Sunny Porn & A Shot of Bollywood

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Sunny-Leone1Quite a sizable number of Indians must be googling Sunny Leone for her to surpass the number of searches for our very social media savvy prime minister. But when TV journalist Bhupendra Chaubey made it a point to turn this into a refrain while interviewing “the most googled person in India in 2015” for his show The Hot Seat, it struck me as odd. How can “most googled” be moulded into an insult for anyone? Our prime minister would have been glad had he not been shoved off the No. 1 spot. The person who has now acquired that position, however, is being cornered to take it with a pinch of salt. Why indeed?

I never thought of this or anything else about Sunny until the word ‘misogyny’ (hatred, fear and distrust of women) came up to describe Chaubey’s attitude towards the actor. Now, I could evade the questions no more as this was all over social media.

Even earlier, in fact, staying off Sunny was quite a task because the media had these seasonal fixations with her every few months. Sunny Leone on Bigg Boss. Sunny Leone doing Bollywood film. Sunny Leone accused of corrupting the “innocuous imagination” of the Indian audience. So on and so forth. And there was also the possibility of Google getting impatient and misunderstanding a search for ‘Sunny Deol’.

No wonder when I did finally key in those two words on Google search, there was also a news item on how Sunny Leone had apologised to Sunny Deol for causing him an identity crisis among youngsters.

Now, just turn it around: Suppose it was a case of Deol brawn overshadowing Leone appeal, would he need to appease and apologise? Obviously not. Because Sunny Leone is a “dirty word”. No one searches for those words in the light of day, or in public at least. Sunny Leone is dirty exactly for the same reasons night and solitude are for some. In an electrified and crowded world, light and company are desirable, healthy and proper.

Clearly, the “culture” I was born in, and which makes me what I am, stood in the way of my looking through the “dirty” trope. Maybe the “forbidden” act of watching porn came with its own preconceived benchmarks for what is acceptable and what is cringeworthy. It was acceptable behaviour to wrinkle your nose at ‘desi’ porn. Perhaps there is little else to explain my “resistance” to Brand Sunny, whether it be her films or ‘videos’. My typing fingers, so to speak, were tied so far as the act of owning up to googling a pornstar-turned-actor could have been uncomfortable.

Karenjit Kaur Vohra became Sunny Leone when she started her career elsewhere in the entertainment industry. The shifting of focus towards Bollywood happened later and eventually capturing the attention of the average Hindi film audience. This could have been Katrina Kaif’s story for all we know. Katrina, too, is occasionally judged for having made her debut with “bold scenes” in Kaizad Gustad’s 2003 film Boom.

The “criticism” that came Sunny’s way was no doubt far more “colourful” as she was a successful porn star before Bigg Boss became her stepping stone to Bollywood. The break came with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt “discovering” her potential as an actor while the TV-watching nation was hooked to the spectacle of a porn star sharing TV space with “mainstream” entertainers.

Sunny’s Sikh parents had brought her up in Canada, sent her to a Catholic school and she had loved sports as a child. But in the world of adult fantasy, it is hard to imagine ‘Sunny Leone’ as a child, much less picture her playing hockey on the streets. Besides, how can a self-confessed ‘tomboy’ grow up to choose breast enhancement?

The child Sunny may not have dreamt of growing up into a porn star, one assumes, as the average parent guards their little ones from such “dirty” concepts. Yet, to her credit, when she did grow up and became an adult stumbling upon the adult industry she did not recoil in pious horror. Harangued by Chaubey’s aggressive piety on The Hot Seat about making money from porn, Sunny said she saw it as just another profession where people realised the aesthetic values of their bodies and decided to earn their livelihood on their own terms.