By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Indo-Canadian porn queen Sunny Leone, 32, came to the Indian entertainment industry in 2011 when she entered the reality show Big Boss without disclosing her status as a porn star.
But it was during her participation in Big Boss that she was offered a role by Mahesh Bhatt in Jism 2 (sequel to the 2003 film Jism that featured Bipasha Basu). Later, she was signed by Ekta Kapoor for Ragini MMS 2. In Shootout At Wadala, Sunny also featured in the item song Laila.
As director Kaizad Gustad has just signed her for his film Jackpot, Sunny Leone opens up with Subhash K. Jha about her life in Bollywood and her future plans and how her family has reacted to her choices. Here is the interview:
Q: A lot has been happened to your career in Bollywood since we last spoke. How do you feel about the changes in your life and career?
This has been the most amazing transition that I could hope for. Being accepted and liked in another country is not something that happens all the time.
Q: How accepting has Bollywood been of you? Do you feel completely at home here?
Bollywood has been very accepting. I know there are people out there that don’t like me but there are more people liking me so it doesn’t bother me. I am very lucky that when I entered Bollywood I was coming with a fan-following already. And the Big Boss Season 5 show helped everyone else get to know me as a person. Moving to India from Hollywood was one of the easiest moves I have ever made. Effortless really.
Q: You performed an item song in Shootout At Wadala. How difficult was it for you to master all those filmy manoeuvres?
It was a challenge but I fortunately was working with one of the easiest choreographer Ahmed Khan and his team Karishma, Khalid and Bob. They made me feel so comfortable that is was able to relax and just dance. I was the child growing up that wanted to play football, hockey, basketball and so on, so this is a challenge for me to learn a whole new art. But something that I can promise anyone one I work with is that I am a fast learner and I work very very hard to get it right within the scope of my ability.
Q: Your next project is Ekta Kapoor’s Ragini MMS 2? How comfortable are you in the horror genre?
Honestly I loved working on this film. There is a lot of performance in this movie and a huge range of emotions and of course horror. I don’t mind the idea of not looking pretty in every shot. To me this is my way of getting out of who I am and becoming someone completely different for the day. I’ll be able to talk in more detail once the movie comes out.
Q: How much of the Indian film industry have you so far come to terms with?
I am not sure I fully understand this question. But I grew up in a typical Punjabi home and watched Hindi movies during my childhood. I understand Hindi and Punjabi and the Indian film industry is like every entertainment industry across the world. It all functions the same just in a different language. I have moved my whole world here and love this industry of Bollywood.
Q: Do you feel it’s hard for an outsider like you to crack the Bollywood code?
I can’t speak for someone else’s experiences in life but for me because of my background and the fact that I have been in entertainment for 13 years did give me the basic understandings of how things work. But also again I work very very hard and around the clock trying my hardest to learn everything that Bollywood is. I’m not even sure if I have fully cracked the “code” but I have begun the process hopefully. It all depends on how my second, third and forth movies do. In all reality, I have only made one movie that has been released to the world. It all depends on how the world accepts me in those movies to come.
Q: Are you now a full-on Mumbai girl? Have you and your husband settled down in Mumbai?
I feel very comfortable living here and it’s been the easiest move for he and I. We are very much settled and know the ins and out of Mumbai. I think the day I felt totally comfortable was when I started giving my driver directions.
Q: How does your family react to your new career as a Bollywood actress?
My husband obviously is my biggest supporter. He runs two other businesses and has his own musical band and yet still finds the time to be my husband and manage my career, he’s kind of like superman. My brother is very very supportive and has been from the beginning of my career. He’s a head chef in America and I hope one day he can move here so I see him more. My parents have passed away and I know they are looking down on me and smiling. If my mom and dad knew I met Madhuri Dixit the other day I know they would have been so excited. My father always told me over and over again, do what you want in life but make sure you are the best at what you do and work hard. My father left India to Canada with $200 USD in his pocket and worked his way up and I always admired his hard work.
Q: Have you bought your own home in Mumbai? Was it difficult for you to get property in Mumbai?
I have not purchased a home yet because my husband and I decided to see how things would move forward here in Bollywood before committing to buying something. It has also giving us a chance to get to know our surrounding and neighborhood that are nice to live in. It was a very easy process to find something we like and all tenants were very excited at the thought of a Bollywood actress living in their place. We are currently looking at new builds that fit in our time frame to buy. It’s very exciting.
Q: Have you left your days as an adult star behind? How do you look back on that experience?
Right now my whole focus is in Bollywood and nothing else. I believe I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime and I plan to keep my focus and energy here till the fans want me. If it wasn’t for my past I would not be who I am. I am not ashamed of it because it has brought me here to India. If I came here as regular me with no entertainment experience, then I would not be as popular as I am today with the public.
Q: How do you react to a director like Anees Bazmi saying he wouldn’t want to work with you as he has a family audience to consider?
I have no idea what this is all about. But I am very lucky that there are plenty of people that want to work with me.
Q: What are your immediate plans in Bollywood?
I am starting a new project at the moment and have a few songs left to shoot for Ragini MMS 2. I am in Hindi dialogue lessons and I don’t thing that will ever end. My plan as always is to not plan and just keep working hard, like every project could be my last and give it my all.
Q: Is it true your husband Daniel is also seeking a career in Bollywood?
My husband is entertaining several opportunities and for information you’ll have to ask him.
Q: Women and children in India have lately been subjected to unprecedented violence and brutality. How do you react to the perception that the commodification of women in the glamour industry is a major cause for provoking crime against women?
Well, what has been going on is not something that just stared recently. But what has now started is that the media is being tuned into what has been going on for decades and finally bringing light to these horrible psychotic events. Its not an industry that makes people do things, it’s an individual and that individual needs help. These things happen all over the world at every minute of the day. The entertainment industry cannot be blamed. It’s fiction meaning make-believe.