The many hoods of Randeep Hooda

A look back at the journey of the multitalented actor

Cinema

August 20, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

The many hoods of Randeep Hooda

Randeep Hooda is known for his offbeat films and special aptitude for playing brooding, intense characters

Randeep Hooda, who turns 45 today, is known for his versatile range of films, from period romance hero to violent gangster. He has worked with some of the most renowned directors in the Indian film industry, such as Ram Gopal Varma and Imtiaz Ali.

Randeep Hooda is known in the film industry particularly for his penchant for choosing offbeat films. Although these sometimes prove to be box-office bombs, he has undoubtedly made a name for himself with a collection of super hits, as one of India’s most talented actors, with a special aptitude for playing brooding, intense characters.

Upon his return from Australia after completing his postgraduate degree, Hooda engaged in some modelling jobs and theatre productions before getting his break. He made his Hindi film debut with a small role in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001) which, though a huge hit both commercially and critically, did not garner him much recognition, and he waited for years before landing a leading role in Ram Gopal Varma’s film D (2005). Admiring his performance as a gangster seeking revenge, noted critic Taran Adarsh wrote, “[Randeep] changes his expressions like a chameleon changes colours and that’s where he scores.”

In 2010, Hooda played a police officer in the hit action drama Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, a turning point in his career as it earned him huge praise and even comparisons to superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s screen presence. Whereas he had to struggle for roles earlier, Hooda said in an interview that the film “brought me back in a big way. Now other directors and production houses look at me as an actor who can carry bigger parts and a longer screen presence.”

The next year, he had another acclaimed performance as a gangster in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s romantic thriller Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, which one critic wrote was the “best character of his career so far.” Hooda showed audiences his impressive versatility in his role as the Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma in Ketan Mehta’s erotic drama Rang Rasiya (2014), a marked shift in genre from his previous, often more serious films. Speaking about this decision, Hooda said “Raja sahib had said that the deepest desire of every artist is to get across to as many people as possible. Niche is something which we put upon ourselves…I want to have a mass reach.”

Hooda also starred in Highway in 2014, which was possibly when he burst onto the mainstream movie scene, alongside Alia Bhatt. Although the Imtiaz Ali creation was seen by many as a film where Bhatt proved her acting prowess, Hooda’s role as kidnapper Mahavir Bhati stood out due to his nuanced portrayal and authentic Haryanvi accent and won him a Star Dust award for Best Actor. The film was also screened at the Berlin International Film Festival.

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Hooda and Hemsworth face off in this action-packed scene from Extraction

He made a successful Hollywood debut in the action-thriller Extraction (2020), which starred Chris Hemsworth. Set in Bangladesh, the film follows a mercenary who tries to rescue an Indian drug lord’s son who is kidnapped. Extraction, noted for its cleverly filmed long-shot sequences and violent action scenes, became Netflix’s most-watched original film ever, with the Russo brothers announcing they were working on a sequel as well as an origin story for Hooda’s character Saju.

Aside from his versatile acting capabilities, Hooda is also known for his love of horse riding, and regularly participates in equestrian sport competitions like polo and show jumping. A passion that began as a child, he first competed professionally after filming D and at one point owned 8 horses, kept at a racecourse in Mumbai. He has won numerous medals at competitions, including 3 gold medals at the National Equestrian Championship in 2014.

He is also a dedicated animal and environmental activist and has championed for preserving biodiversity, protesting against deforestation and often reaching out to the government about wildlife conservation efforts. In 2019, he tweeted about India’s unsafe railway structure that had caused the deaths of many elephants, later saying “With local knowledge and wildlife experts who are genuinely working for a cause, we can ensure a safe environment for the animals. Since animals follow the same path told to them by their forefathers, they are not aware of development. So, it’s our responsibility to not create a hindrance for them.”

As Hooda turns 45, his fans can look forward to seeing him in two upcoming releases in 2021: Radhe and Unfair & Lovely opposite Ileana D’Cruz, which has been described as a social satire on Indian society’s obsession with fairness.

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