39-year-old Randeep Hooda surprised everyone by building himself up as a martial arts fighter for Do Lafzon Ki Kahani at 95 kg and then starving and losing 30 kg in three months for Sarbjit in quick succession.SANGEETA YADAV talks to the actor and his fitness team about the big transformation a meticulous Hooda went through to sculpt his body to suit the roles
With exaggerated swagger, Hooda calls himself an extremist. You believe him after Sarbjit for which he went to the extreme and lost virtually all his fat cells. His doctor sister, who was his crash diet advisor for this period, tells you how cranky her brother had become for those days. But she also tells you that losing 18 kg a month is no mean achievement, especially when all the health parameters being kept in check.
“For Do Lafzon Ki Kahani (DLKK), I went through rigorous body building training and weighted 95 kg. The transformation in DLKK was far harder than Sarbjit as I was trying to learn the new skill of martial arts, lift more weights and stay motivated. I did an extreme workout and went on a diet for six months for this film. I used to tell my gym instructor I’m too tired to move, just give me a corner to lie down and then I would pass out for two hours. My body used to ache and I could hardly move. But never broke my schedule. I would pop painkillers and start my workout again,” Hooda tells you.
Hooda was not sure whether he would be able to get the emaciated body required for playing Sarbjit. But he worked hard at not eating and staving off resultant issues like depression and irritation.
“I have been trying to do something as challenging as that ever since I started my career,” Hooda says, lounging lazily in a chair at a posh hotel in Delhi.
Not that the struggle has been short or easy.
“During the initial days of my career, nobody paid attention to my work. I used to wish that somebody would take notice of me. People noticed only when I tried to do something different. But actually I am just trying to be myself. Post Highway, things slowly turned for the better,” Hooda says.
Sculpting bodies to suit the roles is not an easy task but Hooda has been lucky to get the right men for the job. To train Hooda in martial arts, Irfan Khan aka Inferno, a professional mixed martial arts fighter with the Super Fight League (SFL) representing India, was enrolled. Khan has trained actors like Shahid Kapoor for Udta Punjab and others like Zarine Khan, Niketan Dheer and Kushal Tandon at his academy Fight Elite MMA in Mumbai. But this was the first time that Khan and Hooda choreographed a fight scene for DLKK which looks more real than SFL.
“Randeep knew a little bit of boxing and kicking but to correct his form he needed flexibility, endurance and grace. I took moves from my real fights. He didn’t have to build a six or eight pack body but needed a natural physique of a martial arts fighter. The good thing about Randeep is that he is at peace with his body. The challenge was how to make him look big and lean and, at the same time, weigh 95 kg, that too within six months,” Khan tells you.
Randeep gave two hours every morning for martial arts training and two in the evening for weight building, the latter being managed by Mansoor Syed. Once a week, we would get rest and that’s when he would sleep through the day and much of the night.
Syed, who has trained actors like Vir Das, Ekta Kapoor and others, played a vital role in Hooda’s weight building. On a high protein diet, Hooda was led from low intensity weight building to high intensity.
“Everyday, he had to take 700 gm chicken and it is not possible for anyone to chew the whole day. So we decided to juice the chicken by blending it in boiled water. Hooda used to gulp that down. He used to mix protein shakes with curd and have a lot of salads. Everyday, he was made to work on one body part,” Syed recalls.
Hooda was adamant that he would build his body the natural way. He would not agree to steroids. He took natural supplements like fish oil, amino acids and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) which are like electral.
“To build a strong internal core, he had to cut down on smoking and quit alcohol. The most important thing was pre-workout and post-workout meals. In between, we scheduled frequent small meals. Since he was doing heavy weights, to balance his body language, we made him do a lot of stretches,” Khan elaborates.
It was a difficult regimen and there were times when Hooda felt down and out.
“Sometimes he would say ‘bro it’s not possible today.’ But we would persuade him as a break would have undone all the hard work. An avid horse lover who cannot be without visiting his stud farm twice a week, Hooda could not go even once to visit his horses for two months, such was the training schedule. For Randeep, that was a huge sacrifice,” Khan recalls.
In the rigorous process, Hooda also got injured and was in severe pain.
