Randeep Hooda: Riding High!

HELLO! meets the hunky actor and sportsman at his favourite turf, the Gurgaon Polo and Equestrian Club, which he launched to promote riding and polo. Randeep talks to us about his love for horses, movies and life as it unfolds ahead of his 40th next year.8

His sharp features and deep brown eyes give him an instant edge. As an actor, they are accessories that have come in handy for all those intense roles we have seen him in. When he speaks, he does so with a self-assured air. But when Randeep Hooda is on his horse riding away with unbridled freedom, he is nothing else but all MAN!

All other attributes come to naught as the horse and the horseman merge in a seamless, beautiful and bold identity. Randeep’s macho image is intrinsic to him. He is a true-to- life adventurer and sportsman. He has para- motored, jumped off cliffs – even leaped off a cliff on a bicycle! Yet he says that riding a horse is the closest he’s felt to touching nirvana.

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“People say they practice yoga and meditation to empty their minds. I feel riding does the same to me. It empties my mind. It’s a meditative experience for me. Being on a horse also teaches you leadership with empathy. Riding brings my faculties alive. I find myself centred when I am riding – there is no awareness of anything else – no mobile phones and no distractions!” explains Randeep.

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He feels riding should be a compulsory sport for all – stating his love for the sport in a single sentence.

Relaxing with his horses at the club, which he started along with polo player, Col. Tarun Sirohi, Randeep shares his plans.

“This club is my way of giving back to society. These days, children and their parents are busy on their mobile phones and laptops – it’s a generation that does not get time to enjoy nature”

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The club is turning out to be more than just a sports hub. In fact, a drive to try and bring people closer to nature and to an active, healthy life is also transforming into a place for rehabilitating battered animals.

Randeep has now adopted horses that were rescued from a Delhi farmhouse in a state of sheer neglect and malnutrition.

Is he turning activist next?

“I don’t want to take up causes and start a publicity drive for myself. I am happy to collaborate with people and contribute wherever I can. Whenever I take up something I find myself asking, ‘Am I doing this to truly make a difference or am I doing this for publicity.’ I don’t want to take up issues just for the sake of doing it as a good PR exercise,” he says in all earnestness.

His love for Polo traces back to his earlier years in school. The swimmer turned into actor and polo player expresses his love for both and is proud of what he does to date.

He tells it like it is. No fuss. No embellishment. In many ways, he’s unlike an actor. He shuns the dandy’s part and one doesn’t find streaks of narcissism that film actors are prone to.

Once he’s ready for the shoot, he doesn’t care about mirrors and make-up. No combs and no powder puffs for him. He relies on the photographer during the shoot and doesn’t bother checking on his angles. He’s clearly comfortable in his own skin and basic raw appeal. There is a Zen- like aura around him as he goes about his life without having to make a point of making his presence felt. So what is it that makes him so secure?

Are there any vulnerabilities or fears that he tucks behind that care-a-damn façade?

“There is no bravado without fear. Every time there is a movie release I wonder about what people will have to say – whether they will think ‘Oh Randeep can’t act or am I going to make a mockery out of myself?!’ There are these kinds of fears. But you’ve got to trust yourself and the key is to keep trying. I’d like to try anything in life,” he says, summing it all up philosophically.

The last few years have been busy for Randeep – Highway, Rang Rasiya, Main Aur Charles – have seen him in varied avatars and now he’s gearing up for Sarabjit, also losing a significant amount of weight for the role. “I feel lucky I have had such a variety,” he affirms.

Between movies and riding, his hands are pretty full and despite being one of Bollywood’s sexiest bachelors he says,

“There is no time for a third angle. I am enjoying my singlehood. I feel fine being single. There is so much happening right now that by the time I am home, it’s already time to hit the bed.”

At 39, he is in a space where he knows what he is doing and he’s doing a helluva lot. “This is a great time in my life,” he says calmly. “I am comfortable with myself.”

Does he look forward to being naughty at 40?

“In some ways, I’ll always be 80 and in some ways I’ll always be four! For now, I think maybe I should stop being naughty at 40!,” he finishes, finally revealing a sense of humour, which he had been keeping safely to himself. The lone rider galloping into the sunrise? For now, that is the ‘picture!’6

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