Hyderabad: If a scriptwriter had proposed a few years ago a logline for a movie which read – an actor from Punjabi, with a six-pack body, who has played a villain on screen for over two decades, finds a calling in the midst of a pandemic.
His real-life works make him the most beloved superstar across the country, the trust in him built rapidly as he works to connect, first with migrant workers and trying to help them, and as a second wave hits, responding to people from across the country, reaching out to him with a trust they repose in him greater than in governments. And in cineaste Telugu states, gods of decades slide down the charts, downed by a virus, leaving only one real star.
Such a script would never have found a director accepting it. Even the audiences would have found it beyond plausibility, even for a story. But when life scripts stories and reality screens it, not for two hours but years, anything is possible. Such has been the script starring Sonu Sood since Coronavirus spread its menacing tentacles and brought down every order of society and all semblances of sanity.
But in dark times, heroes arise from unexpected spots. Lending help, giving hope, sharing light, redefining love, and metamorphosing fan following.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle about his inner motivations to emerge from the fringes of celebritydom to becoming a trusted icon of a ravage nation’s people, Sonu Sood, in a soft soothing voice of a healer rather than a preferred negative actor of the movie screen, said, “growing up in Moga, Punjab, I saw my mother, a teacher, give free tuition classes for decades. Outside my father’s shop, there would always be a langar, where I too would serve food. It was a lesson ingrained for life that you must always be there to serve in whatever capacity you have.”
When asked about the incident that prompted him to emerge out of lockdown and pandemic fears to become a frontline hero, Mr Sood said, “last year, when I started hearing stories of migrant workers, I knew I could no longer sit in the security and comfort of my home. As a migrant worker myself, though privileged and lucky, I could empathise with their angst. It started with serving food and giving basic financial help to organising to help them in larger numbers.”
The legend grew quickly because of the vacuum. None of India’s conventional heroes – film stars, cricketers, billionaires – were there to really make a significant difference. Sood’s rise in being recognised as a saviour is also a deep reflection of the indifference of the others.
How do you feel about being recognised and trusted so much by people that they tag you on twitter for help before government agencies or ministers? Do you feel pressure to deliver?
He smiles, and in one of the most humane voices I have heard in a long time, replies, “there is no pressure when a friend or family member expects you to stand for them. It is no different. Every bit of time, money and effort I can muster, I am out there because I know somewhere, someone who has reached out to me is waiting and expecting. It is a call I must respond to, and I can’t let them down.”
I scratch my head, a bit bewildered. Is it a mere PR exercise? Or did I get connected to Dalia Lama by mistake? It is, I do not think it is his fault that others in the cine world have used charity as a ticket to sell more tickets for their next release. Last year, we were stuck with the tragic story of another SS in Bollywood – Sushant Singh. This SS has risen now to become India’s superhero, without a cape, just a twitter handle.
Are you a bit embarrassed Sonu, I ask him, that others in your film fraternity, Bollywood or Tollywood, who have received greater stardom and earned far more money and influence, never cared to take up work like yours in one of our worst years ever? He answers candidly, but with sangfroid. “You can’t force a feeling of wanting to help people. It can’t even be taught beyond a point. It must come from within.”
What next? Will this image harm your film career? Next time any film fans see him on screen as a villain, will the portrayal be convincing? “I am not thinking of the next film. Just my next SOS call.”
He disappears to do good for someone, somewhere. A villain has refined heroism, forever. My vote for the biggest star in films in India in a dark year – Sonu Sood....