Initially, no one took me seriously: Randeep Hooda
Before enjoying success with Highway, Randeep Hooda had decided to give it all up. Not once, but twice as nobody wanted to work with him.brunch Updated: Mar 23, 2014 12:08 IST
The other thing Hooda realised was that to succeed in Bollywood without a filmi background, he needed to knock on doors himself. "You don't get into the big league without appeasing that league first," he says casually. Most knocks went answered, but door opened.
"Ram Gopal Varma offered me D ," he says. The movie tanked but Hooda got great reviews. "Suddenly people saw an actor in me."
But after D, Hooda had seven flops in a row. "He was a bit too experimental," says Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta. Hooda agrees. "I played an honest cop in Risk (2007), Rang Rasiya (2008) was about the life of painter Ravi Varma. Nothing commercial." He was spiralling downwards again. This time it was different. "This time I had no epiphanies. I was lost," he says.
A Curtain Call
Then one afternoon in 2009, he met director Milan Luthria, who offered him Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. "I tried to back out thrice because I was surprised that someone was offering me a film," Hooda says. But Luthria stuck it out. "He had that unique quality that I was looking for," the director says. The gamble worked for both men. Critics started to take notice.
Of all the films Hooda did next - hits, misses, plum roles, ensemble casts - one thing became clear: Randeep Hooda can act. "People liked me in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster  because I got under the skin of the character," he explains, with honesty uncharacteristic of a film actor. "I was bad in Murder 3  because I was working in double shifts and had no time to analyse the character."
Even for Highway, his solo hit in many years, he prepared by living with young Gujjar boys to understand their body language. "I didn't find Mahabir Bhati (his character in Highway) there but I found what he could be like." He grew a beard and exposed his face in the sun till it started to look cracked and weather-beaten.
For today, life seems good. Hooda has a solo hit under his belt; people are seeing him as an actor, not just a piece of meat (though he's still an undeniable sex symbol). Sure there's the hangover, but it's not something to worry about. Up and downs are just part of life.
His first seven films tanked. No one had any hope from the too-tall man whose voice was not fit for films. Look at how wrong they were!
Remember Khan from the '90s? You probably don't because no one really does. But Dil Chahta Hai changed his fate.
He struggled for 12 years doing small roles before he made it big with Gangs of Wasseypur (2012).
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From HT Brunch, March 23
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First Published: Mar 22, 2014 15:13 IST