Randeep Hooda is a Bollywood powerhouse. He was the co-star with Salman Khan in 2014’s second highest grossing Indian movie – Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kick. He has been in many other major Bollywood films, including his first big role in Ram Gopal Varma’s gritty gangster movie D. He made his debut in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. The Indian movie that was a turning point for his career was the super hit and critic’s favorite Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, directed by Milan Luthria. Randeep won the Lion’s Gold Award for Best Supporting Actor for that film. This was followed by the acclaimed hit Highway that launched at the Venice Film Festival.
In Beeba Boys, Randeep plays Jeet Johar, the leader of the Beeba Boys gang and is the center of the movie and was the most important casting decision for Deepa. She was reminded of Randeep’s enormous on screen charisma by her mother Vimla Mehta, a discerning movie fan. She then met with Randeep a few times in New Delhi and he convinced her with his amazing mix of intense talent, raw star appeal (or as Deepa says “his cheekbones”), his intelligence, and his relentless work ethic… all needed for Jeet’s complex, conflicted character. As well as his impressive list of Bollywood film credits, Randeep is a long – time member of the Mumbai theatre group Motley, founded by legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah, whom Randeep calls his ”mentor”.
This is Randeep’s first major role in a North American film, and to prepare to play the leader of a Canadian Indo gang Randeep spent time in Vancouver hanging out with real-life (anonymous) Sikh gangsters and meeting with some of the families.
Like many of his fellow actors in Beeba Boys Randeep is involved in fundraising and speaking out on social issues; two projects close to his heart are an anti-suicide initiative for young people, and an anti-poverty campaign. Randeep studied (Masters in Business) and worked at any kind of job in Australia for five years before becoming an actor. In 2009 he spoke about the racial discrimination faced by Indians in Australia and concluded, “the point is to get tough inside out, play a sport other than cricket, have heart and stand up in unity and say, ‘we’ll not take shit’.” That could be a mantra for the Beeba Boys, except for the cricket. Since he was a teenager Randeep has been a competitive athlete, particularly polo and show jumping. He won the Dressage Silver Medal at the 2009 Equestrian Federation of India. To relax during the arduous shoot of Beeba Boys he helped train some of the crew’s children – young enthusiastic riders…and sometimes he just rode alone in the magnificent Canadian autumn countryside.
I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Randeep during his time at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival where Beeba Boys made its world premiere. The morning before the premiere, Randeep talked to me about his choice to make his North American debut in a Deepa Mehta film, the complex subtleties of his character Jeet and the underlying messages of racism which he hopes the film as a whole can tackle and breakdown.