“I NEVER TALK ABOUT MY HITS OR MYSELF BECAUSE I FEEL IT IS NOT THE RIGHT THING TO DO.”
He is tall, good looking and the epitome of a super hero. But did you also know that SONU SOOD in his journey as an actor has worked in the maximum number of hit lms? No wonder, he’s been considered as a lucky mascot for many producers. Sumita Chakrabort
He belongs to no camp or has no Godfather. As for nepotism, don’t even think about it… he belongs to a very non-filmi family. Yet, this man who walks tall, took the leap of faith and with sheer hard work and self-belief reached the top of the ladder. Today, with many prestigious films under his belt, Sonu Sood is being considered as the lucky mascot of the film industry. Read on… as this very grounded man talks about his life, films, self-belief and more… You’re one actor, who has without tom-tomming on rooftops bagged some of the best projects in the industry – from Manikarnika To Simmba - that too without belonging to any camp. How did you manage to do all this? I wish I knew the formula. If I did, I would have applied it much earlier in my career. I came to Mumbai with two things in mind – one was to fulfil the dreams of my parents. They were waiting for me to bag the right film so that they could go to the theatres, and see me onscreen, and so I had to make it fast. But it did take time, however, finally it happened. And regarding the second: I knew that I wanted to work with the best of directors and banners. Initially I used to say ‘no’ to many movies and they used to tell me ‘You are a newcomer and you have the guts to say no!’ …And they found that arrogant as well. But I always knew what I wanted to do. And one thing I was sure about was that I didn’t want to go back to
I didn’t want to go back to Punjab without making my mark.”
Punjab without making my mark. And that I did and that’s how the makers understood that this guy has value.
You are like this silent operator. You don’t belong to any camp nor are you from a filmi family or have a Godfather, yet you have managed without all this. How? I would say the industry is the most difficult business today. You always need to keep on working on yourself and things tend to change every Friday. So you have to be on your toes. If you go wrong, back track and then improve on what you did. You have to be responsible for your work, and that’s how you’ll move forward. And that’s been my mantra, and that’s how I moved forward.
From being an engineer to a full -fledged actor, how has your journey been? It was not an easy journey. While doing engineering, I told my mother that I wanted to become an actor, and she said, ‘Just do your engineering with dedication first.’ That I did! And then I moved on to become an actor. Here too I knew that I had to put in huge amounts of dedication. And thus, I started my journey as an actor. Today, I have realized that you can achieve a lot of things only by sheer hard work.
Sonu, do you think that if you belonged to a camp, or had a Godfather, your career would be different? I would say ‘yes’! It makes a lot of difference when you have a guide - someone there who makes sure you’re doing fine. I didn’t have one. And I struggled a lot – from travelling in buses, from one local to the other, standing in long queues, running from one set to another – but again, I wouldn’t think of my struggle - here I would focus on myself and I used it as a learning opportunity. And I think that has moulded me to be the person I am today. It took me a lot of time. But at the same time, it taught me a lot too. Today, whatever I have achieved, is all on my own without a Godfather. You’ll be next seen sharing screen space with Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika. This will be your second historical film post JodhaAkbar. Do you have a fondness for historical films? Why did you pick this film? I played Bhagat Singh in ShaheedE-Azam and then Jodha Akhbar happened. My mom was an English and History professor in Punjab by the way and she used to read to me from all those books from our library. So I do have a fascination and liking for History. Now I’m doing Manikarnika, I remember all her stories of Jhansi and it’s nostalgic that I am doing a film on the same subject, and I wish she had been here to see me in this film.
Talking about Manikarnika, Kangana has been in the limelight for some not so good situations. How was your relationship with her? I knew Kangana before she entered the industry. We have done a Telugu film together in the South. So I do share a very close bond with her since then. I know her sister really well, her brother comes to our place very often and I know her parents really well. There is a very different bond that we share off camera. When on the sets, we do not just talk about cinema, we talk about other normal things as well. She has done well for herself and I am really very happy for her.
