By Akanksha Gupta Last Updated:
Once upon a time in Bollywood, Govinda ruled the industry with his perfect comic timing and bindaas dance moves. Hero No 1, Govinda has given some remarkable films as a contribution to the Hindi film industry. Fans loved his chemistry with his female co-stars, but there was never any link-up rumours surrounding him after his marriage with his childhood friend, Sunita Ahuja.
However, not many know that Sunita Ahuja was not the only love in Govinda's life. There was a time when Govinda was madly in love with his Ilzaam co-star, Neelam Kothari. Govinda and Neelam had made their debut in Bollywood with this film and went on to have a glittering career post that. Govinda was smitten by the actress the moment he had seen her for the first time. Check out as we take a recap of this old love tale that never saw the light of marriage.
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In the ‘90s, audiences were crazy to get a glimpse of Neelam Kothari. However, not many know that Neelam Kothari, born on November 9, 1969, is of Gujarati-Iranian descent, but she was born and raised in Hong Kong. In fact, she had gotten her first break when she was holidaying in Mumbai and had gotten approached for her debut film, Jawaani.
Govinda had first met Neelam during the shooting of his debut film, Ilzaam in the year 1986. Soon, fans heaped praises for Neelam and Govinda's on-screen chemistry. Together the duo had worked together in 14 hit films. While fans were going gaga over this on-screen couple, rumours were rife that Govinda and Neelam had fallen madly in love with each other. In an old interview with the Stardust, Govinda had shared the details of their first meeting:
"I remember the first time I met her. At Pranlal Mehta’s office. She was wearing white shorts. Her long hair falling straight, like an angel’s. ‘Hello’ she said politely, and I was scared to reply because my knowledge of English was embarrassing. It still is. And I wondered how I would communicate with her on the sets. I had never imagined I would work with her. She was a distant dream. I had seen her in ‘ Jawani’, and seen the film again and again only to see her."
Govinda had further added:
"I was very conscious of her. Of the difference in our backgrounds and upbringing. But gradually, we crossed these obstacles, and I started opening up. I would play pranks, crack jokes and she would laugh. We became friends. And we had so many films together. We met so often and the more I got to know her, the more I liked her. There was dignity in her. A kind of piousness in her eyes. And strength of character. There was no vulgarity about her, no loudness. She was the kind of woman any man would have lost his heart to. I lost mine."
During the same interview, Govinda had revealed how he was smitten by Neelam’s beauty. He had even tried to mould his then-girlfriend and now-wife, Sunita Ahuja like Neelam and would often ask her to become like the actress, which invariably had enraged Sunita. He had remarked:
"I couldn’t believe that such a young girl, even after attaining so much name, fame and wealth, could be so simple and down-to-earth. I couldn’t stop praising her. To my friends, to my family. Even to Sunita, to whom I was committed. I would tell Sunita to change herself and become like Neelam. I would tell her to learn from her. I was merciless. Sunita would get irritated. She would tell me, ‘You fell in love with me because of what I am, don’t ever try to change me’. But I was so confused. I didn’t know what to own."
Govinda had admitted that he didn’t want to get involved in a serious relationship with Sunita Ahuja. Saying that he just wanted a girl to roam around with him, Govinda had quipped:
"I had never meant to get so seriously involved with Sunita. I was looking for a girl to go around with. I had signed a few films by then, and one day, my elder brother Kirti came to visit me on my sets. I had to do a romantic scene but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt very uncomfortable and awkward holding a girl in my arms. So, later, my brother told me, ‘Why don’t you have an affair just to get some experience of romance? You’ll at least, learn how to hold a girl in your arms’. At that point in time, I met Sunita. I admit that my involvement with her was a totally calculated move on my part. And I paid a heavy price for it."
But Govinda had later realised that his fling went too far, and he had committed himself to Sunita. Govinda had retorted:
"I realised too late that one needn’t experience death to perform a death scene, similarly one needn’t experience romance to perform romantic scenes. It came naturally, one only had to let oneself go. But the harm was done. I had already committed myself to Sunita. I am very impulsive.”
Govinda was so much in love with Neelam, that he had even taken the step of breaking his engagement with Sunita. Govinda had mentioned the instance when he had broken off his engagement with Sunita because she had said something about Neelam during one of their fights. Govinda had described:
"After I started getting busier, my relationship with Sunita went through a change. She began feeling insecure and jealous. And I was of no help. She would nag me and I would lose my temper. We had constant fights. In one of those fights, Sunita said something about Neelam, and I lost my head and called it quits. I asked Sunita to leave me. I broke off my engagement with her. And had Sunita not called me after five days and coaxed me into it again, I would probably have married Neelam."
Govinda had confessed that Neelam was an ideal girl, whom every guy visualises as a life partner, and he also wanted to marry her. He had further said:
"Yes, I wanted to marry her. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I feel love and hatred are two emotions over which a man has no control. If you love somebody and they reciprocate, there’s nothing one can do about it. It is instinctive. What is under our control is our sense of duty and commitment. Neelam was the ideal girl, the kind every man visualises for a life-partner. The kind of girl I wanted. But that was getting emotional. There was another practical side. Just because I had fallen in love elsewhere, I couldn’t overlook my commitment towards Sunita. If there was no sense of duty in a man, this would go on. Leave one for another and another for another."
Even his dad wanted Govinda to marry Neelam, but his mother was the one, who had asked him to keep his word to Sunita. Govinda had said:
"My dad was very keen that I marry Neelam. He was very fond of her. She had even visited him with her family. Yes, she had come to Virar. Actually, I took her and her mother to see my father. And he was very happy. But my mother thought differently. She felt that since I had given my word to Sunita, I must honour it. And I knew that if I didn’t do it, it would hurt her. And for me, no relationship can be more important than my mother. Her happiness will always be my primary concern."
According to Govinda, Neelam was a very ambitious girl, who wanted to be the number 1 heroine in the industry. Govinda had claimed:
"And anyway, Neelam had ambitions of her own to fulfill. Every time I broached the topic of marriage, she would laugh it off. She wanted to become the Number One heroine. She loves this profession and she’s lying when she says so matter-of-factly that she doesn’t much care about what happens to her career. And that it doesn’t affect her. She is very ambitious, take it from me."
Govinda had further added:
"She wanted an intelligent, well-to-do, good-looking man as a husband. And I was anything but that. She belonged to the upper strata and I was a dehati, coming from a lower-middle-class family. We were poles apart in every way. We probably would never have been successful as a married couple. And maybe, Neelam realised that."
Govinda had revealed that another hurdle that came in their relationship was when Neelam had started working with other actors, which had made him absolute jealous and insecure. He had confessed:
"But the actual problems between her and me began when she started working more and more with other heroes. I was consumed with absolute jealousy and insecurity. I was scared that I would lose out on her totally. And that she was the only, one good heroine that I had. And then ‘Aag Hi Aag’ and ‘Paap Ki Duniya’ became hits. She started signing more films with Chunky, Sunny, Mithun, Chintu, I was very upset."
On playing dirty with Neelam by not telling her about his marriage with Sunita till one year, Govinda had acknowledged:
“In the meantime, my mother wanted me to officially marry Sunita – we’d had one ceremony in the mandir. For that matter, we were husband and wife. But I had not disclosed publicly my marriage to Sunita because I felt it would affect my career. Neither did Neelam know about it. She got to know only after a year. I probably did not tell her because I did not want to break this successful screen pair. And to be honest, to a certain extent, I did exploit my personal relationship with Neelam for professional ends. I played dirty with her. I should have told her that I was married.”
Justifying his act, Govinda had said:
“But there was always such a conflict going on in my mind. After meeting a girl like Neelam, any man is bound to lose his balance. I lost mine totally. I was so confused. I liked her tremendously. I was in love with her. I wanted to marry her. But I couldn’t. And yet, I didn’t want to let go. Even today, I feel jealous when I see her working with other actors. I wish she would start signing films with me again. If not anything, we could at least be friends.”
With a regret in his life, Govinda was left with his one-sided love forever. Govinda was quoted as saying:
“Of course, she’s very cordial to me whenever we bump into each other. But my heart still misses a beat when I see her. I feel like screaming in despair. If only I had not promised to marry Sunita. If only… I still care for Neelam. And I always will. I don’t know why she stopped signing films with me. And cut me off totally from her life. Maybe she felt that our pair was going stale on screen. The same old dancing, the same old steps, the same old Govinda.”
Time passed by, Govinda is happily married to his childhood sweetheart, Sunita Ahuja. The duo had tied the knot on March 11, 1987. They have two children, Tina Ahuja and Yashvardan Ahuja. But he never shies away from confessing his love for Neelam and he hates when his relationship with her is termed as an affair. Govinda was quoted as saying:
“That is why I hate it when my relationship with Neelam is termed as an affair. It somehow demeans the status of the relationship, the depth of my feelings. And I say my feelings, because I can only be sure of them. What she felt, she knows. Maybe there was nothing from her side. But I will never deny my love and reverence for her. I will always care for her. For me it was love, not lust. Love in its purest form. I know she was too good for me. She probably deserves better. And I do wish her all the happiness in the world. The man she marries will be the luckiest man on this earth.”
Neelam Kothari had tied the knot with her soulmate, Samir Soni in 2011. It was director-producer, Ekta Kapoor, who had played Cupid between them. Before tying the knot in 2011, Samir and Neelam had made sure to sort out any discord or differences about any past issues. Samir and Neelam are leading a blissful life together with their daughter, Ahana, whom they had adopted in 2013.
Govinda and Sunita had their own fair share of ups and downs but they managed to keep their married life blissful. Despite his one-sided love for Neelam, Sunita stood by his side through everything, which is really commendable.