Sonu Sood, 47
He’s had a temple built for him by grateful villagers in Dubba Tanda, Telangana, while the Election Commission in his home state Punjab has made him a state icon. He’s written a book about his experience, I Am No Messiah, for Penguin; he’s got endorsement deals and even superstar Chiranjeevi has refused to beat him up onscreen. The Moga-born actor who is known onscreen for villainous roles is now getting cast as a hero.
All because he could not bear to stand by and watch migrants walk home from the comfort of his home during the lockdown. With a toll-free number and a WhatsApp helpline, he managed to not merely organise food but also travel for stranded migrants. He sent migrants home by bus, and soon chartered a flight to send a large group of migrant workers from Kerala to their homes in Odisha, earning the chief minister’s gratitude. Even as public transport restrictions were lifted, he continued to help, whether it was two sisters in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh whose plough he replaced with a tractor so they could focus on education or helping veteran actor Anupam Shyam with hospital fees.
The actor mortgaged two shops and six flats to raise a loan of `10 crore, using his vast network of friends and associates to get airline permissions, waive restrictions, and often get visas done overnight. From being the hero’s punching bag, he became the country’s darling.