Sunny Leone: On Her Own Terms

by Biswadeep Ghosh - May 13, 2017 03:11 PM +05:30 IST
Sunny Leone: On Her Own TermsSunny Leone
  • The former adult film star is cruising on her own turf – and on her own terms.

Sunny Leone (born Karenjit Kaur Vohra in Canada) entered the business of entertainment in India through the reality show Bigg Boss in 2011. She hid her identity from her fellow housemates, either because she had been advised to do so, or since she knew that she belonged to that part of the filmmaking world which needed physical performance rather than what is conventionally defined as “acting skills”.

As soon as the word spread, many surfers went on an information- gathering overdrive. Director Mahesh Bhatt visited the reality show house for a brief while, and signed her for the erotic thriller Jism 2 right away. After she agreed to work in the film, the script of Sunny Leone’s story in India cinema started to write itself.

When this star with a background in porn films started her journey in India, how accommodating was the filmmaking fraternity? Not much, that’s for sure. Many cribbed in subdued whispers, “You know what? This girl has the audacity to be in a place with people who have a strong moral stand against the kind of work she had done. Chhee, how can people actually sign her?”

The media’s loudspeakers began to crackle. Her past turned her into a subject for objectification, an identity she accepted with glee. Soon, she became the most searched ‘female celebrity from Hindi cinema’ on the internet, whose competitors were the now-gone Sherlyn Chopra and Poonam Pandey. But Sunny stayed well ahead in the race. Fleeting curiosity of the surfer, her critics believed. Her baggage of history will ensure eviction from public memory. Or, so they thought.

They were terribly, terribly wrong. For, Sunny has not only hung on but gone on to play a game of her own in which she has no rivals. She hasn’t stopped herself from making cameo appearances as an item girl in both Hindi as well as films from the South. She has made heads turn with her body language in a condom ad. Sunny is where Mallika Sherawat would have liked to be; but, she has gone further because she has displayed a strong work ethic instead of creating controversies, most of them manufactured.

She got lucky when Jism 2 became a hit. But she has capitalized on her luck, knowing she has a USP which others don’t: the ability to shed her inhibitions with ease whenever called upon to do so. She has featured in idiotic mishaps like Jackpot, but also shown signs of improving in the acting department with Ragini MMS2, a horror film which became a sleeper hit and convinced her fans that she was here to stay.

After shooting at a stretch for a long time, the star has as many as six films lined up for release in 2015. The strange thing is, no matter who her male co-star might be, a Sunny film is always known and marketed as a Sunny film. Her producers don’t need a huge budget to produce her films, although, the actor herself, it is said, is charging a hefty pay packet.

But, why shouldn’t she? In a trade in which successes are hard to earn, she makes promises of hope before the film’s release. She may not be able to pilot her films to Rs 100-crore successes on her own; yet, she is the perfect candidate for a Rs 20-crore film if a hit is what the producer wants. Needless to say, he does. It is a business, after all.

Having inherited Mallika’s crown and added more diamonds to it, the actor is waiting for three releases in April and May. Among them, Ek Paheli Leela is releasing tomorrow. If it works and chances are it might, we can expect a few hastily planned quickies with starlets funded by producers with shallow pockets in search of elusive goldmines.

Incidentally, April will see another Leone release named Mastizaade. In this sex comedy, she plays a character named Laila Lele, the most aggressively promoted onscreen name since Salman Khan’s Chulbul Pandey in Dabanng. In May, she will appear in Kuch Kuch Locha Hai in which she plays a star who meets a married man, leading to a twist in the latter’s life. This too is an adult comedy.

Too many discussions on her past have resulted in fatigue in the media. A few incorrigible mediapersons still refer to her as the ‘former porn star’, but it simply doesn’t matter. In contemporary Hindi films, she is her only competitor in an era in which two kissing pigeons (thankfully) don’t symbolise lovemaking any longer.

Many so-called liberal tradewallahs detested her presence in 2011. Now, they are the ones who are queuing up for her dates. A success story on her own terms with the assistance of some generous support by Mahesh Bhatt and Ekta Kapoor in the initial stages of her career, Sunny, in 2015, has every right to think: OK guys, I have made it. Face it, or turn your face away.

This, when she knows that hardly any top male actor in Hindi films – except the footloose Salman Khan, one suspects – will share the screen with her. This, when she is aware that a Karan Johar or an Aditya Chopra won’t ring her doorbell ever. Being a dream presence for many others today, she actually doesn’t need them.

So much power in a male-dominated trade: how often have you heard it in recent years?

Having started out as a journalist at 18, Biswadeep Ghosh let go of a promising future as a singer not much later. He hardly steps out of his rented Pune flat where he alternates between writing or pursuing his other interests and and looks after his pet sons Burp and Jack.
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