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‘Direction tougher job than acting’: Randeep Hooda

Updated on: 13 December,2022 07:53 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Letty Mariam Abraham |

Having got a taste of direction with 'SwatantryaVeer Savarkar', Randeep Hooda on why Balwinder Singh was the perfect choice to helm the spy thriller, 'CAT'

‘Direction tougher job than acting’: Randeep Hooda

Randeep Hooda

When narrating a true story, staying authentic to the subject is one of the director’s biggest responsibilities. For first-time director Balwinder Singh, the responsibility was only compounded as he told the story of Punjab in the ’80s and ’90s that was threatened by insurgency and drugs. Fortunately, he found a like-minded artiste in Randeep Hooda. As they present the Netflix series, 'CAT', the actor-director duo give us a low-down on the challenges of tackling a real-life subject.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

What does CAT mean?
Singh: CATS are undercover informants for the cops. It was relevant back in the day, and was used by cops in the US and Russia. Hailing from Punjab, I have witnessed these [episodes] first-hand, and [always] felt that I must share this story. I caught up with a few people who were CATs [earlier]. My co-writers Jimmy [Singh], Rupinder [Chahal], Anil [Rodhan] and I created a story of two brothers and tried to showcase the problems of that era. It is fictionalised, but set against true events.

A still from CAT
A still from CAT

Also Read: Randeep Hooda profoundly calls ‘Sarson Ka Khet’ as THE TRUE ESSENCE of Punjab as it portrays hard-work

Considering the story is set in your land, was that one of the reasons why you came aboard?
Hooda: I am from Haryana, which used to be Punjab till 1964. I have a deep connection with my land that I never lost, in spite of being in glitzy Mumbai for 22 years. So, that was part of the appeal. Besides that, it was an intriguing script that pans two timelines. The two big problems faced by Punjab since the Partition have been insurgency and drugs. To have these dramatic fictional characters against that backdrop was interesting.

As a new director, how does it feel to be in charge of translating your written material on screen?
Singh: I think I am a born director. This is my second film as a director. If you are a writer-director, it [becomes] easier. Even when you write, you keep the direction in mind. The thing I find fascinating as a director is the opportunity to set the tone of the show, to create the same mood that I discovered during writing. Then I will look at performances, casting. The challenges for me were to show Punjab of the ’80s and ’90s. I had to find such locations [that have the old-world charm]. Back then, cars were different; people travelled by scooters or bicycles. The villages had kachcha houses. Hooda: I believe writing is the most enriching experience, the rest is execution.

Balwinder Singh
Balwinder Singh

How do you view Balwinder’s directorial skills, considering you’ve turned director now with 'SwatantryaVeer Savarkar'?
Hooda: I never felt, even for a moment, any sense of apprehension, or conflict or that I was forced to do something that doesn’t suit the character. [As an actor], that is a big deal. He said earlier he was born to be a director. I back that thought because he is undoubtedly a talented writer-director, but he is also a good manager. I am telling you because I am attempting it myself. Direction is a far tougher job than acting.

Also Read: Randeep Hooda offered apologies to Guru Granth Sahib for not keeping his word

When 'Udta Punjab' was released, there was a huge furore about associating Punjab with drugs. Were you wary about attempting the subject?
Singh: You are a journalist. Tell me, was there a drug problem or not? The people [we] are trying to tell the story to, are aware that drugs are an issue. I am from Punjab, and I have seen those broken families who were affected by it. Some people have lost close to six sons to drugs, leaving behind a grieving mother. Most of our stories originate from the things that happen in society. As a creator-writer, it is my job to connect with the story and tell it convincingly. I cannot talk about people who create controversies, or deny that Punjab is plagued with drugs. Our story is backed by proper research. We have tried to say it with as much honesty as possible.

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