Firsts are always special and we couldn’t have chosen a better inaugural cover star to represent our ideals. Actor and humanitarian Sonu Sood graces the first-ever cover of Man’s Life. Every man, woman and child in India knows Sonu Sood by now. A villain in reel life, Sonu has been nothing short of a hero for the citizens of India ever since the novel coronavirus first showed up on our shores. Sonu has spent his own hard-earned money to send poor migrant labourers home during the first lockdown when they were stranded without work or food. The actor and his team have been working non-stop to answer calls for medicines, beds and oxygen cylinders. What started off as a means to aid those suffering from COVID-19 has morphed into so much more. Today, the actor is inundated with prayers and requests that range from help for employment to fathers asking him for mobile phones so their children can attend online classes. And Sonu’s answer is never ‘no’. Perhaps, this is why he has also tasted unimaginable success in the past year and a half. The prayers and good will of a billion Indians are with him and he’s received awards, movie offers and brand endorsement deals. But when does he get the time for them? Because Sonu Sood has made it clear that his first priority is to humanity.
In a free-wheeling chat with Man’s Life, our first-ever cover star shares his thoughts and hopes.
They’re calling you the messiah, a God, an angel – how do you feel when you hear such praise from the common man?
It feels humbling when people say such things, but I have always said that I am not a messiah. I am just trying to help out my fellow brothers and sisters of the country in whatever small way possible. That’s what I have learned from my parents and I am just trying to live up to that.
You’ve been working 24*7 for more than a year now – how has this affected your mental health?
There have been times when I also feel low. During the time when I had Covid, that time I wanted to work and help people but my health was not letting me give my 100 percent. But, in general, whenever I am not having a good day, I try to spend more time with my family. They’re always a stressbuster, and my mind automatically refreshes. Also, if that’s not an option, I put on some music, and try and work out for some time. That too helps me concentrate and relieves me of stress.
What made you take this decision to help people out during the pandemic?
When I saw the news that there were people who were willing to walk thousands of kilometers just to reach their homes, that’s when I felt that I should try and help them out in whatever way possible.
How do you ensure that supplies reach the concerned people?
I have a team all over the country with over 400 people in different cities. They are the real warriors. They’re doing the work on-ground and they keep me updated about everything. They help out in ensuring that the supplies reach the concerned people.
Has this pandemic increased your faith in mankind or has it been the other way round?
My faith in mankind was always very strong. During this pandemic, it has just gone a notch higher. I have seen so many people come forward and helplessly serve people without thinking of anything in return. The blessings of people who have been served are more than enough for these people, and for me as well. That’s the driving force, which helps me keep my belief strong in mankind even during these stressful times.
How has your real-life work affected the kind of films and brand deals you are getting?
Not much has changed there. I have always done projects which I loved and wanted to do. Those kinds of projects are still the ones that I am picking up. Yes, there have been numerous offers coming in which sort of accentuate my Covid-relief work, but in that also, I pick and choose the ones which I personally want to get associated with and I feel my name could help that brand out.
Was this philanthropic side always present in you?
Yes. It has been the upbringing of my parents. They always tried to help people out in their lives, and seeing them I also always wanted to help out people in whatever small way possible. During this pandemic, I just happened to do the work more, and that’s why people started talking about it. Otherwise, I have always been silently doing pretty much everything that I am doing now.
What do you feel when fans walk hundreds of kilometers to meet you or pour milk over your posters?
It’s a feeling that I can’t put in words. I feel blessed and humbled that people are giving so much love to me. But I sincerely request people to not walk or come on a bicycle over hundreds of kilometers just to meet me. I am always there to help you out, and you can get in touch with me or my team over a message or a call. Stay indoors as much as possible, and whatever help you need, I am just a phone call away.
You have helped so many people out – how do you deal when someone you helped doesn’t make it?
I try to help out as many people as possible, and when I do, they all become like family to me. We are constantly talking on the phone or on video calls or messages. So a bond builds with them over the course of time. Even after our enormous efforts, if the person doesn’t make it in the end, it feels as if I have lost a family member. Like I have lost a parent or a sibling or a child – it hurts that much. I try to meet up with the family members of the person, and try to help them out in whatever way possible so that their life doesn’t have a roadblock. You can never replace the person in any manner, but I try to help out in whichever way possible.
Are you getting time for brand commitments and film shoots?
Yes. I try to take time out for work commitments as well. That’s my first love and passion, and I have to do that in order to keep myself in a sane state of mind amidst these trying times.
Today, every child in the country knows your name. What do your own children feel about the work you are doing?
They feel happy. I have tried and inculcated in them the same values that my parents gave me. My kids are also trying to help out in their own little way. They help me out whenever I need some help. I hope when they grow up, they do things that even I couldn’t achieve in my life. What else can a parent ask for!
Are you happy with the legacy you’ll be leaving behind on this planet?
I am just doing what every person should be doing. Help one another in whatever capacity possible, and the rest will take care of its own. Legacy and all is a matter too complex to comprehend for a simple guy like me. I just want to do my bit and help as many people as possible.