John Day, a songless thriller

The Bollwood film starring Randeep Hooda shows the actor’s bestial side

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Gulf News

Bollywood actor Randeep Hooda has a wish. He hopes that one day “family audiences” will flock to cinemas to watch his films.

His desires are unlikely to be fulfilled any time soon.

In John Day, releasing in the UAE on Thursday, he plays a sadistic “beast” — not exactly a magnet for all those seeking violence-free films.

“I play an orphan. He hates the world and loves to inflict pain. Through this film we want to show that every beast has a story,” said Hooda in an interview with tabloid!. His career is generously peppered with roles that have grey shades. From playing an insensitive husband in romantic drama Cocktail to a sly lover in Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, 37-year-old Hooda has never conformed to the traditional idea of an altruistic Bollywood hero.

“I play the role of human beings. And what I have discovered is that they all have a bit of grey in them. All those who are considered good have some bad qualities and all those who are considered bad have some good lurking somewhere. But I know I am going to find my family audience in there,” said Hooda. However, he has no regrets. Sharing his journey in thriller John Day is veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in the title role. Unlike Hooda’s character, he plays a scrupulous man. Whatever his role may be, it’s no secret that the legendary actor, 63, can pull the rug out from a younger hero. Think Ishqiya or The Dirty Picture — where he played the roles of a romantic robber and vain South Indian matinee idol respectively, with aplomb. The chances of being overshadowed are high.

“I cannot up my game here because I am his student. I identify with his school of cinema and he has always been a source of encouragement for me,” says Hooda of his older co-star. “All I did is approach my character with sincerity. I tried to find a polar approach to his while playing my role. My character is flamboyant and power hungry. He believes that being weak is a disease,” he adds.

John Day is directed by Ahishor Solomon in his directorial debut (he has assisted in six films). The idea of John Day sprung up when he witnessed a brutal fight in his native town, Kurnool in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

“I was walking home with a couple of friends when I saw a simple-looking guy being beaten up by four people. In an attempt at retaliation, the man ended up biting the other man’s throat. It was grotesque and that sight festered in my mind for a long time. It got me thinking that if a man so simple looking — who comes across as harmless — can reveal a different side when pushed, what do you call that certain person?” said Solomon. Enter John Day, which he calls a “songless thriller”.

“It’s not based on that particular incident. But I knew I had to explore that idea. Also, let’s face it: songs dilute the pace of a film. We just added a few tracks for promotional purposes only,” said Solomon. Casting decisions were pretty straightforward. He chose Hooda because he felt the actor oozed an animalistic charm. Shah’s nod to play the God-fearing, honest John was the icing on the cake.

“Randeep has this brooding quality in real life. He has this arrogance about him. I remember I told him about a particular crazy scene that showed how violent and bestial he could get. He just said: ‘do it’. This film plays on good versus evil and what happens when men belonging to two different worlds cross paths.”

*John Day releases in the UAE this Thursday.