You’re a part of Paltan. Can you share something about it? What made you pick this film? 10 years back, I met JP Dutta sir - and I was supposed to do LOC but because I was shooting as Bhagat Singh for Shaheed-E-Azam at that point, so we couldn’t do it. After that whenever I’d meet JP sir, he’d say, ‘Let’s work together’.
Kangana and I share a very different bond off camera.”
He gave me a signing amount and said, ‘You know what, just keep it’, and I did! And I was so happy that my dream of working with a person like JP Dutta has come true and that too in a genre of a war film. It was a phenomenal experience shooting for Paltan for two-and-a-half to three months in Ladakh.
Was it tough? It was very, very tough, with no oxygen and an extreme climate of -15 -20 but all thanks to my fitness levels, I could survive it. People on the sets – practically, most of them took ill because of the low oxygen levels - but somehow I was absolutely fine. In fact, on the sets, all the actors and unit guys used to ask me, ‘Are you okay?’ or ‘why are you not feeling sick? But I was perfectly fine and thanks to my fitness levels, I could survive the bitter cold.
Sonu, you’re joining Rohit Shetty and Ranveer Singh in Simmba. I think it is going to be an antihero, right? Yes, it is a very powerful role and it has a lot of grey shades. I think it will be one of the most powerful roles I’ll be doing.
Fabulous! So 2018 is really looking up for you... Yes, I’ve got good films coming out within a gap of four to five months. So ya, good things are coming up.
You’re stepping up the ladder and you’ve got such a lot of good films. Have you ever had thoughts of becoming the No.1 hero? Did it ever feature in your list of ‘must things to do’? Yes, it always featured in my ‘must things to do’. When I joined the industry, I wanted to be at the top and do my best. But yes, my journey was difficult. But one thing that I was sure about was that I was here to stay and survive, and no matter, how long it would take, people would feel my presence. That’s why I have worked with so many directors and actors - whether Indian or from the South or Jackie Chan. All I knew was that I wanted to work hard and things were going to happen for me and I was ready to go for it.
As somebody who has seen a lot of hits and flops too, is failure a challenge or demotivating? I’ve done almost 90-95 movies and out of these, I’ve got success as most of them have done really well. And that’s why people in the South call me whenever they plan a film. My name is considered to be on the top of the charts. And I think for a North Indian to become so famous in South, is a feat. I think it has to do with the way I choose my scripts. So a role which is not very substantial and not written well, they know that I am not going to do it. And even in Hindi films also, my criteria has not been just being a part of a big project or a big banner or a big director, it is always about the role. So I am really glad that whatever scripts I’ve done, were and are really substantial.
Your Hindi films track record too is really good. You are kind of a lucky mascot because I think you’ve featured in quite a few blockbusters. Yes, a lot of them. Dabangg was a huge hit. At that point, Salman was not going through a great phase then suddenly it was a huge hit and it changed everything, and luckily, I was a part of that film. Likewise, Shah Rukh’s Happy New Year, and then also Singh is King - and all these films have done really well and I think they are important films for an actor’s career. So it really boosted my career too.
Although you’ve got such a great track record, you are pretty low profiled. Is that the reason perhaps why it’s not being tomtommed all across that you are one actor who has got a lot of hits? I never talk about my hits or myself because I feel it is not the right thing to do. Like I’ve always said if I am not convinced with the script, I don’t do it. But if I do pick a project, I am very passionate about it and I give my inputs. I remember, initially I had said ‘no’ to Dabangg. Abhinav Kashyap conveyed this to Salman and Arbaaz and they asked me, why? I told them that I had two suggestions – I want Chedi Singh a little more comical and more entertaining. When Salman and Arbaaz heard that, they said, ‘Okay, let’s make Chedi Singh a little comical and unpredictable and entertaining and this is why the character really worked. I could have done what was given to me without bothering to give inputs but there would have been that chance that no one would have known what Chedi Singh was actually like. So I think it is really important for an actor to work on his own character and role too. If you see me on the sets, I am so passionate about my work, I give my inputs a lot. In fact, I even write my dialogues and share them with my directors
I used to practise stunts watching his DVDs so working with Jackie Chan in KungFuYoga was a dream come true.”
and dialogue writers – and they tell me why do you want to kill our profession? (laughs)
Have you any aspirations to direct a film in the future? The directors I’ve worked with always say that I would make a good director. I don’t know when I will be directing a film but I know all the technicalities of direction. But as an actor I have miles to go and lots to achieve. So I don’t want to get into direction as yet. Direction can always wait, but one day, it will happen for sure.