“I broke four-five bones in my body and had been in perpetual pain. I had a ligament tear on my knee and was on-off from training for three-four days. My body took a whole lot of beating last year. I am 39 years old and it is not easy to put on muscle. It would have been very easy if I would have been 25,” Hooda says.
Then came Sarbjit and all the flab and muscle acquired for DLKK had to be shed to emaciation. From being 95 kg to coming down to 65, losing 30 kg was not the healthiest thing to do. But Hooda took up the challenge and so much so that not just him but his entire family went into a tizzy.
“It was only my willpower that took me through. My sister Anjali Sangwan, an internal medicine, metabolism, hormonal replacement and post bariatric and obesity medicine expert, transformed me. She monitored my weight loss but sometimes I did not listen even to her and went to not-eating extremes which I should not have done. I became like a zombie. I could zone out and used to just lie in one spot for days,” Hooda tells you.
When he told his sister that he had to lose 30kg in three months, she convulsed.
“I didn’t think he would go that far. I thought it would not be more than a 10kg loss a month. Then he pushed it further. We planned a zero workout no activity schedule with a low calorie diet. His diet was changed depending on how he felt each day. If felt low, I would add some fruit or dates. He had only three things to eat in a day which was either protein shake, chicken or fish or yogurt. Cheat-outs were allowed during which he was given ice cream once or twice a month. It was infuriating to see him going to the extreme and ignoring advice. If I told him to take 500 calories, he would take much lower just to see if how it feels. Sometimes, for the entire day, he would be on a cup of coffee and an apple and tell me that he wasn’t hungry. I was so scared that if anything happened to him my dad would kill me,” Sangwan says.
In a month, Hooda lost 18 kg. She made him develop the habit of slow eating and no socialisation.
“We practised a lot of slow eating and used to count 25 to chew one bite. He had to cut down on his social life completely to prevent unhealthy food and drinks. I remember when we went to Salman Khan’s birthday party, his pants were so loose that he had to wear two jackets and two pants to look normal. Everybody was shocked at his weight loss. He would just point the finger at me and say ‘isne kiya hai’,” she recalls.
Besides the starvation, it was the emotional fallout of Sarbjit which was harder to deal with. Not only was this physically tough but mentally very disturbing for Hooda.
“Everybody around me lost their marbles, including me. I was irritated and tired all the time and kept snapping at people around me. I was losing weight but they were suffering. I always feel grateful to my family, friends and team who stood by me. My success is more my team’s success,” Hooda says.
All this was made more difficult by the fact that Hooda had had a kidney stone operation.
“While shooting for Beeba Boys in Canada in 2014-2015, Randeep was detected with stones in the kidney and had to be operated upon. In so much weight loss, stones are formed in the body so we put him on a high water diet. Protein requirement was calculated every day and he was put through weekly blood tests to make sure that we were not damaging any part of his body,” Sangwan says.
Now that he looks back, Hooda feels that he has achieved a Herculean task.
“That’s where my life and career revolved around. I starved myself to almost death with Sarbjit and I ate myself to death with Do Lafzon Ki Kahani,” he remembers with a laugh. During DLKK, Hooda’s fridge was bursting at the seams with fatty meats and during Sarbjit even the opening the door of the fridge was music to his ears. “Now I eat whatever I like. I have been so disciplined the entire last year that I just want to take a dip in the Ferrero Rocher pool,” Hooda says.
In April, Hooda fainted on the sets of Sultan and had to be hospitalised with a minor surgery. To bring him back to normalcy, Sangwan adopted a safe and slow process.
“We had to slowly bring him back. You can’t load a starved person with food. He can get re-feeding syndrome which is a metabolic complication occurring when nutritional support is given to severely malnourished patients. He used to eat half chapatti and little bit of carbohydrates. Even if he had a craving he couldn’t eat due to lack of appetite. It took us 15 days to bring him back to a normal diet,” Sangwan says.
It was difficult, this entire regime but Randeep is no quitter. It is hard to survive in Bollywood but he has, Sangwan says with pride.
“I give his example to my children,”she says.
Hooda gives credit to his sister for sowing the seed of acting in him but she insists it was always his passion.
