I have not understood this beast called Bollywood: Randeep Hooda

The last few years may have been disappointing for the actor. Randeep Hooda professionally, but a quieter and more confident Hooda has emerged from him. Well armed with several acting projects now, including a movie with Salman Khan , another with the heartbreaker of Hollywood Chris Hemsworth , the actor of Highway, who has just completed Love aaj kal 2 with Imtiaz Ali He says he is in a better space than when he said no to many projects while preparing for his role as Havildar Ishar Singh For the movie Battle of Saragarhi , which was never done, and the role was later played by Akshay Kumar in Kesari. Mention the movie to Hooda and he just smiles and shrugs. But Randeep says that the preparation for the role made him deepen much in Sikhism and made him self-introspective, which has caused a remarkable change in his thinking and life. On his recent visit to Lucknow, the Kick actor talked about the other side of the movie that is not being done and how it really worked for him. Lately you have been doing a lot of social work like feeding people affected by the floods in Kerala, cleaning the beach in Mumbai, etc.

I feel you have to go out into the world to feed the actor inside you. And I feel that when I do something for a greater good, which is not connected personally or directly with me, I feel better with myself because I think it is a sense of contribution.

Also, my interest in Sikhism has brought me many changes. I guess you just discover what's inside of you. That's what happened to me (laughs). I enjoy it and it is very enriching. And when you go to these places and meet these people, there is a sense of reality that hits you. It is a more normal type of environment that I like to enter and I think everything is connected and was meant for me, I guess.

Randeep says his love for animals surpasses everything (BCCL/ @RandeepHooda) Randeep says his love for animals surpasses everything (BCCL/@ RandeepHooda)

But what triggered this feeling of service? I started doing it while preparing for Battle of Saragarghi. Because I saw in the Sikh community their sense of seva which goes beyond just the langar that people see. When I worked with them, I realized what it is when you go and wash dishes in a gurudwara or put people’s footwear away and it’s then that you feel it’s all so humbling. It’s so full of humility and brings in such a sense of service and purpose along with a sense of pride in you in doing whatever it is. So I think it started from there and I would like it to continue. It makes you feel of some worth. There is a sense of peace within me. I have a more of a lightness in being. I have spent a lot of time in my life unable to recognize this angst within me. Anger that I always carried and I couldn’t figure out. What led to it, I don’t know; maybe a series of experiences which lead to that. Ones which probably I’m not aware of. Maybe from my childhood or the teens or my youth. But I carried a lot of angst in me which I used in my art also. But then you get what you beget. So now I’m in a lighter way and it’s making me feel more free, a better human being and also a better actor, I hope!

How has your entire professional life impacted?

Maybe now you will see me in lighter roles now. Maybe this energy will attract those kind of films for me now. There have been times when I’ve pushed the boundaries in changing myself for a certain character in a film. I did a bit of that in Rang Rasiya, Risk, and I think Main Aur Charles was the first attempt to really alter yourself, then for Sarbjit I got caught up a lot in changing myself not just mentally but physically too. But for Saragarhi I really went overboard. And I think that has stayed with me because it was such a noble yet flawed character. But whatever good you can retain from it, it’s fine. But I can walk away from all of it now. I’m trying that, so let’s see. But you’ve got to come back and that’s what my friend Adil Husain told me while we were doing ...Charles. His guru in Hampi, I think, told him that it (any work) should not be able to affect you and that’s the first time I thought of it and then do things. So I don’t really know. I’m still looking for myself and trying to do what I like best. Trying to recognize what you like, dislike, what you love more than other things is the journey of life and the more you understand it, the more you love life and I’m loving my life.

 Randeep Hooda  (BCCL/ Farhan Ahmad Siddiqui) Randeep Hooda (BCCL/Farhan Ahmad Siddiqui)

Battle of Saragarhi , to which you dedicated two years of your life, never got made. Was it disappointing for you?

It is not disappointing, but it was a changing experience. And it's not like I'm putting on a mask, but I didn't do it for that. I grew my hair, beard and other things, but I did it for my own satisfaction and to test my own limits. Seeing that everyone wants recognition and the fact that people are talking is recognition in itself. I don't need someone to stand up and give me a memory for that. I know where I was missing more than anyone and I will try to improve it if I have another chance. So yes, it was not disappointing that the film was never made, but it has greatly added to my personality. The highway was another changing experience. That was very distressing. That was a long time ago and now I'm thinking about how I can be healthier. I wake up early and sleep early. Rather now I wake up when I used to sleep! (laughs) Those are the things that worry me the most now than what happened to me a few years ago.

