Randeep Hooda can’t recall if he was trying too hard or just showing off while stretching to hit a ball during a game of polo, when Raja, the horse he was riding on, slipped and fell on him sideways. “When he got up, my leg was still in the stirrups. Thankfully, he just stood there instead of dragging me with him or trampling me,” the actor recalls with a shudder. The accident, that took place 11 years ago, left him with a broken leg that he could use only after a metal plate was inserted and fastened in place with screws, to be removed once the bones had had time to heal. “I was screwed up, man,” he deadpans, adding that ever since, whenever he wanted to get the operation done, he was either short on time or money.
With the lockdown leaving him with ample supply of both, he got the surgery out of the way and is on his way to a complete recovery. “The leg is carrying my weight now; I should be able to run and ride in another week,” Randeep informs, hoping that action scenes won’t require him to down painkillers anymore. “I hope it doesn’t take away some of my gravitas. The metal has been carrying me around since ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai’ after all,” he quips. Since doing two back-to-back action films, the actor has discovered his limitations. “It’s exciting to find out that even after 20 years in movies, there’s something new to try. I aim to make my action scenes real as opposed to just flying kicks and punches,” he says, gushing over his collaboration with Chris Hemsworth. “It felt like I was at the Olympics, against an Australian in an American arena. Though I only got a silver medal, it was a good show,” he chuckles.
Randeep, who played love guru Raj in Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Love Aaj Kal’, enjoys the romance space too, and wouldn’t mind doing an out-and-out love story. “Just not the running around the trees routine; it’s not me,” he is quick to add. For now, he is dubbing for Salman Khan’s action-thriller ‘Radhe’ and is looking forward to the shoot once he returns from the Haryana schedule of Unfair And Lovely in October. “I want to take a three-four day trip to the wild before that,” muses Randeep, who spent most of his free time shooting wildlife before the lockdown imprisoned him.
He invested the break clicking new photographs and studying old ones, to ascertain if they had potential or were good fluke shots. “I also put up a bird feeder in my balcony and clicked sparrows, parakeets, and what looked like hummingbirds,” Randeep reveals, adding that it also gave him time to introspect. “I wondered why I had come here with Rs 1500, and where I am now. It allowed me to revisit, so I can return with the passion of a rookie. I also realised how many of my characters have stayed with me, and came out in my gait, angst, smile, and behaviour. I need to get rid of the extra baggage.”
Point out that internalising a character has often proved to be detrimental to actors and he laughs, “By the time actors like me internalise a character, someone else finishes six movies and brings in a lot more money. I’m a bit of a fakir in my attitude, which I need to correct. I plan to do many more films now”.
However, given the current scenario, a few projects that he has lined up are yet to be finalised. “I’ll be moving to other pastures, both here and in the West,” he shares, happy to be finally getting the kind of roles in Hollywood he had passed over bigger franchises for. “I didn’t want to play cabbies, 7/11 clerks, IT geeks or millionaires-all nonphysical roles that poked fun at our culture and accents. I was lucky to be rewarded with a role like Saju at a time when I voluntarily sat it out to prepare for Saragarhi, which didn’t come to fruition. I was really down and out and didn’t know where to pick up the threads,” he relays. Will we ever see him play larger-than-life heroes in mainstream films? “For me, Mahabir Bhati of ‘Highway’, Shankar Malik of ‘Laal Rang’, Charles Sobhraj of ‘Main Aur Charles’, or Sarbjit Singh in ‘Sarbjit’ were all larger-than-life characters.”