wait.”