by Asjad Nazir
ACTOR Sonu Sood set off from a small town in Punjab with dreams of making it big in cinema. Carrying only the blessings of his parents, he relied on a strong work ethic and got his first break in south Indian cinema. He worked his way up the ladder and into the heart of Indian cinema with a series of winning performances.
Today the talented actor has an impressive filmography in an array of different languages, which has seen him act opposite A-list stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Jackie Chan.
The versatile star has shown off his impressive range in various genres and recently even started producing his own films.
Despite achieving more than he could have dreamed of, Sonu remains one of the hardest working actors in Indian cinema and is looking forward to more interesting projects. Eastern Eye caught up with him to talk about cinema, acting, hopes, inspirations and more.
You have had a very varied career in terms of genres, languages and characters. Has that been a conscious decision?
(Smiles) It has just been a natural progression Asjad. I started the journey in south Indian cinema and enjoyed it immediately. I learned the craft, including the tricks of the trade on the job. Then things progressed including acting in various languages. I think the almighty created a path for me and I just followed it with full discipline. Then my horizons expanded with each step.
What is the secret of delivering such natural performances?
When you go through a script and the camera is switched on you automatically get transformed into the character you want to play. I would say it is not that difficult because I enjoy the craft and performing in front of the camera. I think that (strong) will and love for the craft makes me do what I do. I’m still learning the finer things about acting, but I just love being in front of the camera.
Which of your characters has been closest to your heart?
I loved playing Chhedi Singh from Dabangg, Randall in Kung Fu Yoga and even Jag in Happy New Year.
Do you prefer playing a good or bad guy?
I thoroughly enjoy playing good and bad guys. I have been fortunate enough to play a wide range of characters including very good guys, comedy and villains. It’s good as an actor to keep on challenging and exploring yourself in different roles, genres and languages. That is what I have been doing all these years.
It must mean a lot that all your high profile co-stars have consistently praised your abilities.
They have been very kind. I have been fortunate enough to work with the biggest stars in all the industries whether it has been Shah Rukh (Khan), Jackie Chan, Salman (Khan) or Hrithik (Roshan). They have all been very kind and I have shared a good rapport with everyone. I think when you spend time with people they can gauge your humility and goodness. Once you connect on that level you want to do good work together. That is what I have been trying to do all these years.
What was it like acting with Jackie Chan in Kung Fu Yoga?
Working with Jackie Chan was one of the most special experiences of my life. He is one of the most humble, genuine and grounded guys and has worked really hard to achieve all he has. You learn so much from someone like him. I shot with him for seven or eight months and during that time I learned so much including the importance of always staying grounded no matter what you achieve in life.
What films do you have on the way?
I have two films on the way down south in Tamil and Telugu, one Chinese film, another home production and war drama, Paltan. My hands are full and I am just trying to put in my best.
What kind of subjects are you looking for as a producer?
I opened my production house under my (late) dad’s name and just want to make him proud. I want to do films that entertain audiences and stay with them for life. The effort is to choose the right scripts that entertain people and excite me. So the hunt is always on for the right directors and writers to come up with interesting ideas.
You are building a bridge between India and China with interesting projects. What has that experience been like?
China is a huge market and growing rapidly. It is becoming one of the biggest in the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in China. They work very hard and are passionate about their craft. You see the results. No matter how tired or occupied you are, you have to give your very best. That is what I have learned from China.
A lot of biopics are being made. Which real life character would you love to play?
They are making biopics on cricket, so that would be interesting. I would love to do anything related to sport. Punjabi cinema is doing well. Is going back to your Punjabi roots something you would want to explore cinematically? I would love to do Punjabi films. Now they are doing very well. I have shortlisted a few Punjabi scripts and hopefully that is something I will explore also. I love watching Punjabi films and hopefully can do one soon.
You have taken steps internationally with Chinese cinema. Is coming west on the radar for you?
Yes. With Kung Fu Yoga a lot of new avenues have opened and it is something I am looking at. I am waiting for something really good and then would definitely do it. It is a big step ahead, and I am walking slowly towards it.
Your physique is always amazing. How much training do you do?
I work out pretty much seven days a week. Even on my off days I will go for a cardio session or some kind of a body weight exercise or do lots of stretching. I really enjoy those two or three hours I go to the gym. It’s like party time for me working out and staying fit. It doesn’t feel like an effort going to the gym and I always look forward to it.
You are also going into producing events.
Yes, we just organised a very big show in Dubai with an events company we opened with Hrithik Roshan, Vishal Shekhar, Badshah and others. It was a huge show in one of their biggest venues. This is another opportunity for me to learn something new.
You are very hard working. Where does that come from?
I would say from my (late) parents. My mother was a professor in Punjab and she would work 17 to 18 hours a day. My dad’s hard work was also a big motivator. So I think that work culture comes from them. So it is something that I was born with, but not something I would like to take credit for.
What inspires you today?
I still remember when I left my house in Punjab to come to Mumbai. I just wanted to make my parents proud. Although they are not around now, I know they are watching my every step. I just want to keep on working hard and making them proud, and putting a smile on their face. That is my motivation in life.
Why do you love cinema?
It has the power to make you immortal. Once you play a character it becomes immortal. It enables you to open up a new world and play all these diverse characters. Cinema is something that is creative and it excites me. That is what I enjoy.
How do you feel about being Indian cinema’s secret weapon?
Thank you so much for being kind. Like I said, I am always a backbencher waiting for my roll call to come and I just say yes sir, present sir. I just want to be present, work hard and survive. For me cinema is not about achieving something in that moment or in your life, but how long you can survive and hold your breath underwater. I always tell those who want to get into cinema that it is a very tough field and like holding your breath underwater. How long can you hold it? All I can say is that I have held my breath for a long time and will keep on holding it.