He has also spent a lot of time in nature and in the forests.

Yes! Every time I go to the jungle, I feel that there is a call within me to be there. As soon as I go to the jungle, life makes sense. Evolution makes sense! If you want to look deeper into yourself, you must spend time in nature. It makes you look deep within yourself and gives you a feeling of timelessness and makes you aware of the fact that you are really a very, very, very small part of this evolution. These social networks, telephone, WhatsApp and all the rigmarole of what is happening in the world and then you go to the jungle and everything does not matter! In the scheme of who we are in terms of time, not even a point is in the structure of the universe or even the earth that is happening. And to have a little lightness, a jungle is the best place to be. You realize that you are a very small part of the scheme, and even having a small part is huge. In order for us to make sense of ourselves, we need nature. We need these beautiful things, even to breathe we need nature.

An avid photographer, the actor loves clicking pictures of the wildlife and posts them online with hashtags #jungleehooda and #wildrandeep (BCCL/ @RandeepHooda) An avid photographer, the actor loves clicking pictures of the wildlife and posts them online with hashtags #jungleehooda and #wildrandeep (BCCL/ @RandeepHooda)

And you've been exploring the jungles all over India.

I have explored Maharashtra forest, Madhya Pradesh, a bit of UP and I’ve been to Uttarakhand and also Rajasthan. Now I want to explore the South sanctuaries. I also want to see the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary which is here close by. I’ve been told it’s in a bad shape so I want to work on that. Birds are the most fascinating and diverse creatures on earth. I wanted to go there very enthusiastically till someone told me that the lake is covered with weeds and birds are not coming there anymore. So I hope something is done to revive that. I would like to request the forest department of UP and Yogi Aditynath the Chief Minister, who I’m told is a nature lover, to please have the lake cleaned out so that the birds can come back again and rejuvenate the place. Nature rejuvenates itself, the birds will start coming in again and it will again become a beautiful place. We saw that at the Versova Beach in Mumbai with the Ridley Turtles. So just like Yogiji stopped the cutting of trees in Kishangarh, near Dudhwa for that road project, I hope he will take notice of the Nawabganj lake too and get it rejuvenated. That decision of his fantastic because it is what impacts our lives most. As long as wildlife is safe, we are safe.

Would you say Bollywood has begun to take notice of you now?

(Laughs heartily) To be honest, I’ve really not understood this beast called Bollywood. I’ve always been working. I’ve worked with almost everybody. I’ve been working in different kinds of films with different kinds of people and I have enjoyed them all. From an absolute commercial pot-boiler like Kick to doing a Sarabjeet to doing a Bombay Talkies to even doing a Charles, I’ve worked with all kinds of people and I’ve enjoyed each experience. There is a thing that you should look at. A lot of people who have been in the industry since long – very successful people – have told me that you shouldn’t change your look too often but I did just that. In the last 14-15 years I’ve been fortunate to have worked with people and I’ve loved what I’ve done. But good, if one says that Bollywood has starting to notice me. It’s high time!

However, you are not part of any group or gang as they say.

Randeep cleaning up the beach in Mumbai (BCCL/ @randeephooda) Randeep cleaning the beach in Mumbai (BCCL/@ randeephooda)

Mi pandilla es mucho más grande. Tiene tigres, leopardos, sambhars, osos y elefantes. ¡Caballos y perros también! Hermosos amigos míos que siempre están ahí para mí, excelentes padres, familia, el gran equipo with el que trabajo. ¡Soy el hombre de la pandilla! Tengo un gran grupo de amigos directores, así que soy un verdadero hombre de pandillas.

You come to Lucknow after a long gap. How was it this time?

I shot in Lucknow many years ago, I guess in 2011. I usually pass through Lucknow going to these forests in Pallia, Lakhimpur Kheri, Dudhwa. I think the heritage arc of Uttar Pradesh is one of the most beautiful. The biodiversity, rich dense forests which are still untouched. It is still one of the most beautiful places on the earth! So I think extra care should be taken to preserve it and find ways to circumvent the forest and not go inside it. And also there has to be more pressing of relocating certain villages from within the core areas of the jungle. And the government provides very good incentives for it. It will also enrich people’s lives. Yes, it’s understandable that it has been people’s homes forever, but it’s also a necessity to preserve that very thing with the consent of the people there.

But of course Lucknow is a gem in itself in terms of heritage. It’s a beautiful blend of heritage with modern. I see historical places and beside them these modern buildings. And of course, yahan ki tehzeeb, of course ab utni nahi rahi but Haryana ke hisaab se toh abhi bhi bahut hai. (laughs)