And Rana is back in Singapore.... after a jaunt in China. He called to congratulate me from Shanghai. And I asked him 'for what?"' He said it was because my web presence was entirely blocked in China, and I should take that as a huge compliment! He couldn't access my mail, blog, twitter account or FB page. Okay, Rana. I am flattered.... but what a bloody bore!
Clearly, I had forgotten to post this earlier... it had appeared in The Week...
Sunny days are here again…
India with all its crazy contradictions, still manages to surprise. Our broad acceptance across the board of Sunny Leone, an adult content films performer ( porn star, to put it bluntly and crudely), continues to baffle. Not only has Sunny gone mainstream with a starring role in a Bollywood movie, she was invited to ‘grace the Navratri celebrations’ in ultra-conservative Narendra Modi territory – Gujarat. Durga! Durga! On one level, this new openness is a great big leap forward for a nation that has earlier remained obstinately stuck in a pseudo-moralistic morass.But the Navratri invite to Gujarat has definitely sent out mixed signals. Navratri is considered a particularly auspicious period for Hindus, preceding Dusshera and Diwali. Gujarat virtually explodes with elaborately staged Dandiya Raas nights during the nine day Festival . Navratri’s unwanted pregnancies used to be Gujarat’s worst kept secret. In such a confused cultural hot pot, it was inevitable that a canny organizer came up with the Sunny Leone masterstroke. There is big money riding on these colourful nine nights. Youngsters spend extravagantly to deck up for the festivities, often saving up chunks of their income to buy nine sets of fancy costumes. Quick to cash in on the occasion, organizers invest in hiring Bollywood and Television stars to perform on the vast grounds that attract thousands of dancers night after night. Even by these OTT standards, hiring a porn star was an inspired move indeed!
Sunny herself, is attempting a serious makeover after brazening it out in the Bigg Boss house. Sunny wants to go respectable ( but why, honey?). This transformation is worthy of an independent reality show, if only an enterprising producer would get Ms.Leone to cooperate, which shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s a great India story! Here’s a hot Punjabi kudi from Canada, who has established herself in the highly competitive international porn movies market with steamy films directed by her husband. Her liberal parents know about her day job as an adult film performer, and are fine with it.They respect her choice of career and encourage her to excel. But aha, look at what happened once she came to the country of her origin ( India).She swiftly figured her future is here, given the extraordinary amount of publicity she generated from day one. Opportunities galore came her way, and soon Sunny became a brand. And, since every brand comes with a price tag, she smartly decided to cash in on hers.She also went in for some timely strategies designed to make her old job look better. For one, she insisted she would not kiss her co-stars in Bollywood! F or another, she talked of being a devoted and faithful wife, lucky enough to be married to a progressive, liberal guy who understands her line of work. The message is loud and clear : Hands off, guys! It seems to be working. She is now referred to as Sunnyji. Soon she’ll be Bhabhiji. And her transformation from a liberated Canada-based porn star, to a saree clad Bharatiya Nari will be complete. This sort of a fairytale ending to an unconventional life, is possible only in India. We’d seen it earlier with Raakhi Sawant. We saw it with Pakistani starlet Veena Malik. And now we have Sunny Leone living the dream. That’s a pretty remarkable breakthrough in our prissy, judgemental attitude and it has taken place in under a decade. Poor Silk Smitha was not as fortunate. Sunny Leone’s transition is a fascinating account of India’s love-hate relationship with women who run with the wolves. Despite our pretensions and protestations, we are at a significant cultural cross road that will determine where we go from here.
My own feeling is that the fake and exaggerated Devi complex (“We worship women…. because we worship Durga”) men in our society project, is finally ready to get a decent and overdue burial. Today’s Indian woman is neither a Devi nor a whore. She is herself. A Sunny Leone is free to participate in porn films that titillate millions across the world, and yet retain her right to re-invent herself at will, as a loving wife and dutiful daughter, doing what a gal has to do to make a living in these recessionary times. Clearly, large segments within India are willing to give her that chance – no questions asked. That, to me, represents a remarkable shift which grants the required space to a woman to exercise choice, even if that choice happens to be radical.So far, I have not come across any protests from those self-righteous groups that take it upon themselves to guard us from ‘evil influences’. In that context, the Sunny Leone saga does indeed represent a moral bastion being successfully stormed and torn down.
The only downside? Heavy breathing will never be the same again!