“He used to see me doing theatre in school. He didn’t get too many roles himself but that did not dim his passion for acting. We saw a lot of movies when we were abroad during 1995-2000. In our two-month holiday, we would rent 100 VHS cassettes of Bollywood and Hollywood films. There are two films which he saw many times: Good Bad and Ugly and Gulaami,” Sangwan says.
In 2000, Hooda returned to India and started modeling. He got a small role in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding in 2001 where he met Naseeruddin Shah who brought a big turning point to his life.
“Naseeruddin Shah was kind enough to tolerate me in his theatre group Motley Productions which has been the basis of all my experimentation and learning. No work of mine is complete without him watching it and sharing his critique,” Hooda tells you.
It was Ram Gopal Varma who spotted his talent and decided to launch him in the industry with his film titled D in 2005.
“Ramuji took me out of nowhere. He used to pay me Rs 35,000 a month to just sit at home for three years in the prime of my youth so that I didn’t do any other film. He wanted to launch me as Deshu in D. I got cast in many of his films, some of it never being made. Coming from a small town, my dream was to be an actor and play a gangster which got fulfilled with D,” Hooda says.
It was in Jannat 2 that his alcoholic character left a grave impact on him.
“I was never an alcoholic and didn’t like alcohol before I played an alcoholic in Jannat 2. For this film, I would drink the whole day. Once the shoot got over, somebody pointed out to me that I was drinking from 7 in the morning. I told myself I had to stop it,” Hooda confesses.
But it was Lal Rang that’s his favourite film.
“The character of Shankar is similar to what I was during my college days, a carefree person before corruption kind of set in. It was an exceptional film that took me back to my ethnicity. I was speaking Haryanvi and playing a jat,” Hooda tells you.
In his days of struggle, Hooda kept up the bread and butter doing odd jobs like working in a Chinese restaurant, car washing, and being a taxi driver.
“I worked as a cab driver for three years in the night shift to earn extra money during my graduation days in Melbourne. When I was having a low phase in my acting career from 2008 till 2011, I was so broke that I sold everything even the utensils, appliances, TV, car everything. Only asset I didn’t sell was my horses. I was borrowing money. It was a terrible time in my life,” he recalls.
There was a time when he couldn’t afford basic necessities for living.
“I still remember when I got a special appearance in Homi Adajania’s Cocktail (2012) and we had to go London for the shoots, I was so broke that I couldn’t even afford a McDonald’s burger,” Hooda tells you.
All through, there was no one to advise him on his career.
“It was all me and my friend who is now my manager Panchali Chakraborty with whom I debated a lot about roles and films. The hardest part of being an actor is to get a job. We might be talented but not getting a role kills you,” Hooda says.
The flip side of being a newbie was that Hooda had nothing to lose in considering a wide range of script in which he could afford a hatke role.
“With too much guidance, I would have lost out on beautiful scripts, characters and human experiences. I have learnt more through my movies than in school,” he says.
But Sangwan feels the industry requires career counsellors, especially for people like Hooda who leave everything and come to Mumbai to become an actor.
“Surviving in Mumbai is tough. The industry should appoint people to guide freshers who can tackle issues like physical transformation, depression due to no work, dealing with stardom and stalker fans,” Sangwan argues.
As for Hooda, he prefers to stick to his roots.
“You can take a boy out of Rohtak but not Rohtak out of a boy,” he tells you.
Being brought up by his grandmother and having lived a hostel life, Hooda feels he is still in a hostel.
“As a toddler, I used to travel as my parents used to live in Libya and Iraq. When I used to go to them from Delhi, I would have a tag on my T-shirt which said “unaccompanied”. If I would get lost, I had the same note in every pocket of every garment that I carried. I am still an accompanied child,” Hooda says.
Marriage though is still not for him.
“Why would I make one woman’s life miserable when I can make so many more happier,” he asks you with a twinkle in his eye. “I might be an unaccompanied child but not a lonely soul. I have a career as a professional Equestrian, I own a polo team and a polo club called Gurgaon Polo Equestrian Club. I am busy with a movies career. My life’s a charm,” Hooda concludes.
You cannot agree more.
(The article got published in The Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/special/the—transformer.html)