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‘The Compassionate Me And The Commercial Me Are The Same Person’ Sonu Sood

“I am in the final stages of launching Pravasi Rozgar, India’s first and only employment portal for blue and grey collar job opportunities and job linkages”

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The Sood home in the Mumbai suburbs is not ostentatious or ‘filmy’. It is warm and welcoming. I was to meet him at his coffee shop Love & Latte nearby, but got delayed. So, Sonu Sood kindly invited me home. Except for various racks loaded and over-flowing with his awards and trophies, there is nothing that indicates that this is the abode of a well-known Bollywood star. His petite and pretty wife, Sonali, serves us a meal of ‘kadi-chawal’ and is a charming presence throughout our interview. I am perhaps being accorded preferential treatment. After all, both Sonu and I share common roots: he is from Moga in Punjab; so am I. The interview is conducted, therefore, in chaste Punjabi. 

Moga To Mumbai? Difficult Journey?

Yes, and no. Actually, it was Moga to Mumbai via Nagpur where I went to do my electronics engineering. Punjab still had a lot of terrorism those days, so my parents preferred that I be in safer locales for my studies.

It was also where I met my wife Sonali (she is a Malayalee, but her father being a senior RBI banker she has lived all over the country, hence very cosmopolitan) who was studying for her MBA. 

College was fun. I participated in a lot of co-curriculars, including dramatics. Did some modeling too. Decided to check out opportunities in the movies. That brought me to Mumbai.  

Parents had no issues? 

When I told my mom that I need a couple of years to check out a career in films, all she said was there is no checking out. Go, but go win! Kuchh ban ke hi aana! You have to make a success of it. So failure wasn’t even an option. 

Nepotism, a problem? 

My first breaks came in Telugu cinema. I was already an established name by the time I came to Bollywood. Everyone of us struggles before we succeed. Each journey is personal. I had mine. No regrets. 

There was talk of you joining Punjab politics last year? 

(laughs) Yes, I was approached by both sides. Gurdaspur and Amritsar were offered as constituencies. I humbly regretted. I am doing well in films. Politics is an option when your career is going nowhere and you need to look at other opportunities. I think I still have many more years ahead of me as an actor. Where is the rush? 

But all your humanitarian work has a purpose? 

Only humanity. Only service. Only give-back. God has given me whatever he has given me with a purpose. I am only an instrument in that larger purpose. 

You can do good without having to cash it in votes. I am getting love, I am getting respect. A seat in Parliament won’t add to what I am. At least not for now. 

Lot of money has been spent on the migrants. All yours? 

Not all. Many individuals and organisations have stepped forward to help. They have seen the good work and voluntarily joined the efforts. 

Getting the migrants home was one task. What next? 

(brightens up) I am in the final stages of launching Pravasi Rozgar, India’s first and only employment portal for blue and grey collar job opportunities, job linkages and career progression. And for those who are self-employed. It is highly localised. A recently retired 1988 batch IAS officer will run the portal. 

What about movies and brand endorsements? 

Why should anything change? Apart from the havoc created by the virus, it will be work as usual as far as movies are concerned. On brand endorsements, there is a sudden surge in enquiries and closures. The world is now about ‘woke’ brands – brands that have a point-of-view, and are actively involved in making the world a better place. Would love to work with such brands. The compassionate me and the commercial me are the same person. 

Last, are you still connected with your roots in Moga? 

Yes. Very much so. I get to go there every couple of months. Sonali goes even more often. My younger sister is married, and still lives there. My parents are no more, but my dad’s store, Bombay Cloth House, is still run by our old employees. It gives me a feeling of continuity and staying connected. At heart, I am still a smalltown boy.


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