By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Mumbai, June 4 (IANS) He doesn't mind being called a Ram Gopal Varma product or Sushmita Sen's boyfriend because Randeep Hooda is confident of carving his own distinct identity in Bollywood.
The star of Varma's new film "D" that released Friday is often called cocky by those who see him from the outside. But at heart he is just a dreamer from a small town wanting to be recognised as a good actor.
"When I first played a role in Mira Nair's 'Monsoon Wedding' I didn't know anything about acting. It was a shot in the dark... Actually 'D' is many shots in the dark... considering it's a gangster film," Randeep told IANS in an interview.
He continues: "Seriously I suspected I was a good actor, though I didn't know it during 'Monsoon Wedding'. Now I realise the more I learn the less I know about acting... and life."
The wait between "Monsoon..." and "D" was agonising. "But these five years also gave me a chance to better myself. I've been working with Naseeruddin Shah in theatre, done three Urdu plays in four years.
"I taught at the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) and I also learnt to play the flute."
Then he speaks about what is perhaps the touchy aspect of Randeep's life - being called Sushmita Sen's boyfriend.
"It has never bothered me, really. I don't pay attention to what people call me. What people say doesn't affect my life. Today I live my life as I did 10 years ago. Hopefully 10 years from now I'll be doing the things I want to do.
"I never had a problem being called a Naseeruddin Shah protégé, a Ram Gopal Varma product or Sushmita Sen's friend. I always knew I'd have my own identity."
But he wouldn't mind working with Sushmita, "provided it's a good film or role."
And what are his plans for the future?
"I'll take it as it comes. I want to experiment with every genre of cinema. My job as an actor will remain unchanged."
Randeep thinks hard. "I waited so long because I know how important the launch is for a newcomer in our cinema. In this matter I want to play by their rules. Like Ramu I believe audiences can be entertained without going into the rut.
"My vast demographic experience - I come from Rohtak and live in Mumbai - gives me an insight into the working of all kinds of minds. I do believe I'm equipped to be an actor."
Randeep's mentor Varma loves to talk about how he discovered the actor and asked him to make himself a Varma exclusive.
Smilingly Randeep retorts: "Well, he says the same thing about Mohit Ahlawat, so you can believe what you like. We're both from Rohtak, so the myths are interchangeable... And before you ask, there's absolutely no sense of competition with Mohit.
"We're friends. He's being prepared more to be the mainstream masala actor whereas I'm more an actor's actor."
In the Naseer mould?
"No! I've learnt a lot from him. He's a lovely man. But Naseer and I are poles apart. I just aspire to be Randeep Hooda. In fact I'd love to do what Mohit is doing in his launch film 'James'.
"I'd love to kick ass, punch the goons and watch them fly in the midair. But my film 'D' is about mental violence. It's more 'Satya' than 'Mission Impossible'. It's a realistic film. I hope it gives me an image that's all my own."
He talks about his role in "D".
"I play a guy who chooses the underworld as a profession, and not because his father was murdered or his sister was raped. I've been truthful about the portrayal. Done the best I could. But now I could go back and do it differently all over again. Now I'm doing another film, 'Shock', directed by G.G. Philips. I'm the shock element in the film."
And is he getting butterflies in the stomach about how "D" will fare?
"I'm really not nervous. I've gone through the process of the acting in theatre. I've done my best. What happens now is not in my hands. If you have life's experiences with you nothing can stop you from being a competent actor."