That small-time actor Sonu Sood got away with money-laundering, fraud and fake philanthropy for a year until the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Enforcement Directorate sleuths caught up with his shenanigans is a sad commentary on the emotional void people feel at times of distress. It was this emptiness in their real lives that had created the persona of tragedy king Dilip Kumar, ‘The Tramp’ Charlie Chaplin and his clone Raj Kapoor, ‘Angry Young Man’ Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh ‘Rahul’ Khan, Salman ‘Bhai’ Khan and others in the series. It’s a different matter altogether that Sonu Sood is not in the league of any of these actors. He nevertheless catered to the need of the year 2020: a hero at a time of distress, the misery being that of the pandemic caused by a China-origin virus that devastated the economy, hurting the poorest the most. Playing a sidekick in south Indian films, the actor who played the villain in just one hit Hindi movie had clearly hatched an elaborate plan, keeping the gullibility of celebrity-struck people in mind. He went over the top with his photo-ops when he must have assumed that his appearance with a few buses filled with migrant workers was not PR enough and so he roped in a helicopter supplying medical oxygen and oximeter too. But so starry-eyed are the people that nobody asked last year where an actor of B and C grade films was getting all the money from at a time when the cinema industry of the whole world was reeling under the impact of closed theatres and a ban on shootings that would disrupt social distancing.
Why the agencies must go after Sonu Sood a year after his acquisition of Rs 19.84 crore and expenditure of a meagre Rs 1.9 crore out of it, getting Rs 250 crore investment from a shady firm in Singapore for his Pravasi Rozgar-turned-GoodWorker website, coming up with a travel consultancy and then also claiming to be a teacher, etc is a frivolous question. It is common, albeit technical, knowledge that explanations for financial transactions are sought and given not in the year of those exchanges but the following year. That the agencies are dragging Sonu Sood because he is a brand ambassador of a mentorship programme of the AAP is a bigger laugh. There is no way the BJP-led NDA dispensation could have caused Arvind Kejriwal’s party any kind of discomfiture by chasing a presumptuous celebrity who is not even a primary member of the political organisation that runs Delhi’s administration. The superficial questioners may be asked why then the agencies went after Rhea Chakraborty and an assortment of drug peddlers and consumers in Bollywood and the rest of Mumbai, who have no visible political connections.
Instead of putting up an unconvincing defence for the shamed actor, the AAP should have behaved the way commercial establishments do when the name of a brand ambassador is sullied: end the contract with the model forthwith. Such actions are taken to mitigate the infamy regardless of the legal outcome of the allegations, and rightly so. For, even if a court of law acquits the accused after years, the loss of reputation cannot be undone. The Delhi-based party might have reckoned that it no longer carried the public impression of being incorruptible and, hence, it could take one more controversy in its stride. But that speaks ill of people’s intelligence too. For the past two elections in Delhi, the AAP could successfully sell their ‘anti-corruption’ hogwash. The Aam Aadmi Party is, in fact, to politics what Sonu Sood was in 2020 and the entertainment industry is always to Indian society: a salesman who preys on his customer’s desperate want to catch a glimpse of a non-existent entity.