Sonu Sood

SONU IS AN ALTRUIST, NOT A SWINDLER

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The law will certainly take its course but it beats logic and experience to see a righteous person like Sonu Sood be charged with tax evasion. 

The current situation reminds me of George Washington’s statement: “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.”

I have known Sonu for over 30 years. Back then he was nobody, not even a struggling actor; just a friend with whom we had a good time. We shared laughter and food, hanging out all day long. We rode our bikes and roamed around as most students do. What made our relationship special was his nature; he valued friendship and cared for everyone he came in contact with.

Coming from a typical middle class family, he didn’t have much money as the rest of us who were broke most of the time. We were not sure about our future. None of us even thought about it; just took life as it came. Sonu got into local modelling projects during college and, by the end of it, he developed an interest in cinema and acting. We had a gala time during his early modelling days, watching movies in Nagpur. All these times, I observed that Sonu is the perfect example of a ‘giver’. A ‘giver’ who tends to provide support to others, no strings attached. I always thought Sonu would fit into an NGO or do social work. Many a time, he paid the fees of poor kids. He could always connect with people.

He could strike a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Chai ki dukaans were our favourite hangouts. Sonu always got special treatment there. He was friends with every chaiwala in town, treating them with compassion. He never had airs about him or the snobbery that accompanies people when they become famous. I remember during the release of ‘Ek Vivaah… Aisa Bhi’, Sooraj Barjatya, Kaushik Gosh, Sonu Sood and I were sitting at a dining table at the airport. He was helping the waiter bring stuff and shaking hands with all the staff there. Sonu was not a big star at the time though, but he never changed.

Sonu is a person who doesn’t care much about what people would think about him. I remember once we went to a fashion show in Delhi. We somehow managed to get to the front row and while we talked to the stars there, he held his broken helmet in his hand. Why would such a person need money, I ask?

To me, personally, he would be the last person to do something like tax evasion, and bring a bad name to himself and let us down. I am not even recounting his good work in the pandemic or earlier. I am sure law will take its course and the truth would come out sooner than later, but it gives me sleepless nights thinking why Sonu, of all the people, had to face this? Where did he go wrong? What did he do wrong? I have no idea; I get filtered news here in the US. We need to make sure that we Indians don’t get into crab mentality and pull each other down at the slightest hint of others doing better.

I hear the raids lasted three days and unearthed tax evasion of Rs 20 crore. Three days is a long time and Sonu is not a business tycoon or a gangster. I am sure that many times that amount he would willingly spend on needy people: sending them home, feeding them and getting them treated. Why, I ask, would Sonu do it? I don’t have an answer. Perhaps Sonu himself rightly summed it up: “You don’t have to always tell your side of the story. Time will.” I am sure it will and my friend would be exonerated honourably. An honour he so well deserves!

(The writer, an NRI and host of the ‘Jay Ho’ talk show, has long been friends with actor Sonu Sood. The views expressed are personal.)

On my show, he told me how he built his team. Not just a team, but a team of ‘givers’. All those associated with him started helping him. His driver, cook, everybody started acting in some capacity to form his staff during the pandemic. For instance, his driver volunteered to coordinate efforts to provide help to those who needed medical care. Sonu’s charm brought out the best in everyone around him. He would call the doctor to fix an appointment, and the person would get treatment. No mean achievement this, considering at the time no one would entertain patients due to Corona scare.

Why am I thinking about all this now? Well, something happened that just does not match the character of Sonu I know or knew. I read about the income tax raids on his premises and the allegations that Sonu and his aides evaded taxes. Also, that there is the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violation while raising funds from abroad. Interestingly, a person close to Sonu told me that the I-T officers who raided his premises were apologetic and even praised his humanitarian work.

I know one can become biased when one has an emotional attachment with someone. But I share the sentiment that all expatriates in the US have about this incident. The NRIs here donated tonnes of money through MILAP platform during COVID-19 and have always been high on nationalistic flavour. Sonu, the on-screen villain, has been one of our cherished heroes. We all have 100 per cent confidence that the money we trusted him with was spent in right earnest.

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