“Do you think you are responsible for this,” Sunny Leone was asked in an interview about the fact that India was now one of the largest consumers of the adult website PornHub. This was followed by: “People think if you see a Sunny Leone film, you will be morally corrupted. I am wondering if I am becoming morally corrupted, well, because I am interviewing you.”
“If you want, I can leave,” Sunny Leone shot back as the interview wound up; it had clearly not gone as it should have. The reason? The unnecessary, uncomfortable and downright cringeworthy questions about her past. For the interviewer, there was only one part of Sunny Leone’s life that he was interested in – her past as a porn star.
Through the interview she was asked:
One thing that Sunny Leone regrets in her life, what would that be?
Is Sunny’s past blocking her growth in Bollywood?
Do you not sometimes get affected by the fact that your past, your past as the ‘porn queen’ will continue to haunt you? Or may be continue to pull you back?
If I was to turn the clock back, would you still do what you did?
Sunny said she would do it “one hundred percent.”
Through the entire session she was bombarded with questions about how people look at her, if she thought of herself as a serious actress (the interviewer called her an ‘item girl’ at one point) or if she was just doing it for the money. She was also asked if “we will also see movies of Sunny Leone in the future, where Sunny will be dressed up from head to toe in a saree. I mean covered completely?” Because, in the interviewer’s words, “That also has its own charm.”
While the interview was meant to be a part of the promotions of her upcoming film Mastizaade, hardly anything was asked about that film. The focus remained on her past.
As I sat watching this interview my mind boggled with several questions – so what if she was a porn star? And how have these questions been asked and aired? Do we now treat former porn stars with lesser respect on TV interviews than we would any other celebrity? Would the same questions have been put to any other celebrity? Do our journalists now don the role of moral compasses, questioning her choices and trying to bring a wayward sexy siren back to her senses (because how can one want to be a porn star unless there is some sob story related to it?) and drape her in a saree?
If this interview is anything to go by, it certainly looks like the media now has a license to be aggressive towards and insult people for their career choices, and even suggest what they should to in the future.
Sunny Leone has been a phenomenon around which India has not been able wrap its head. There was a huge buzz around her arrival on the Bigg Boss 5. She was a Punjabi girl who was a very very famous porn star. From the Bigg Boss house, she found herself a permanent place in Bollywood.
In her interviews, including the one talked about above, she comes across as anyone else — someone who wants to entertain people, a confident person who does not regret her much talked about past.
And this particular interviewer was left baffled by Sunny’s answers — no, she does not regret her past; she does not care about what people say; she is confident that she will do really well. And, no she is certainly not responsible for the rise of porn consumers in India. She does not care if a housewife thinks she will “morally corrupt” her family.
This interview is what we, in colloquial terms, call slut shaming. It is the act of humiliating women who are open about their sexuality, in control of it and are not afraid to flaunt it.
The interviewer has since defended himself on his blog after a backlash on social media. “The only reason why Sunny Leone, or Karanjit as she used to be called earlier, would have qualified to be on my show, is because it’s her past now evolving into her present which is the story waiting to be told,” he wrote.
Pointing to a particular article that criticised his style of questioning, he explained, “The article, like many others, assumes that I have been judgmental. I fail to understand how. I simply did the job of asking questions, yes which were perhaps moral in nature. But isn’t that also the story? I did mention this multiple times in course of the interview that Indians were a bunch of hyper hypocritical people. I am not writing this blog to respond to the critics.”
In his defense too, he fails to understand that being a porn star, as perceived by many, cannot be considered immoral.
Speaking of porn stars, let’s not forget, one of the biggest Hollywood stars Sylvester Stallone had starred in a porn film called Party at Kitty and Stud’s. Another porn star Mary Carey had contested for the 2003 California gubernatorial elections that Arnold Schwarzenegger won. Why attack Sunny Leone for her career choice, one wonders.
The interviewer found Sunny Leone a tough nut to crack. She kept her cool, confidently dodging one question after the other. When asked how she would want viewers to look at her she said, “I want the viewers to look at me how they want to look at me. However they like seeing Sunny Leone, that’s how they are going to see me. There is no way I can change their mind with one interview.”
And as the interview ends, we all know who came out looking like the better human being. Morally or otherwise.