Whether it is as the hard-drinking cop in 'Jannat 2' or the passionate lover in 'Jism 2', Randeep Hooda is finally making his presence felt. Recognised for his gritty acting and granitic looks, Hooda is relieved that his persistence and determination to “make it” has paid off. Craving for acceptance more than success for much of his decade-long career, films like 'Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai', 'Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster', 'Jannat 2' and now 'Jism 2' have helped put him on the map.
“If these films hadn’t worked or if they hadn’t been accepted, I wouldn’t know where I would be,” he says, candidly. “I am grateful to these filmmakers who cast me and tolerated my nonsense. I am glad that I am finally getting some acceptance not only among the audience, but also among filmmakers who are now looking at me as an option.”
The new-found success has lent him confidence. As one who “looks forward rather than backward”, he never brooded over why his earlier films never worked. “In the early part of my career I did one film at a time — at least I tried doing that. I picked roles of my choice but I had no control over the way the films were going to turn out in terms of their release and publicity. That was something I overlooked earlier.”
Now, besides looking at the role and the script, he also evaluates the kind of exposure he shall receive. For instance, his decision to work with the Bhatts is purely driven by a need to achieve wider commercial acceptance. After 'Jannat 2' and 'Jism 2', he has clicked with the Bhatts in a big way, taking over Emraan Hashmi as their blue-eyed boy. “They are the master of marketing, especially wamong the mass audience. They know their game too well,” says Hooda, who has been shooting for the Bhatts’ 'Murder 3' recently.
Associating with the Bhatts doesn’t necessarily mean he will remain off limits to other filmmakers. “I want to do all kinds of films. I read Jack Nicholson say somewhere: ‘I do one for them and one for me.’ That’s my approach now.” However, he doesn’t mind taking up “small but good roles”, like the one in 'Cocktail'. “You have to do some films to sustain yourself,” he says, referring to the blink-and-miss appearance in 'Cocktail'. “I realised you don’t have to play the leading man all the time. You can do small but good roles in good movies just to keep yourself going, to keep yourself afloat, if I can put it that way.”
The actor who made his debut with 'Monsoon Wedding' works on the lines of method actors. “Every human being is capable of acting. That’s because acting emerges from life. I have always believed that you cannot suddenly turn it on in front of the camera the moment the director shouts, ‘Action.’ Life is always the biggest reference point.”
Crediting Naseeruddin Shah as his mentor, he says the senior actor remains his biggest influence. “After Monsoon Wedding, I felt like doing theatre. I wanted to learn the craft. I am glad I met Naseer and started doing plays for Motley. It is from Naseer that I learnt the nuances of acting. I remember he initially discouraged me to pursue theatre. But I went to him one day and said I want to be a serious actor. That was the turning point.”