Filmmaker Veena Bakshi was struggling to find the right actor to play Death in her film The Coffin Maker till one day at a party, she heard someone laugh out loud. The laughter had a mischievous, mocking quality which to Bakshi’s ears embodied the “all powerful death”. Bakshi had heard Randeep Hooda laugh. (Pics: Randeep, Alia on Comedy Nights With Kapil)
Hooda put up a compelling act as the sleek, black suit sporting Death in The Coffin Maker, which premiered at the International Film Festival of India, last year. In his latest release — Imtiaz Ali’s Highway, Randeep Hooda changes his appearance drastically to play Mahabir Bhatti, a Gujjar with a criminal past. He’s making a career out of effortlessly slipping into diverse roles. Think back to Karan Johar’s segment of Bombay Talkies where he played a sophisticated married man who hides his homosexual orientation. In that role, Hooda locked lips with his co-star Saqib Saleem. “I don’t know who I am because I can be a lot of different people. And as an actor it helps me become different personalities,” he says.
For someone who made a promising debut in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2000), Hooda took his time to earn his following. Randeep Hooda admits he took himself too seriously early in his career. “I thought I had to just stand in front of the camera and people would flock to the theatres to watch me,” he says. “But over the years, I realised, unless you are a superstar who controls everything, you really are at other’s mercy,” says Hooda, on his way to the Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai, a place that he visits regularly. Randeep Hooda’s equine passion is well known. The horses he owns, were a source of comfort in his dark phase. “I would have no reason to get out of my bed, or to go out to eat what I liked. Thankfully, for my horses, I always knew I had something to come back to,” he says.
The shift in his 13-year-old career has come with Randeep Hooda doing more mainstream films, mostly as part of ensemble casts — Once upon a Time in Mumbaai (OUATIM, 2010) and Saheb Biwi aur Gangster (SBAG, 2011). There are more lined up, such as Rensil D’ Silva’s Ungli and Kick starring Salman Khan. Then there are the lead roles in Main Aur Charles, where he plays the notorious serial killer Charles Sobhraj, and that of a patriotic gangster in Shooter.
“No one wants to act continued…