‘I am proud and humbled to know that I inspire people because I am old and wrinkly, and I work in the modelling industry,’ reads the LinkedIn profile of Puneet Sud, a man whose middle name could well have been ‘gung-ho’. The intro is at once witty and attention-grabbing. At 64, Sud is a sought-after model in Dubai with looks he calls ‘sinister’ in a playful, self-mocking manner, but one which has graced advertising billboards across the city for four years now. Sud is a man of new times cast in a mould of grey; a man who reinvented happiness all over again at the age of 60, when retirement and a debilitating illness threatened to draw the curtain on his active life.
A civil engineering graduate, Sud landed in Dubai in 1988 and stumbled upon a job in media sales, which then was to become his long-term destiny. The streak of serendipity that defined his sterling career continued to follow him even after he decided to bid adieu to his 8-to-5 job in 2019 when he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Little did he know that the ailment that brought intense physical pain and mental disturbance was going to be the launchpad for a whole new inning.
What seemed like a full stop to his life became an ellipsis. He took to modeling after being initiated into it by a media friend who spotted a rare quality in his persona and suggested it was the face that advertising agencies might be looking for to rev up their campaigns. It was a well-timed advice that deterred him from calling it a day and retiring into a stereotyped geriatric phase.
What worked as catalysts to the breakthrough idea was an exquisite blend of Arabic, Indian and Western characteristics in his looks that seemed tailormade for casting success. Fuelled by a newfound purpose in life and fanned by an old, unfulfilled passion for acting, Sud went scouting for opportunities, which fell in his lap, one by one.
“What really worked in my favour was the intense desire to distract my mind from the excruciating pain I was undergoing because of arthritis. There was a time when I couldn’t even tie my shoelaces. It was crushing. I felt suicidal. It was at that time that life turned the corner,” says Sud, explaining how it was a desperate need to keep his mind away from dismal thoughts that made him take the plunge into modelling.
The rest, as they say, is history. Sud stepped into a spanking new role that is now setting post-retirement goals for people of his age. What sets him apart from his peers who have retreated into a senile, sedentary existence is his never-say-die attitude and a will to perspire outdoors even at 48 degrees for a shoot.
“People after 60 find more reasons not to do things than find one good reason to keep interest in life sustained. Even at a time when I thought there was nothing left for me to do given my restrictive health condition, I was lucky to find this opportunity to work as a model and I grabbed it. My success has only made me more ambitious. To me, life has just begun now.” Such conviction can come only from a man who is on a mission to live life to the fullest, despite all odds.
It is not easy to go against conventions in a world that readily slots and stereotypes people, especially those who have stepped into the twilight zone. “There are detractors galore,” says Sud. “Even when I set out on this new course, there were plenty of people who threw jibes at me. But I persisted, and now, I am a hero to them.”
Hero, indeed, not just because of the wide strides he has made as a model, but for the way he took life’s dare head on and blunted it. By choosing a path that didn’t promise sureshot success, he was taking a chance. “But no one was going to hang me if I didn’t succeed. I wanted to take a crack at it and go down with all guns blazing if I didn’t make it,” he clarifies.
“I’m no trailblazer,” Sud declares in a self-effacing manner, but he also realises that his accomplishments are not ordinary, and he feels gratified. “If I can inspire at least a percentage of people my age to find a new direction in life, I will be humbled,” he says.
With eyes now firmly set on Bollywood and web series opportunities, Sud is here for the long haul. “I am not going anywhere now,” he asserts with a twinkle in his eye. From his words, it seems certain that he is not going to fade out of the limelight anytime soon. The man of the ‘brave sixties’ is here to stay.
Sensational and sensible ideas of future mobility from a century ago up until today
King Khan has attempted a truly cross-industry collaborative film
This soft-top superlative of the DB11 packs some serious heat