RGV's short film Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai reflects shameless opportunism
Ram Gopal Varma once made a film called Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. It followed Chutki (Antara Mali), a small-town girl who dreams of emulating the screen success of her idol, Madhuri Dixit. She expresses her ambitions to her parents, only to find that they have different plans for her — plans that involve an arranged marriage, and certainly not a film career.
This was in 2003.
Cut to 2017, and Varma has updated that premise to come up with a short film called Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai.
It depicts a living room conversation in an average, middle-class household, where the daughter of the family (Naina Ganguly) has just informed her parents (Makarand Deshpande and Divya Jagdale) of her intention to become a porn star, like Sunny Leone. (Never mind that Leone stopped being an adult actress years ago).
The parents and daughter then have a tense argument over sexuality, the porn business, women's bodies, society and whathaveyou, where Sunny Leone's name is thrown around in every second sentence.
It's supposed to be scathing takedown of hypocritical social mores, and presents RGV as some sort of feminist. A quote from him placed at the very end reads: "I sincerely believe women empowerment should have no discrimination. Her power should be her choice."
All this 11-minute long video does, however, is show up RGV as an opportunist, riding on the proven attention-grabbing powers of Leone's name. One isn't aware at this point if the use of her name is something Leone has even consented to.
So what's wrong with Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai? Everything.
For starters, we have a man (RGV) lecturing us on what a woman's sexuality is all about, how liberating it is to take off one's clothes and why sex is power. The lines spouted by the lead character (a wooden Ganguly) sound like nothing more than mansplaining.
She (Ganguly) is supposed to be the liberated one here, but she comes across just as regressive as her parents (Deshpande, Jagdale). Divya Jagdale and Makaranad Deshpande, both fine actors otherwise, are reduced here to caricatures. Jagdale looks distraught and dishevelled, shouts and wrings her hands and mouths the predictable 'hum logon ko kya moo dikhaenge' type lines, while Deshpande shouts, frowns and bellows the 'tum pornstar banna chahti ho' type lines. Loud, overly dramatic background music is meant to underscrore the ground-breaking nature of this conversation.
Spoiler alert: There's nothing groundbreaking here.
Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai positions itself as progressive, shocking and sensational. What it is, is out-dated.
The conversation about porn, sexuality — and Sunny Leone — has moved far beyond what this poorly conceived, poorly executed short film imagines. It's a conversation that's far more nuanced than what RGV can even begin to capture in these 11 minutes.
To give you just one example of the kind of tripe this purportedly feminist short film propagates, here's a dialogue:
"Ma, main jaanti hoon, aurat sirf sex nahin hai. Wo ek ma bhi hai, nani, dadi, sister — sab kuch hai. Par ek aurat ki sabse badi value hai sirf aur sirf uski sundarta aur sex appeal."
Sunny Leone found fame, and yes, it was as an adult performer, and yes, she is an incredibly beautiful and vibrant woman. She's also an astute entrepreneur. She's translated her celebrity in the adult film industry into a Bollywood career, and a very successful brand that sells everything from erotic fiction to perfumes, online gaming and more. She's self-made in every sense of the term. And in person, she's warm, personable, and very down-to-earth.
So yes, Sunny Leone is someone to admire. This short film that's seemingly meant to champion her, is nothing but a great disservice. She deserves better. And so does the discussion on porn.
Watch Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai here: