Sonu Sood became a real-life hero during the pandemic, helping out several people in need. From being known for his negative roles in films like Dabangg, the actor started getting recognized and appreciated for his humanitarian work. Now a host of the popular MTV show Roadies, the actor talks about his God-like status, whether people's perceptions of him are influencing the roles that he now gets offered and the need to step up during emergencies.
Sneha Menon Desai: You have this God-like stature around you. People assume you can do anything. Has it ever gotten awkward where you've been like, 'I am only human'?
Sonu Sood: Many times. When the whole Ukraine conflict started and students started messaging me to help them out, at that time, no one was allowed to get them on flights or private planes, because it could only be done through the government. So, me and my team guided them on which border to go to, we got them buses, we got them trains, we got them taxis in Ukraine. I have never been to that part of the world, but I think when you try to help them, somewhere God guides you and says, "Go for it, it'll work out."
SMD: Kabhi kabhi lagta hai, apunich bhagwaan hai?
SS: Nahi, apun ko lagta hai apun insaan hai, wohi rehna bada zaroori hai yaar. (No, I feel I am only human; and humanity is essential today).
SMD: Does it in any way change the kind of roles you get offered, what you've seen happen with you and in the last two years? Will people be able to accept you as a villain, something that you had gotten so popular for?
SS: I don't think so. There were two movies that I started working on since the pandemic that were not negative, but had grey shades. But the makers had to change the scripts. I reshot almost seven-eight scenes in both films. We felt that the audience wouldn't accept me [in a negative role], so we have already changed those parts of the films in the South. In Hindi, all the films that I'm doing are all main leads – very positive, larger-than-life characters. I'll work hard to cater to what people want to see me like on-screen. Let's hope I'm able to entertain them the way I want to entertain them.
SMD: It makes me wonder whether you ever have a down day. Because there's an energy that you exude that everyone in the room can feel it. What are the pressures of being Sonu Sood?
SS: There are no pressures. On set, I'm always sitting and spending time with the production guys, the lighting crew. I like sitting with them. You can enjoy, you can say anything. I feel, especially in our field, when you see so much of attention around you, there are chances that you will lose the real view of yourself. I think that's the scariest thing that can happen to anyone. I tell all my friends, colleagues and even my family to stay what they are and not try to change. I feel afraid of that.
SS: With all due respect, I know most of my colleagues are going to hate me for this, but sometimes, I've seen that people are better actors off-camera than on-camera. That's scary. But it's okay, that's the path they choose, but I want this to change. You have a different world at the airports. There, suddenly, you see the media and everything changes: the way everything is approached. Somewhere, I'm unable to connect to that. Many people complain that I come to the airport but never inform. And I wonder, 'What should I tell them? That I'm coming?' Many people come prepared for, and expect, the media and paparazzi to be there. But I think sometimes when you're away from the camera, that's the time you can connect with yourself.
SMD: There's a popular phrase that says, "With great power comes great responsibility". Do you feel more people should feel that responsibility? We have millions of followers on Instagram, but what are we doing with them? What are we using that power for?
SS: I remember when I was doing whatever I was doing [during the pandemic], I got calls from many people who praised me for my work and asked about how they could get join the initiative as well. I used to tell them, "Let me know, I am connected with all these people. I can give you tasks: do this, connect with these people. These are the cases, a man is stuck there, evacuate him." They'd then ask me, "How much time will we have to give?" I used to tell them that an emergency could happen at any time; and if you stop a task midway, that individual can lose a life. And they'd reply with, "No, give me a task that can be done in two hours." So, I never gave them a task. I feel when you're trying to save lives and are taking that kind of responsibility on your shoulders, you have no right to check the clock.