A RAZOR SHARP FOCUS ON STARDOM
PHOTOGRAPHS: RAJ CHATURVEDI; RANDEEP’S OUTFITS & STYLING: ARCHANA KOCHHAR FROM COPPERSTONE ASSISTED BY: BRUNO JEYSON; MAKE-UP: RENUKA PILLAI; HAIR: PERRY PATEL; MODELS’ STYLING: ANIKET SATAM & RIZWAN SHAIKH ASSISTED BY: MELLISSA DESSA, HIMANI MITTAL & AZHAR MULLA; LOCATION: COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT, MUMBAI
ven though Randeep Hooda never directly endorsed the badass image as underlined by the media (thanks to his choices in reel and real life), he didn’t really debunk it either. News of broken relationships (essentially with the exMiss Universe) only added fuel to fire. But he was perhaps too busy to provide explanations, and so the legend lived on. “I don’t think the industry knows what to do with me, yet,” starts off Randeep, pulling up a chair right next to me, “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Even then, Randeep’s changed demeanour is evident. I remind him of our first cover shoot with him, prior to the release of Highway and Kick. He was tempered, reckless and impatient. Since then, he has had four releases, two of which became blockbusters, and most importantly, made him a household name. But he rubbishes my claim. “Nothing’s changed for me honestly,” he says, as he back-brushes his hair into a sleek do, “I don’t oscillate too much.” Then, he contradicts himself in his dark chocolatelike voice, “But I guess, I’m getting wiser with time. The more you work, the more people you meet, the more exposure you get. It’s a simple process.” But what exactly made him a people’s person, I pester him. “Well, I’m getting paid a bit more,” pat comes the reply.
Clearly, he is enjoying the new found success. After all, he has slogged his bottom off over a decade to come this far. His infamous anger when we last met was a reflection of a disquietude he harboured within himself. “D came in 2005 and now it’s 2015, that’s 10 years of people telling me, ‘ You haven’t got your dues’ or ‘ You’re the most underrated actor,’ or whatever it is that they say. They are saying it from the outside, so then you can imagine what I must be feeling inside,” he adds, carefully mincing his words, taking short pauses in between. “What I fear the most is achieving less. My goals were never so little as to reach only to where I’m now, I have bigger goals and I’m focused enough to achieve them.”
n a nutshell, Randeep is a classic case study for a men’s magazine. He is a self-made actor, who has lived through the underbelly of Bollywood to reach mid-levels of stardom. That he makes men and women equally horny is a bonus. Ask him what makes him the man that he is, he shoots, “Well, my goals and my approach towards them makes me what I am.” He claptraps all the gloss and goes back to basics. “Women and whiskey...they don’t make you a man. A sense of responsibility makes you a man, being a man of his words, that’s what makes you a man. Keeping your promises make you a man. Women and whiskey? They are very superficial. They come to you as a side effect once you become the man you should be.” Well said, Randeep.
But he isn’t done yet. “You have to keep darker elements in check too. Everyone feels envious at some point, but to use that to give you wings rather than wallow in it, is a challenge. But again, that’s an important part of being a man.” What about mistakes, I ask. “You can’t fill a bucket of regret and keep carrying it around, you’ve got to throw it out. And remember, all things, both good and bad, have made you what you are today.” Does that mean he regrets being a part of some senseless potboilers? “I don’t feel that one kind of movie is lesser than the other at all. Of course, there’s the art part of it. But, who gives a fuck about art? It’s a business proposition at the end of the day. You can keep the purist intact within your heart. But, you can’t force it down other people’s throats.”
Yet, Randeep has found a middle path. In his earlier interview with the magazine, he had said, “When you’re not from the industry and you’re not an ass-licking gentle cow, and when you run out of work, they spit you out like anything. I got spat out. And, the first thing that goes is your dignity. The second is self-respect. And, the third is the charm that got you the job the first time around. I think my horses have contributed to keeping all three intact for me.”
Randeep’s love for the sport can be traced to MNS Rai in Sonipat, Haryana. “It was a formative influence because that’s where I started acting and riding horses. And, many, many years later, I’m doing the same things,” he says. Besides indulging in show jumping and dressage (though he won a few zonal medals this year around, he failed at the national level. “The know-how has gotten better and therefore the overall standard of the sport has improved, and I, unfortunately, had a very busy year with my movies, which left me with little time to upgrade myself on this”), he also owns a polo team. “I wanted to call my team something else, but ‘Royal Roosters’ is the closest I could get to!” he bursts out laughing at his clever innuendo.
Randeep hails from a small town of Rohtak, Haryana. After being a part of some productions in his school, he briefly migrated to Melbourne in Australia, and then returned to India and began modelling and acting in theatre. He soon found himself in the Mira Nair film, Monsoon Wedding, where he met his future mentor, Naseeruddin Shah. He shadowed Shah for half a decade, as he felt he needed more exposure. “I was lost—looking for approval and really trying to apply what I’d learnt. I was very earnest, going to all these workshops with Naseer bhai across the country.”
Concurrent with his low-profile time was his high-profile relationship with Sushmita Sen. In his interview to The Times of India, he said, “When I was seeing Sush, I never talked about it. She did. I talk about her now because this was so long ago. I did feel it was delaying my own recognition in some way and taking a lot of energy and focus away from my own career. But, in hindsight, it happens only when it has to happen.”
So, on a parting note, I ask him, how he would describe himself, in an attempt to summarise this man of varied interests and varying layers. “I’m a very volatile person,” he is quick to respond, “And most of the time preoccupied with too many things on my plate. Aside from that, I’m a simple man with simple needs and some goals to achieve.” Does love figure into the larger scheme of things? “Well,” he finally speaks after a long poetic pause, “I just need someone calm around me. Someone with positive energy and a warm nurturing quality. And somebody I can hang out and have a conversation with. Someone I can sleep next to, peacefully. And that’s the woman I’d be looking for.”
ON THE TABLE—BELT: PRIA KATAARIA PURI; YASMINA—CORSET & LAMIE PANTY: SWAPNIL SHINDE; EARRINGS, BELT & RING: AE TEE DESIGNS CAROLINE—SWIMSUIT: NIDHI MUNIM; BELT: KARAN MALHOTRA; WEDGES: LIFESTYLE; SAHAR—BIKINI: NIDHI MUNIM; EARRINGS, CUFF & BELT: AE TEE DESIGNS; WEDGES: LIFESTYLE; LOCATION: ARK, COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT