What has happened to Randeep Hooda?

Randeep Hooda‘s initial claims to fame were his brief role in Mira Nair’s critically acclaimed film, ‘Monsoon Wedding,’ and then being Miss Universe Sushmita Sen‘s knight in shining armour. He landed the title role in Ram Gopal Varma‘s gangster film, ‘D’ and went on to do some forgettable films thanks to RGV trying to play mentor to Hooda. Years passed by, and one saw or heard about him as a thing of the past. It did not help that he chose some bad films, worked with some average filmmakers, and to make matters worse, his acting never got him one good word from any film critic.

Things suddenly changed for Randeep when he made his presence felt in the Ajay Devgn-Emraan Hashmi-starrer, Milan Luthria’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai‘ . It only helped that Hooda’s character, ACP Agnel Wilson was the narrator and the connecting thread of the masala potboiler – and the one-liners that the film was laced with, Hooda became a household name. Despite this sudden burst of popularity in 2010, he did not seem too interested in his Bollywood career. He was happy with his theatre, horses, polo and show jumping – these were his primary passions, and Bollywood wasn’t his priority, or so it felt.

Randeep soon jumped back into the mainstream acting arena, and delivered two Knock Out performances in ‘Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster’ and ‘Jannat 2‘ . The limelight came back to the broody hunk. Though not in leading parts, but Hooda shined through in ‘Cocktail‘ and ‘Jism 2’. His stunning performance as Mahabir Bhati in Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway‘ earned him the credibility of a leading man who can shoulder a film, albeit with a little help from his co-star, Alia Bhatt. Another shot in the arm came from his appearance in Salman Khan‘s ‘Kick‘ – and this sealed the deal for Hooda.

His performance in ‘Rang Rasiya’, ‘Main Aur Charles’ and ‘Laal Rang’ were highly appreciated, and the ball was set rolling. And then his first look as Sarbjit came out much to the shock and horror of his fans – his physical transformation was unbelievable. His performance in this biopic was such a powerhouse one, he got a handwritten letter from the legendary Amitabh Bachchan himself. All those years of being aloof and being branded as a non-actor changed for good. His dedication to his craft and passion for cinema has landed him the lead role in Rajkumar Santoshi’s film based on the battle of Saragarhi.

Randeep’s first look as Havildar Ishar Singh in Santoshi’s film has generated the similar response as the one post Sarbjit first look launch. As we wait for the trailer, it will not be too off the mark to say that he has another award-winning performance in store for his fans. Do you think Randeep Hooda has cemented his place as a star-actor in Bollywood? Do you think he should only focus on playing lead roles?