New Delhi: Randeep Hooda thought someone was pulling on a prank when he was told that Imtiaz Ali wanted to work with him in `Highway`.
With the film ready to release, Hooda, 37, looks back with joy on their road adventure which took the cast and crew through six different states of India.
"It was very nice working with Imtiaz. He guided us beautifully in the film. He is a Sufi artist kind of fellow but has the diligence of a school boy so you always feel safe. He really participates and helps you with what you are going through as an actor without interfering much.
"Sajid Nadiadwala and I used to joke that he is such a nice guy that it can`t be true. He must turn out a villain in the end but that did not happen," Randeep told PTI over phone from Kolkata.
Produced by Imtiaz`s Window Seat Films and presented by Nadiadwala, the film will be released worldwide by UTV Motion Pictures on February 21.
Hooda, born in Haryana, seemed like a perfect choice to play the role but the actor found his Jat dialect would often interfere with the Gujari dialect that he was supposed to speak in the movie.
Hooda, however, enjoyed bringing to life the complex character of Mahabir Bhati.
"I speak the `Jatu` Haryanvi not the Gujari language so it was hard because the dialects would overlap but we had the help of dialect coach to help us. My character is a small time fixer. It is a complicated character who initiates Veera`s journey in `Highway`," the actor said.
Hooda says his role in `Highway` is one of the most honest parts that has come his way.
"This character is rooted somewhere, it is not generic. It is very close to my heart. I have always been honest in my work but this time there is a certain rawness and honesty that has never been there. It was an enriching experience."
Hooda has mostly played characters that fall into the grey zone. The actor says he consciously opts for parts that are not clean-cut and counts his `Highway` role among those.
"I find they are the best characters to play. I am drawn to such roles and people also see me like that. In all of us, there is a struggle between the good and the bad. It makes it more palpable and real to play such people as an actor."
He is paired opposite newcomer Alia in the movie but Hooda does not consider their onscreen pairing as unusual.
"I don`t see it that way. There is no unusual pairing. It was the demand of the story that characters are cast in a certain way. It was done to serve the story in the best possible way and I must say Alia is superb in the movie," he says.
After `Highway`, his slate is full with `Main Aur Charles`, where he plays Charles Sobhraj, then there is Salman Khan starrer `Kick`.
"I will be shooting `Kick` till April or May. It is a big movie for me and I have a great part in it. `Main Aur Charles` is about to finish, `Shooter` is finished as well. All of them are interesting films."