'I did not talk to Alia for the longest time'
'I would like to be known as one of the best actors in the world because that is something that I would have earned,' Highway actor Randeep Hooda gets candid.
Randeep Hooda has come a long way since his first film, Monsoon Wedding, in 2001. His career took a leap after he acted in Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai.
Randeep speaks to Patcy N about how he prepared for his role and why he did not speak to Alia for 25 days.
You are quite a traveller and have travelled a lot for Highway.
I haven’t travelled extensively. For Highway, I travelled 2,500 kilometres by road.
The experience was good. Every morning we would get up and travel to a new destination. The scenery was new, the clothing was different, the food was different, the feeling was different, and people were different in each place.
When you travel by road, the etiquette of travel changes from state to state. Like people in Haryana and Punjab are very aggressive, people in Rajasthan are welcoming; people in Himachal Pradesh are so adjusting that they will wait for you to cross.
I fell sick when I was in Himachal after I ate lots of pine nuts.
A leader from Himachal came to meet us and she garlanded us with a pine-nut garland.
I had not had lunch so I started eating it. I overate and was badly sick. I got altitude sickness too.
Apart from that, the whole trip was well managed. We travelled like one huge caravan with lots of Innovas, buses and our Tata 407 truck.
The stay and food arrangements were really good at all the places. Imtiaz himself is a foodie. He loves his food and still manages to stay so thin.
Sometimes I would think that he selected a location to shoot because they served the food he likes (laughs).
Please click Next to see more.
Image: Randeep Hooda
'Alia is intellectually and emotionally more mature than me'
Have you seen the telefilm on which the film is based?
I didn’t even know about it till much later, after the movie was shot.
But I did get to see the picture of the two actors in the truck. The picture did not look the way the movie is. I didn’t think the male character in the picture looked anything like me, or what I played.
How different is your character from Alia’s?
When I read the script, I thought it was a requirement of the script that the two characters look poles apart.
Alia and I both have a metropolitan upbringing. There is also a huge age gap. I think she is intellectually and emotionally more mature than me.
It was very challenging to get the right look of the character that I play. I slept in the sun a lot to get the weather-beaten, leathery skin. I grew my moustache and beard, I stopped washing and combing my hair and applying any cream.
I learnt the dialect of the Gujjar community, so when I speak it doesn’t sound like Hindi. I changed my voice a bit.
When you see both the characters you should feel that they have nothing in common. That difference is very necessary for the script.
India has two societies -- of haves and have-nots. They are very different in every aspect -- the way they deal with emotions is not the same. We have tried to get both these societies intoHighway.
Part of the film is about these two different classes of people, how they learn something from each other and get influenced by each other.
Image: Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt in Highway
'My character was well written. I didn't improvise much'
Alia Bhatt said you were a bit hard on her on the sets…
I did not talk to Alia for the longest time because in the film I don’t talk to her character and I am not very kind to her.
I did not speak to her for 20-25 days. It’s only when we start interacting in the movie that I went and spoke to her.
I did that because of two things: I was really trying to work on my character, and I wanted her to see me as Mahavir Bhatti (the character he plays in Highway) and not as Randeep Hooda.
What were your creative inputs in the film?
Every good director, when he casts an actor, writes the script or changes the script according to the actor.
I am sure Imtiaz also did that. My character was well written. I didn’t improvise much.
For all my movies I work on my character thoroughly, though sometimes I don’t get the script and sometimes I get the dialogues only on the sets.
Image: Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda in Highway
'Your career grows with your associations'
Why did you do films like Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye, Risk, Ru Ba Ru?
At that time too I worked hard on my characters, with honesty. Your career grows with your associations.
If a film is produced by an independent producer with no distributors and without promotion, nobody comes to see the film. That is was what was happening with my career at that time.
Then I started my association with films with bigger producers like Balaji, directors like Milan Luthria and big actors like Ajay Devgn (all were associated with Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai).
The projects became bigger and promotions were bigger and the films were a hit.
I started experimenting with films very early. I shouldn’t have done that. But I still do independent films. It gives me pleasure.
When your movies don’t release -- like Ungli -- does that upset you?
It used to upset me earlier, when I was doing just one film at a time. I would wait for my film to release and then sign another. I was idealistic.
Now I am not. I have done four films after Ungli.
But yes, it is a shame if it doesn’t release because a lot of work goes into it.
Now if it is delayed and something goes wrong with it, then I have four more. I am smarter now.
Image: Shahana Goswami and Randeep Hooda in Ru Ba Ru
'I would like to be known as one of the best actors in the world'
You said people did not come to watch John Day. You are yet to reach a position where your name attracts people to the theatre.
I feel people look at movie trailers, the music, and then come to watch the film, and also because of the star.
If John Day had been produced by a big producer, and if they had marketed it aggressively, then probably a lot of people would have come to see the film.
I keep doing independent films and I enjoy doing such roles. Yes, sometimes I feel it is a waste that not many people see such films even after the hard work you put in. If I had done the same in some big commercial film, I would be a superstar
People compliment me for movies that I detest. I won’t say the name of the movies.
But I also feel that nothing goes waste and mostly the experience counts.
What would you prefer -- being called the sexiest man in the world or the best actor?
I would like to be known as one of the best actors in the world because that is something that I would have earned.
Being the sexiest would come from my genes and my parents. It is something I was born with and not earned for myself.
Image: Randeep Hooda in John Day
'I cannot resist the temptation to buy a horse, that's where all my money goes'
How come you are not typecast?
I don’t do conventional things like dancing and all. I pick things that are different and say no to scripts that are similar even if it’s for a big production house.
It is important to keep filmmakers interested in you so they can offer you everything and anything.
We actors are not given work on the basis of an audience poll; the filmmaker will cast you after seeing and liking your work. It is essential to do different kinds of films
There was a time in the past when I had no work. That time also I did not lose myself as an actor.
What are your forthcoming films?
Main Aur Charles, Ungli, Kick and Shooter.
Is your Polo team still functional?
No, not yet. It is turning out to be far more expensive than I thought it would be. I have to do many more movies and still live in a rented house (to afford a functional polo team), which is not glamorous.
But I have many horses. I cannot resist the temptation to buy a horse, that's where all my money goes.
Image: Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar