If you had asked 80 percent of the Indian population about Sonu Sood prior to 2020, they would have either looked at you in confusion or nodded slowly as they scrambled to put a face to the name. That is the bitter truth. While Sood has starred in some big-budget movies that have performed well at the box office, he wasn’t a “star” by the industry’s standards. Bollywood and other film industries often offered him the role of the villain where he basically had to rip off his shirt and display his bulging muscles.
Today, there are people campaigning for him to become the Prime Minister of India.
As social walls have collapsed following the emergence of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, actors like Sood have found prominence in a media which had largely ignored them. Take Gurmeet Choudhary and Nakuul Mehta, for instance. While Choudhary was a popular face on Hindi television, he wasn’t a star, by any means. Mehta, on the other hand, did manage some form of stardom on the television circuit and has been popular with the urban youth for his vocal stand on issues. Following the inefficiency displayed by the government in battling COVID-19 and the stupidity and vanity displayed by superstars of India, Sood, Choudhary and Mehta have emerged as the real heroes of their respective industries.
Last May, Sood footed the bill for thousands of stranded migrant labourers so they could reach home safely. He booked buses, trains and even arranged flight tickets for them. In July, he did what the government should have done – he arranged a chartered flight which brought home 1500 students who were stranded in Kyrgyzstan. In August, he took to arranging travel for 101 medical students who were left to fend for themselves in Moscow. These are just a few examples of the humanitarian work that Sood has done during the pandemic. His Twitter account is buzzing 24*7 with messages of help. In a world where hospitals are sending out SOS signals, Sood has been a messiah even though his book’s title is literally, “I Am No Messiah”. He’s opened oxygen plants, sent life saving medicine to patients, arranged for ICU beds and so much more. He may claim that he is no messiah but the baby girl from Jalore who returned home safe after the actor facilitated a successful surgery, may think otherwise. The child has been named Sonu. How fitting, no?
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Then there’s Gurmeet Choudhary. Following in Sood’s footsteps, the actor has been working tirelessly to help anyone in dire need with ICU Beds, Hospital Beds, Oxygen, Ventilator support across the nation. He has helped initiate funds for patients in need to finding Remedesvir and even provided oxygen cylinders. The Gurmeet Choudhary Foundation has just opened its first post COVID-19 care centre in Bihar. The foundation has joined hands with four other NGOS, Sankalp Ninety Five, Ganga Foundation, Ram Krishna Vivekanand Educational Society and Saubhagya Mahila Uthan Samiti to help make this dream a reality.
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“Firstly I want to thank Sankalp Ninty Five, Ganga Foundation, Ram Krishna Vivekanand Educational Society and Saubhagya Mahila Uthan Samiti, it wouldn’t have been possible without them. They have done a fantastic job in making this possible. Today, we have seen the widespread damage that covid can do to the human body. Science has advanced and every day we are learning more and more about the side effects of Covid and ailments that follow which can be as deadly as the disease itself such as Black Fungus, low oxygen levels, lung erosion and damage and unfortunately, the list goes on,” Choudhary had told Filmibeat.
“The fight against COVID-19 does not end with a mere negative report. One has to heal the body and this can only be done via monitored and specialised care and that is what this Post Covid Care Centre aims to do. We will empower and equip doctors to deal with a specialised form of care and the focus will be on post covid issues. This is the first of its kind in Bihar (Bettiah)and we hope more such centres can open across the nation,” he added.
“In our industry, we have many good people around who are always ready to help someone when in need. I always assure to help people around me be it a lightman, spot boy or anyone else for that matter. In these times, the industry has to unite and act as one. It’s then that we can pull through this situation. We have to be one body and I feel that if I am from this industry it is my responsibility to help everyone from the industry. Many people in the film industry are lending a helping hand in these tough times and I highly appreciate them,” the actor had further told Filmfare.
The actor recently arranged for oxygen concentrators with the help of India Club Jakarta (Indonesia).
Now, we come to Nakuul Mehta. Mehta shot to fame for playing the role of the dishy Shivaay Singh Oberoi in Ishqbaaaz and then went on to portray a host of characters on Hindi television. While Sood and Choudhary have been helping people in their own way, Mehta has done what he does best – galvanise his social media following and use the power of words to effect change. Unafraid as usual, he recited a poem by Ajay Singh on the suffering faced by the common man during COVID-19. The poem is a part of Singh and Mehta’s poetry special titled Too Much Democracy. This is how the viral poem goes:
“The one who has always spread poison in the air, how do you expect him to now provide oxygen for you?
Someone who has triggered a competition between kabristans and samshans, how do you expect him to build hospitals for you?”
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You get the gist. Even as celebrities are uncomfortable with calling out the government’s terrible COVID-19 response, Mehta stands out because he does exactly that. “There is so much one has felt in the last fortnight which we all are still processing… Fear, anger, desperation, helplessness and much more. Whilst all of us can look within and reflect on how we could have played this differently, and sure we could have. There needs to be self accountability for the mess we are in but the general apathy shown to us by people who govern us, who have let nothing come in between their mad hunger to strengthen their vote bank whilst the citizenry has been left to his or her own devices to figure this once in a lifetime situation we are in. That there has been lack of foresight & preparation is not even debatable (sic),” he had shared in a post on Instagram.
At a time like this, we look up to our reel heroes, especially in a country that worships cinema as much as it worships cricket. On that front, these three actors have not disappointed.