By Atiya Anis:
Last week Sunny Leone’s interview on CNN-IBN became the centre of a debate, with the interviewer bombarding the Bollywood actress with misogynistic and inappropriate questions. After hearing about the hashtags supporting Sunny, I watched the interview. I failed to understand whether the interview was about her upcoming movie or a personal bullying session. Whatever it was, it was not at all professional. In the 20-something minute conversation, Mr. Bhupendra Chaubey proved that he has taken over the responsibility of the new guardian of morality. And I do not need to look too far back to see where the inspiration comes from. After all, it hasn’t been long since the recent intolerance debate.
Well, to begin with, I must clarify that I do not support gratuitous skin show in movies, nor am I a fan of sex comedies. But my having a different choice doesn’t give me a licence to demean others who make or watch any other form of art. Movies are a money making business where the film-makers’ task is to entertain the various audiences. The CNN-IBN interview trying to portray Sunny Leone as immoral and corrupt demonstrates our skewed ideals. We enjoy the Kareena Kapoor song with sleazy lyrics “main hoon tandoori murgi…chipka le saiyaan Fevicol se,” but raise slogans of maryada and sanskriti against a sex comedy. At least sex comedies have been released with an ‘A’ Certificate whereas the others, with an ‘Unrestricted’ tag have some of the sleaziest songs and scenes. I’m astounded by with this hypocrisy. We love to persecute the poor, the vulnerable, the honest, but would not dare to comment on someone who is rich and successful. We are soft on liars and persecute those who either honestly accept their mistakes or are unapologetic about the choices they have made. I am sure Sunny would have had a better conversation if she would have denied of her past and had said that all the porn was “conspiracy” against her!
In the interview, Mr. Chaubey of CNN-IBN insisted that Sunny share her regrets and admit that her “past will continue to haunt [her].” I was astounded by the confident answer Sunny gave that she has no regrets and every action is a stepping stone to something bigger, better. Amongst other bizarre, highly unethical questions, Mr. Chaubey went ahead to hold Sunny responsible for corrupting Indian minds and morality and of claiming that Indian ‘housewives’ (immediately corrected to ‘Indian married women’) consider Sunny Leone as a threat to them vis-à-vis their husbands. I really doubt any Indian woman, married or unmarried would be so dumb to say this. It doesn’t even require common sense to know that relationships depend on compatibility between those in that relationship, not on Shakira making great moves in Waka Waka. Even 1st-grade kids would be smart enough to see that. I really wonder who is doing the hiring at IBN.
Mr. Chaubey did ask one intelligent question when he wanted to know, “if [she gets] upset by…the negative comments?” Oh well, yeah, the rest of the world throws a theme party whenever they get any negative comments? Come on!
While talking about the accusation of Sunny having lowered the fine art of cinema, Mr. Chaubey forgot the history of cinema and that good, bad, intelligent and sleazy films have been made since the inception of movie making. It is not a new phenomenon. I could give a long list of Bollywood movies sleazier and cheaper in content, none starring Sunny. Only if he had done better research, that lame question would not have come up.
I was surprised at the implied connection between Sunny’s coming to Bollywood and an increase in the consumption of porn in India, making India the world’s largest consumer of porn. First of all, I think Mr. Chaubey was talking about his own porn consumption! Moreover, I would really like to know the research institute which conducted this study. Talking about the inhibitions of big stars about being cast with Sunny, I believe Mr. Chaubey spoke only to Aamir Khan and nothing more needs to be said about this.
To me, the worst moment was when he said, “I am wondering if I’m being morally corrupted because I’m interviewing you.” To this, I can’t respond. This one went too low. But I’m really proud of Sunny for the way she responded. I doubt anyone, be it a politician or a movie star, would have the ability to tolerate such questions. Who would not remember the interview, where even Mr. Modi, one of the best orators of our time, walked out within a few minutes after some uncomfortable questions were asked? Sunny took all questions, one after the other, like a real hero. Only an honest person close to God would have the capacity to do so. I have no second thoughts when I say that she has become my role model due to the way she conducted herself.
This CNN-IBN interview just reconfirmed the low standards of the Indian media and the sorry state in which it has been for long a time now. Not that India wasn’t already deeply patriarchal, but it’s another thing to see a journalist become a vehicle for misogyny. The channel should apologise for stooping so low, not only in terms of media ethics but decency as well. In case CNN-IBN is not aware, they have now joined the ranks of other sleazy news channels. It’s high time that we reiterated that media ethics and morality, a less talked about issue, are slowly evaporating from the universe. This is not about a Bollywood actress. It’s our issue. It’s your business and mine. It’s our universal right to make choices, have opinions and be unapologetic about them. Or we can continue speaking in hushed tones for fear of being overheard, criticized and shamed. I feel proud to see so many people breaking the shackles of tradition, patriarchy, and religion. I would like more and more people to be fearless, be different, make mistakes and be the change they want to see.