It has been a life-transforming experience for Sabysachi Mishra. For well over three months now, the popular Ollywood actor with the boy-next-door image has been on a mission: helping out people in distress with rations and medical supplies, caring for and comforting those in distress due to the Coronavirus pandemic and facilitating the return of Odia students and migrant workers stranded in cities outside the state due to the prolonged, nationwide lockdown. He has spent almost 15 lakh rupees in the process. But the deep-felt gratitude of the hundreds he has helped out and the goodwill of millions of Odias looking for a real-life ‘hero’ have compensated for the financial loss several times over. No wonder he has promptly earned the sobriquet “Odisha’s Sonu Sood!”
Outlook got a taste of this gratitude during the telephonic conversation itself when Sabyasachi excused himself for a couple of minutes to speak to someone stranded in Hyderabad who he had helped to unite with his critically ailing mother back in Odisha. The grateful son had called to inform him that his mother was keen to speak to him and bless him and request him to speak to her through a video call. Sabyasachi promised him he would.
It all started with a distress call from a girl named Dharitri, who was stranded in Mumbai after the first lockdown in late March and wanted to be by the side of her ailing mother in Polsara in Ganjam district. Sabyasachi hasn’t stopped since then, going out of his way to help out people hit in myriad ways by the pandemic. Among the first Good Samaritan works that got widely noticed – and generously appreciated – was arranging for the return of over 70 Odia students of the Central Sanskrit University in Rajasthan, nearly sixty of them girls.
“As an actor, I already had a large fan base and interacted with them on a regular basis. Initially, I used to ignore pleas for help from fans as I thought there wasn’t much I could do. But after a while, my conscience pricked me and I thought the least I could do was to speak to and comfort those in trouble. Having listened to their pain and anguish, however, there was no way I could stop at just that. One thing led to another and I got completely immersed in it,” the actor told Outlook.
For over three months now, the reel hero has been busy playing the real-life hero, frequently skipping meals, bath and sleep. “My mother feeds me while I am at it, attending to and making calls for help and doing sundry other work,” he says with a fond chuckle. He has a dedicated phone number just for this and keeps receiving dozens of calls seeking help every day. He makes it a point to attend to each call personally.
Sabysachi says he is overwhelmed with the generous help he has received from people, many of them complete strangers, in what he is doing. A bus owner in Madurai, after coming to know about the good work he is doing, voluntarily offered his bus at half the price to ferry Odia workers stranded there back to the state. On another occasion, when a bus bringing back migrant workers broke down somewhere near Kanpur, three different groups of people converged at the place with food, water and tents for them within an hour after he tweeted about it. “When I asked them how much I should pay them for their services, they said; ‘Do you think we will take money for this? No way.’ I realised that humanity has survived all the vicissitudes of the merciless modern world,” he said.
The film industry is among those hit the hardest by the Coronavirus crisis. For four months now, all work has screeched to a halt. Sabyasachi himself has lost badly due to the pandemic. He had at least three offers, all of which are now in a limbo. The release of a Telugu film that was set to be in the theaters in May has now been indefinitely postponed. There is no knowing when the next Odia film will go on floors. But right now, films are the farthest from the actor’s mind. But now that it is clear that the Coronavirus crisis is not going to end in a hurry, how long does he think he can carry on with his philanthropic work? “I am not thinking about that either. I will keep doing what I am doing as long as I can. I did not plan anything while getting into this. Nor do I propose to do so now. The Almighty has brought me this far and I am sure he would lead me in the days ahead too,” the actor said.