Randeep Hooda: The Unusual Suspect

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Randeep Hooda: The Unusual Suspect

He has been quite the unconventional hero with his shades-of-grey personas on screen and reclusive nature off it. But he's managed to prove he's a damn fine actor

By Khalid Mohamed

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Published: Fri 24 Jun 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Jun 2016, 2:00 AM

Ever since he first faced the movie camera 15 years ago, he has been on the verge of broad recognition. After a score of 25 films, he's now acknowledged as an actor whose performances infallibly turn out to be redeeming factors of even the most unwatchable of films - as in the lately released romance-cum-action flick Do Lafzon Ki Kahani. And just a few weeks earlier, he had proved to be the main attraction of the biopic Sarbjit.
As an actor of calibre, Randeep Hooda has arrived. The consensus is that here's an actor who's incapable of delivering a disappointing performance. However, several filmmakers and co-stars have complained - behind his back - that he can be difficult, if not a terror, to work with.
Be that as it may, film reviewers as well as audiences have raved about his strong screen presence. Undeniably, he has invested a baleful intensity in etching out characters who aren't spotless or squeaky clean. In fact, a majority of the parts in his oeuvre have been shaded with dark shades of grey.
Indeed, this gambit had proved to be an USP of sorts for Shah Rukh Khan, who excelled in essaying the anti-hero, especially in Baazigar, Anjaam and Darr.  Slowly, but surely, he became irrevocably romantic, best exemplified by Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, in which his character, Raj Malhotra, wouldn't dream of taking a misstep while wooing his dulhania (bride). Whether Randeep can ever make such a quantum leap and join the A-list league of heroes is debatable though.
Given his rugged looks, lack of glamour and Bollywood's tradition of typecasting actors, Randeep has yet to assert his versatility. Called upon by filmmakers essentially to project a realistic and edgy persona, it would be jarring to see him break into the mandatory disco dances or participate in one of those senseless comedies à la the Housefull franchise.
In addition, the very fact that he has had no compunctions about playing second or even third fiddle to Salman Khan in Kick, as well as the upcoming Sultan, indicates that there are miles to go before he attains unqualified stardom.
Moreover, like most actors who believe in maintaining a low profile instead of hyping their achievements, Randeep still has to grasp the rules of the showbiz game.
By contrast, today, Irrfan Khan - after the whopper success of The Lunchbox and appearances in Hollywood blockbusters such as Jurassic World, Inferno, Life of Pi and The Amazing Spider-Man - has been ensuring that the world knows about every breath he takes.
Randeep has avoided the press ever since he was linked with Sushmita Sen. When the pair went their separate ways, almost a decade ago, he did become slightly more accessible, but just about, describing their break-up as "the best thing" that happened to him.
A tad chauvinistic, that. Fortunately, his work began to speak up with more clarity, thanks to his implosive turns in crime thrillers D, Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. Rave notices were gathered subsequently - especially for Highway, even if director Imtiaz Ali allocated far more footage and depth to the film's leading lady, Alia Bhatt. If some of Randeep's scenes were edited out from the final print, he chose not to comment on the issue.
The point is that the 39-year-old actor can no longer be ignored. Without any family connections or godfathers, he has carved his own niche in a business which demands recommendations and constant networking.
Come to think of it, Randeep's quite an unusual suspect in Bollywood's enclave of actors. Born in Rohtak, Haryana, to a surgeon father and a social worker mother, he holds a Master's degree in management and human resources from Melbourne, Australia. To make ends meet Down Under, he worked at a restaurant, a car wash, and as a cab driver.
Bitten by the acting bug, he had to cool his heels till Mira Nair introduced him as part of the Monsoon Wedding ensemble. He has acted in plays and even written one, an adaptation of Lee Blessing's politics-laced drama A Walk in the Woods. The two-handler was staged with Naseeruddin Shah and Rajit Kapur to packed houses.
A polo enthusiast, Randeep breaks away from B-town's madding crowd regularly, and is seen grooming his horses at the stables attached to the Mahalaxmi race course. I've met him there. He's uber congenial, but try to interview him and he's as retentive and involuted as his screen characters.
That's a likeable quality actually, a more-than-welcome change from the actors who cannot resist an opportunity to blow their own trumpets.


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