You’re in an enviable situation now with the best projects. What are the challenges that you face now? Once you do a good film, you are always on the hunt for a bigger film and a bigger project. So I think God has always been there for me. So I kept working hard, and I did what I had to do. Of course, I even sat for months at home, waiting for the right project to come. I was once asked why unlike others who sign films left, right and center, I don’t sign whatever comes my way. And my answer was: I don’t want to leave for the sets not really convinced with what I am doing. When I get up in the morning and leave for my shoot, I have to be really excited for what I am doing and be happy
on the sets and that’s the way I choose my films.
They say two actors cannot be friends. Do you agree with this? No, I don’t agree to this. I think actors can be friends. The only thing is that they don’t have time for each other. Once you shoot movies together, you spend days and nights together and that’s when you spend time. Once the film finishes, you lose touch. But again the feeling of warmth is there. I would say this is an industry which leaves you with very little time more so as you have to do your work and make your presence felt.
How was it working with Jackie Chan and do you have plans to do some more films with him? Jackie Chan is one of the nicest human beings I’ve come across. He is so grounded. I used to practice stunts watching his DVDs. And then I was working with him, and it was a dream come true. I would say Kung Fu Yoga was one of the most special experiences of my life more so when we got him to Mumbai, and he was sitting in my car and we were moving from here to there - those months that I spent with him was very special. All I can say is that Kung Fu Yoga will remain one of my most favourite films and Jackie Chan will remain one of my most favorite actors.
Any sequel in the pipeline? We are planning. My director Stanley is writing a few things, let’s see if things get a structure.
There are lots of actors who are opening up about feelings of emptiness or depression - even though they are successful – because of the pressure, media intrusion, living a life where every action is scrutinized. What do you have to say about this? I feel this is a very tough industry. If a film doesn’t work, it is very important to have your family and friends beside you to stay grounded and not let things affect you. You shouldn’t always keep talking about movies and what you want to achieve in your life. God has plans which are best for you. One should keep working hard and let everything else fall in place.
How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life? I give my wife all the credit for the balance. I have spent years of my life away from my parents for this profession. My mom was a super perfect lady and so was my dad. And they always told me, ‘Do your work with your heart and soul’. So whatever I do, I give it my 100 per cent. But my family understands and because they are so understanding, I can go higher and higher. You’ve announced that you are making a biopic on PV Sindhu, what is the status of that? The script is almost locked. We have done a lot of research. We are pitching for actors but again it is not going to be easy because many really don’t know the game. And playing a world champ when you don’t know the game or in a given time being like PV Sindhu, that’s a challenge. But I am sure whoever will play the role, will be the lucky one.
You’ve done a lot of genres. But we haven’t seen you as a romantic lead. Would you be doing a romantic film?
I did do a romantic film with Rajshri called Ek Vivaah...Aisa Bhi and whoever has seen the film, loved the romantic side of the film. I always wanted to do romantic films like Aashiq Banaya Apne and I wish someone would make a film like that soon. I am as good as a romantic hero as I am, a hard-core action guy.
You are actually the epitome of a hero, the way you look and everything. You should be perfect for a romantic lead.
Thank you! That’s very kind of you. I have actually done romantic films in the South and I also do negative shades too. It shows my versatility. People say this guy is so good as a romantic hero but he can be negative too. You don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you’re totally a fitness inspiration, so is there any weakness that Sonu Sood has that we don’t know of? I don’t know but my friends tell me that I don’t party and I don’t go out - and that’s seen as a negative in the industry. You know when I just joined the industry, I too thought of throwing parties or going party hopping so that people would notice me. But honestly, I felt totally out of place more so because I don’t drink, smoke, eat non veg or socialize too much with people. This is just not my cup of tea. If I have to make things happen in my life, it has to be through sheer hard work and that’s the way I want it to be for the rest of my life.
People in the South call me whenever they plan a film.”