A picture of actor Sonu Sood’s Mumbai local pass from the days when was still trying to make it big has gone viral. The actor who has been relentlessly ferrying migrants back to their homes, and has been sparking much need joy and empathy by reaching out to those in need via social media, is perhaps one of the few celebs whose heroism during this crisis we will remember fondly. But the way Sood has risen to the challenge also asks to reconsider our perception of heroes.

To ensure that he can help as many migrants as possible, Sood revealed last week that he has launched a toll-free number.

Here is a guy whose most popular role is as a villain in on of the many alpha male-centric Hindi films, where the “hero” beats baddies by the dozens. Will India ever be able to look at these heroes and their stylised stunts ever in the same way? When this crisis is over, will we go back to applauding macho men, who spewed lofty dialogues and turned baddies into pulp, or will we seek more stories about everyday heroes and heroines, who spread positivity, brought comfort and relief to those much in need of it? Those who give us memorable heartwarming lines like “Paidal kyun jaoge dost?”

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The 46-year-old actor comes from this small town called Monga in Punjab. His rise to fame has been slow and steady, having earned it after struggling through the 90s to make his mark. Perhaps it is that struggle which sparked a sense of kinship towards those facing hardships today. “The one who has struggled can understand the plight of others. There was a time when Sonu Sood used to travel by local using 420 rupees pass,” wrote the Twitter user who had shared the image of Sood’s local pass. The actor retweeted it, writing, “Life is a full circle.”

Apart from arranging buses for migrants to take them back home, Sood also offered his Mumbai hotel to healthcare professional to stay at, while battling the pandemic. Just a few days ago he helped send 177 girls from Kochi to Bhubaneshwar by arranging a chartered flight for them. Sood has constantly been active over Twitter, staying connected with people in need and assuring them that help is on the way. To ensure that he can help as many migrants as possible, the actor revealed last week that he has launched a toll-free number.

How many A-list “heroes” and “heroines” have shown this level of commitment to helping out the underprivileged in the current crisis? How many of them have used their reach on social media, their star power to not just express distress about the situation, but to spread hope and positivity? To inspire people to be kinder towards each other, a reminder we all need time and again, when the going gets tough.

Will we finally unlearn to search for a hero in a mega super-star who occupies the spotlight, and instead focus on the aam admi standing next to him?

This is why we as a cinephile society need to question our understanding of a hero (a term I am using broadly for both the genders) and the kind of pop-culture it had spun. Will this crisis finally break the mould that we have cast our heroes from? Will we finally unlearn to search for a hero in a mega super-star who occupies the spotlight, and instead focus on the aam admi standing next to him?

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This isn’t just about an actor creating a benchmark for superstars, but for us as a society to look beyond glitz and glamour, superlative masculinity (keeping aside the fact that Sood is super-fit himself), and see virtues like goodwill, kind-heartedness, and compassion over everything else. It could change the way we elect leaders, write stories, zero in on idols, apart from making films etc.

Heroes don’t have to always be people who avenge a wrong-doing or embody the public’s rage and thirst for vengeance. They also have to be people who encourage us to be better, to extend a helping hand and who affirm the belief that each one of us has it in us think beyond our own well-being. The times that we live in call for each one of us be the second kind. If we have the intent to do so.

Image Credit: Economic Times

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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