A Film’s Story is the Real Hero: Randeep Hooda & Swara Bhaskar

Randeep Hooda and Swara Bhaskar share their filmi journey with Bhawana Somaaya

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A Film’s Story is the Real Hero: Randeep Hooda & Swara Bhaskar
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Two films released last week, both on social awareness starring two exceptional actors- Laal Rang about illegal blood banks and Nil Battey Sannatta about education. I met up with both the actors Randeep Hooda and Swara Bhaskar separately and discovered that they have more in common than just their passion for cinema. Both are outsiders to Mumbai. Randeep is from Rohtak, Haryana while Swara is from Delhi.

Randeep Hooda in a scene from Laal Rang

Both are educated and both from theatre. In films, Randeep made his debut in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001), Swara was launched in Listen Aamaya (2013).

In their journey of struggle, while Hooda brushed shoulders with Ajay Devgn (Once Upon A Time in Mumbai), director Imtiaaz Ali (Highway) and Salman Khan (Kick); Bhaskar negotiated space with Yash Raj Films (Aurangzeb), Kangana Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu Returns) and Sonam Kapoor (Prem Ratan Dhan Payo).

Both continued to experiment with characters and genres and earned reputation as versatile artistes. Over to Hooda and Bhaskar, who though sharing different experiences, speak in one voice:

Swara Bhaskar in a scene from Nil Battey Sannata

Q: An actor’s career is determined by choices, how do you choose your roles?

Randep Hooda: Out of the 30 odd films that I have done so far, 15 have been with a new writer, banner or filmmaker. When I say ‘yes’ to a film, I take into consideration that I will spend the next eight to ten months with the team and have to feel comfortable about it. I have to feel challenged by the script, my role, because I get bored if I have to play mundane roles, and therefore refuse so many films. Earlier people did not understand, but slowly I have built a reputation based on my accumulated performances, which includes films like Laal Rang as my persona.

Swara Bhaskar: Sometimes the role seeks the actor and sometimes, the actor chooses the role. In the commercial for tea for instance, the brand chose me. In the case of Nil Battey Sannata the casting director Mukesh Chabbra, who is also a friend, sent me the script and I made a choice. It wasn’t easy. I was initially offended that I was being considered for the role of the mother and warned that it will automatically put me in an older bracket. But once I read the script and met my director Ashwini, I had no doubts in my mind. I was all charged for the challenge.

Randeep Hooda in a scene from Laal Rang

Q: In your opinion what prevents an actor from reaching the top bracket? Is it the lack of a killer instinct?

RH: There is no lack of killer instinct most certainly in my work. It probably evaporates in the process of promotion, because I’m not comfortable with the publicity game and I shy away from it, which is often misunderstood for arrogance. An actor is the last cog in the wheel of the creative process, and by the time I get acquainted with my character, other artistes, the writers and the composers have already delivered. And unless I believe in their voice, I cannot deliver with conviction! Yet, when the product is ready, everyone is ignored and only the actor is pushed ahead, which is grossly unfair to the product.

SB: I know there’s no lack of confidence when it comes to my craft and I also know that when the camera rolls, I will deliver my best, which is our training in theatre. The problem is never the character. The problem I feel is fitting into the inner circle of mainstream cinema. Somehow, no matter how hard you try, you always remain an outsider. It is a feeling difficult to describe, and no matter how well adjusted you become, the feeling persists.

Swara Bhaskar in a scene from Nil Battey Sannata

Q: Is it because our cinema is excessively star-centric?

RH: It is also clan centric, unlike sports where a player is judged on the basis of results, here we are judged not on our performance but on the basis of opinions. And opinions are influenced, manipulated. My film Charles aur Main was a loser at the box-office, but is very strong on the net. But there is no mention of it. Similarly I’ve received praise for my performance in Laal Rang, but there’s no buzz around it. So one has to carry on without losing hope.

SB: There is a dichotomy actually. The big banners sign you because they want a good artiste. Yet I know, I’ve had to struggle on so many occasions to get noticed – not by demanding but by delivering, where by the filmmaker is forced to shoot my close up and retain it in an important scene for me to get eyeballs. In their favour I will say that a successful film like Tanu Weds Manu gets a character like me noticed, and for that I will be grateful to Aanand Rai forever.

(Bhawana Somaaya has been writing on cinema for 30 years and is the author of 12 books. Twitter- @bhawanasomaaya)

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Topics:  Randeep Hooda   Swara Bhaskar   Laal Rang 

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