From Reel Life Villian To Real Life Hero
In honour of his humanitarian work Sonu Sood has topped the UK’s 2020 celebrity list and also received the Bollywood Best Man Of The Year in Norway.
Give him a role, and what you get in return is a performance that is a class apart. He can be your good-guy-who-is-loved-by-all and at the same time, he can also be your vengeful-tricky-antagonist. He is popular, celebrated, has been part of massive blockbusters, and also has his fair shares of critically-acclaimed films. Most importantly, he has blurred the boundaries of the movie industry - having worked in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Punjabi, and Kannada movies. A bodybuilder with his heart on his sleeve - presenting Sonu Sood.
Sood started his career in the Tamil film industry - with the movie Kallazhagar. The movie saw him act as a priest. He slowly moved to the Telugu movie industry with Hands Up!. His Bollywood entry was much later in the year 2002 with Shaheed-E-Azam in which he played Bhagat Singh. However, the same year saw two more movies that were based on the freedom fight. While he primarily played the antagonist in the South, he tried his hand at being the protagonist in Bollywood - we are talking about movies like Aashiq Banaya Aapne.
It was not always a road of roses for Sonu, who also played several side roles in movies such as Yuva, Singh Is Kinng, Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi, Happy New Year, and Jodhaa Akbar. But all these movies that he was a part of were massive hits and with that, he also gained a lot of recognition and fame.
His portrayal of Chedi Singh as the antagonist in Dabangg gave him several awards and with that came more negative roles in Bollywood as well as the South.
An out-of-the-box thinker, Sood never hesitated from experimenting with newer roles and this attitude grabbed him the role of Harsha in the Mandarin-movie, Xuanzang, and Kung Fu Yoga.
Besides movies, Sood has a side that has garnered him more recognition than ever. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Sood helped more than thousands of migrant workers to reach their homes by arranging buses, special trains, and chartered flights for them. It didn’t stop there, he also arranged for a flight for students who were stranded in Kyrgyzstan to get to India. If this is not heroism, we don’t know what is. He did the same with students who were stuck in Moscow and had to reach Chennai. What blew the Internet was when he sent a tractor to a poor farmer’s family who had no means to plow the fields. What made headlines during the lockdown in India was Sood’s website and app called Pravasi Rojgar which was launched to help migrant workers find suitable jobs amid the pandemic.
All his humanitarian work didn’t go unrecognized as he has topped the UK’s 2020 celebrity list. He also received the Bollywood Best Man Of The Year in Norway. Ask the humble man how he feels and he says, “It is a huge honour to have received these accolades. It is not every day that you get this kind of recognition. To have received both the awards was a validation for all the work I have done. I think it is because of my late parents who are doing this magic and showering me with blessings. It is them who are constantly helping me achieve whatever I am doing today in life. I am glad I am on this journey even though I know there are miles to go, I am glad I am doing what I am doing and I hope to be better at it.”
So when did he decide to take things in his own hands and help people who were suffering? “Mumbai has a lot of workers from different states in India. When a lockdown was announced, all these migrant workers and their families had no way to get back to their hometown. They in fact started walking to go back to Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar which is several miles away. I knew this was not going to be feasible. How can they walk such a distance with no food or any other facilities? So, I knew it was not going to be easy but I started seeking permission from Government officials and offices to get these workers to travel back home in buses, trains, flights, etc. So that was a turning point. There was a place in Mumbai where I met these families who were really desperate to go back to their homes and be with their loved ones. It moved me tremendously,” Sood shares.
Sood admits that philanthropy has always been a part of him but 2020 helped him scale it to a different level. “I used to help a lot of people during school and college days. It would be in the form of service mostly. But this is the first time I have done something of this scale. And in all honestly, this work has given me immense confidence and has proved that I can do a lot more to save lives. So, I have taken it upon myself to do my bit and reach out to as many people as I can,” shares the 47-year-old Mumbaikar. At a time when people started to believe that humanity was dying, 2020 prove everybody wrong. It was a year where humanity resurfaced and giving back to the community was the biggest motto for a lot of people.
Sood agrees and suggests, “Humanity never died. All we had to do was reinvent ourselves and do our bit for others. We have been living our lives keeping our needs and dreams before everything else. But when you start doing things for others it brings a different kind of joy. In fact, it rejuvenated me. And since I connected with all these migrant workers and their families, I know for a fact that my connection with them will continue for the rest of my life. I believe everybody needs to do their bit- small or big in order to help society now, more than ever.” Sonu also admits that this year has helped him rebrand and reintroduce himself to the audience “2020 has been very different for the world. And for me personally, it helped me reinvent myself, I get to reintroduce myself and it has changed me in a lot of ways. It has introduced me to a side that I knew existed but I didn’t realize I could do things to this scale. It guided me in the right direction, helped me grow, help me touch more lives, and bring more smiles to the faces of people,” he smiles.
Today, no matter where Sood goes, people chant, “real-life hero”. It is a name that makes Sonu proud. However, he says, “When I recently visited the Sai Baba temple in Shiridi, people were so excited and showered me with love. All this love and affection motivates me and makes me believe that I am doing something right in life. It places a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I have to do my best, people expect me to help them and I need to deliver. I don’t get stressed about it but I know this has placed tremendous amounts of expectations on me.”
Talking about movies, Sood has a list of movies lined up that are in the post-production stage. But the most exciting among them all is Prithviraj. This historical action drama is directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi and sees Akshay Kumar as Chauhan while Manushi Chhillar makes her Hindi film debut by playing his love interest as Sanyogita. The film sees Sonu Sood playing the role of Chand Bardai, an Indian poet. Though Sood doesn’t reveal a lot about the film, he says, “Filming for the movie is over, and it is a super special film for me. The movie is brilliant and I’m looking forward to it just like everybody else.”
With a few films lined up in the Southern language, we ask Sood his favourite industry to work in. He laughs and says, “I started my career in the South and whatever I learnt has come from the South. I have done so many movies in Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil and I cannot contain the happiness that I continue to work in these industries. I have worked in several Bollywood films as well. So to put it in a nutshell, all the industries are the same when it comes to the work culture or the amazing crew members you get to work with. However, personally, the South will always be close to my heart because that’s where I started.”
But these are good times for the actor who is looking forward to a new inning in the film industry as the lead actor. “It was in 2020 that I started to receive a lot of scripts from amazing directors for the role of the lead. I hope that this is a new beginning for me as an actor and I get to do some great work. I hope for the best and will hope to do better work,” he signs off.
Photos: Courtesy of Sonu sood/Instagram, sonusood/twitter, RT CHAWLA