Rachana Dubey (BOMBAY TIMES; February 4, 2017)

With his muscle power, he can squeeze baddies like lemons. But the beneath the tough exterior, lies an emotional man who can't hold back tears. From being a sidekick in the movies to a go-to character actor and now a producer, Sonu Sood has come a long way. BT had a tete-a-tete with him about his recent release, Kung Fu Yoga, influential showbiz friends and a newfound maturity. Excerpts...

One would have expected you to live in a tony neighbourhood, especially now that you are a producer and a successful actor...
There's a sense of fancy that people attach to our profession. I have larger apartments in some upmarket pockets of the city, but this is the first house I bought. I live here because I feel closer to my parents - they lived here when they were alive. So, nothing matches the sense of attachment I feel for it.

Kung Fu Yoga has hit the screens, finally. Are you relieved?
Very! It was a big feat for my team and me to promote the film, distribute it and make it Jackie Chan's widest release in India. The onus was on the team and me. I was stressed because even as a legend, he was so professional. And when Salman Khan told me, 'Well done, brother', it felt like I had really done something right.

There's a visible sense of achievement...
Many years ago, I boarded an express train to Mumbai on a chaalu ticket. I didn't even have money to make a reservation. But today, I can afford to send a private jet to fetch Jackie Chan to India. Life has come a long way. I wish that my parents were around to see this. To answer your question, yes, there is a sense of achievement that I managed something so big.

Was Jackie Chan intimidating?
I was just happy to see a humble legend sitting next to me. When I was flying to Beijing for the shoot, I watched Police Story on the flight. That was also directed by Stanley Tong with Jackie in the lead. It felt surreal that I was going to work with the same team. In 2007, I'd said in an interview that I wish Jackie works with me...It came true.

Don't you think your humility could be taken for granted?
Maybe. I'm told I'm too humble for my profession. I am supposed to be arrogant, but I can't do that. I can act only when the camera rolls. It's amazing how most people in this industry act even when the camera is not rolling. They act all the time; in fact, they are better actors off the camera. I don't want to get into their shoes.

Saif Ali Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff and even Aamir Khan were reportedly in contention to play Randall. Does that thought make you uncomfortable now?
Not really. I asked Stanley why he had chosen me and he said that he wanted someone without any baggage, someone who would give the film time. He wanted an actor who'd surrender without any question. I remember I hadn't asked a single question when I was offered the film. I had a video call with the team much later.

Apart from Farah Khan and Arbaaz Khan, very few filmmakers have tapped your talent as an actor. Given your equation with them, would you be able to turn down an offer they make?
I work across languages now. In 10 minutes, I can make out if the script works for me or not. Things don't interest me easily anymore. That said, Farah, Arbaaz and even Salman know my potential and will appreciate my frankness if I said no to a role. I had told Arbaaz and Salman that Dabangg 2 doesn't excite me. They took it in the right spirit and stood by me. That's also the case with Farah; she'll not hold it against me if I don't like an offer she makes. They'll understand my point of view because they are my friends.

Does it help to have influential friends in the industry?
I can be assured that I will not be alone in my hour of need. This industry, however, is about survivors, not achievers. It's like holding your breath under water. You let go and you drown. No one else can do that for you, right? I know how to hold my breath till I reach my shore.