When the news of Chris Hemsworth aka Thor starring in an action-packed Netflix Original, Extraction, dropped, the world sat up and took notice. Sam Hargrave, the man credited as the stunt coordinator for several films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was going to don the director’s hat for the first time with this one. And Joe Russo, of the Russo Brothers, director of Avengers: Endgame, was going to script and produce it. Extraction had our attention.
And then came the news of Randeep Hooda being roped in for a ‘pivotal role’ in Extraction. Apprehensions about it being just a blink-and-you-miss role were natural. We’ve seen Irrfan’s Simon Masrani in Jurrasic World or Anil Kapoor’s Brij Nath in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. But as Extraction changes the stereotypical portrayal of Indians as either business tycoons or nerds, Randeep changes his persona, as it were, to fit into the role of Saju.
Saju is a parallel lead alongside Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake, a description Randeep brushes aside as “a very Indian way of saying it”. Whatever we call it, it was enough to truly put Indian actors and realistic stories from the subcontinent, that aren’t only about poverty, on the world map.
Connecting to IndiaToday.in over the phone, Randeep talks about how action is perceived in Bollywood vs Hollywood, why he rejected several Hollywood offers before Extraction, and life in lockdown. And, of course, about the Salman Khan-starrer Radhe.
Excerpts from the conversation:
You’ve said that you wanted to do an action role, so clearly Extraction was perfect in that sense. But it was clearly way more intense than what we see in Bollywood. What were the challenges as an actor?
Well, I’ve been doing Hollywood-style acting here in Bollywood for some time now (laughs), so the change wasn’t much. But certainly, the action part was very different. We practised for weeks. We attended workshops and started with the basics of holding a gun, firing a bullet, throwing a punch. First, it was done individually and then it was Chris and I and then other actors. So the preparation work is what gives the scenes the spontaneity.
In Indian movies, people don’t pay too much attention to prepping for an action scene. They just turn-up on sets, and sometimes it’s just about the star value. But Chris came for all the rehearsals. Sam was helming it (sic) as well as physically shooting it, operating the camera, jumping on top of cars, hanging from ropes to capture the scene, so that made a huge difference.
Did you come out feeling I want to do more of this or was it like enough is enough, no more, please?
Oh, I definitely want to do more. It was a bit daunting at first when they told me they will do it in a single shot and at that speed and with that intensity. I was like ‘what are you saying?’ But Sam told me ‘If you got to be an action hero you have to do this sort of thing.’ See, Extraction is not just action, but action with heart. There’s a lot of drama about family and shows nuanced relationships, which actually elevates the action.
Now Saju is a parallel lead alongside Chris…
(Cuts in) Now, that’s a very Indian way of saying it – parallel lead. Each actor plays a character which contributes to the film at large. We always look at it as woh usko kha gaya, when in fact we’re both doing our jobs.
Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda in a still from Extraction.
Certainly. But would you have settled for something less meaty considering the sheer scale of the production?
Well, maybe I would have. I’m not sure. The names associated with Extraction were lucrative enough, so perhaps I would have. But I was glad that this is what I was offered.
Did you find yourself rejecting offers before Extraction for the same reason?
Yes, several. I have been offered Hollywood franchise movies earlier but I felt that the character was being ridiculed, or is a stereotypical portrayal of the subcontinent. So, I respectfully declined.
If not Saju, which other character from Extraction would you have loved to play?
My grandmom told me when I was a kid, “Teri thaali mein jitna ghee hai utna kaafi hai, dusre ki thaali mein nahi dekhna chahiye.” So I live by that.
Do you think Extraction would have looked brilliant on the big screen?
Yes. It’s a Netflix film, therefore it was always supposed to have an OTT release. But I know that it would have worked massively well on the big screen. It’s been shot by Newton Thomas Sigel (cinematographer, known for Bohemian Rhapsody, The Usual Suspects, and more), so there’s some brilliant camera work. Just having him look at me through the camera made me feel like I have arrived.
But, considering the timing of its OTT release, do you feel it will work better globally now?
Well, the world is going through a very dark phase, and this movie will definitely take their mind off it. But I am of a firm opinion that had this movie released at a time when we were not all locked down, people would have watched it anyway because of the promo and the people involved.
The lockdown has been psychologically tough on many. Do you find yourself at a brink where you hope to be extracted from this lockdown situation?
Umm, no. I’ve had many brinks in my career. The last one was for three years so I sat at home a lot. So I don’t have any such problems. I do wish I could go out to the jungles and do photography, or go ride horses, go visit all the places I had in mind. But it is what is, and I’m looking at it as an opportunity to do other things that I didn’t find the time for because of an outdoorsy lifestyle. Like, catch up on movies and shows. I’ve been watching Seinfeld again and Fauda.
How are you taking care of your horses during this time?
My horses are not at a farm, because I don’t make that kind of money – I sit at home a lot (laughs). They are at the racecourse, all quarantined, I’m constantly on the phone with the boys there. I believe that if you look after the men well, then they look after the horses.
Radhe was scheduled for Eid 2020, but there are reports of it being postponed…
Well, it looks like it. I had finished shooting my portion but given the situation, postponing the release seems like the only option until theatres open.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I was shooting a film called Unfair and Lovely with Ileana D’Cruz. It’s a comedy. We were 70 per cent through but this lockdown happened, so now it will be pushed to next year, I suppose.