Why I'd like to salute Sunny Leone

Harmeet Shah Singh
Harmeet Shah SinghAug 20, 2017 | 15:51

Why I'd like to salute Sunny Leone

On Thursday, India stood in awe of a spectacle that unfolded in Kochi when Sunny Leone showed up for a public appearance.

She waved and blew kisses at an overflowing sea of screeching fans.

Down south, language reigns supreme, more so in its entertainment industry.

Sunny Leone was born Karenjit Kaur Vohra to Sikh immigrant parents in the Canadian town of Sarnia.


She has no linguistic connection with the Malayalees. Even her Hindi, which is getting better, is American accented.

But her journey from Karenjit Kaur Vohra to a porn star in North America, to her stint in Bigg Boss, Bollywood, Baby Doll, her interview with Bhupendra Chaubey to what we all saw in Kerala with our jaws dropped offer a classic case-study of formidable entrepreneurship.

I disagree with western writers who describe her as an icon of sexual revolution in India.

It's also simplistic to declare porn as an agent of sexual revolution in a country just because censor authorities there allow no sexual extremism in cinema.

Perhaps, they never read Indian philosophy and history. Their narrative comes largely from the lens of east-versus-west or conservative-versus-modern theories.

But what isn't a cliche is India's diversity of cultures, emotions and views, which are too varied for anyone to single out common features.

Ours is a civilisation where the orthodox school of thought co-existed with the unorthodox, conflicts aside. Remember Charvaka, the doctrine that rejected notions of karma and the authority of the Vedas?


Who hasn't heard about Vatsyayana's Kama Sutra written in Sanskrit sometime in the third century?

Obsessed as they are with everything and anything American, most journalists in the United States seem to extol the porn industry around Los Angeles for Leone's stardom back in India.

First, let's be clear that pornography is not de facto sex education. It's not creative art.

It's also simplistic to declare porn as an agent of sexual revolution in a country just because censor authorities there allow no sexual extremism in cinema.

Does adult content beam directly into North American homes? No, it doesn't. Is American society itself not conservative about extra-marital relationships and incest? It very much is.

Pornography is commodification of sex, offering generic products packaged in imageries of aggressive sexual acts.

The Sunny Leone phenomenon, therefore, isn't remarkable for revolutionising sex in India, because it hasn't and it can't. It's remarkable because of its protagonist's own individuality.

Here's a woman who refuses to apologise for her career in porn.

"I look at things differently than people do here,” a news report quoted her as saying last year. “When I watch a movie, sex and intimate scenes and getting close to someone is the norm. It’s not something abnormal. It happens every day."


Now, that's amazing. Leone followed no ready-made script. She wrote her own narrative.

She faced Bhupendra Chaubey's aggressive interview calmly. “Everything I’ve done in my life has led me into this seat,” she told him. “Everything has been a stepping stone to something bigger or better.”

That precisely embodies the theory of destiny - and of karma.

She reminds me of Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, who once famously said: "...you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

In 2011, Leone's extended family in India shunned her when Bigg Boss happened.

She also confidently confronted political threats and accusations of undermining Indian culture.

Like any other industry, Bollywood has no truck with commercial failures. Leone's mainstream films have largely been average grossing.

But she isn't to be judged by her performance in India's Tinseltown. She isn't dependent on Bollywood.

She has carved a niche for herself in a borderless world of digital communications. The deep-hazel-eyed star is an entrepreneur of terrific intelligence.

No wonder fans in Kerala crashed the barriers to catch a glimpse of the star who flattens the barriers that come her way - within and outside.

Last updated: August 21, 2017 | 20:34
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