Once upon a time, in a far away land lived a curvaceous beauty who delighted millions.
Considered raunchy, inappropriate and slammed for objectifying women, the criticism had little effect on her.
The trailblazer that she is, Sunny Leone continued to put in her best efforts and soon carved a name for herself in Bollywood. Known for her head-strong attitude and determination to succeed, Sunny truly strikes a balance between a stupendous body and a fragile heart.
In her short career in the ‘mainstream’, the sensuous 33-year-old has dazzled in three Hollywood films, has six Bollywood credits under her belt and five more under production.
Born Karenjit Kaur Vohra, Sunny was first seen in India on the small screen way back in 2005 as a reporter for MTV India. She was already hugely popular in the adult film industry in North America and it was only a matter of time that this Indo-Canadian beauty would spread her fame far and wide.
Sunny first entered India’s conscience after she was invited to participate in Bigg Boss – the Indian equivalent of Big Brother – in 2011. Her presence sparked “outrage” among “social activists” and so-called moral goalkeepers.
The protests only resulted in giving Sunny extra mileage as she took the nation by storm. TV execs celebrated her as ratings went through the roof.
Her popularity was merely enhanced by her sincerity and she won millions of hearts.
That charming connect with the audience didn’t go unnoticed – veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt made an appearance on the Big Boss house and offered Sunny her first film role, in the romantic thriller sequel ‘Jism 2’, which was directed by Bhatt’s daughter Pooja.
While the film wasn’t a critic favourite, her fans lapped it up and sent the cash registered ringing across India.
Such was the craze surrounding Sunny Leone that she was subsequently roped in to do an item number in the John Abraham-starrer ‘Shootout at Wadala’ – the song was a chart buster.
Critical acclaim however, wasn’t too far round the corner as she won plaudits for her role as a femme fatale in Kaizad Gustad’s ‘Jackpot’.
Sunny shook the box office again in 2014 with Ekta Kapoor’s ‘Ragini MMS 2’. The film had an earth-shattering opening weekend and was one of the biggest hits of the year. The film will also be remembered for its unforgettable anthem ‘Baby Doll’.
Now the actress is set to scorch through the big screen again in Bobby Khan’s directorial debut ‘Ek Pehli Leela’, a whole new take on the mythological Leela.
I sat down for a chat with the beauty, exclusively for her UK fans.
Dallya Sachdeva: Tell us about your role in the film and the kind of preparation you had to do.
Sunny Leone: I play a model from London who gets conned into flying to India for a photo shoot. There I meet a prince who I fall in love with and marry. My character has been reincarnated in the present and my co star Jai Bhanushali brings out the truth of my past life. There was prep time for Leela. Just creating Leela on the first day took six hours of trial and error. The dialogue was not easy and we would spend time learning the lines. You’ll know why when you see the film. In some way I relate to my characters – Leela is a strong and bold woman who doesn’t care for what the world thinks. She only cares for her love and for what is right.
DS: What was the experience like working on such a big budget film with a debutant director?
SL: It was wonderful. This is a story he has put a lot of time and effort into and didn’t compromise on anything.
DS: You’re fast establishing yourself in Bollywood. What kind of expectations do you have when you make films now? There’s already award buzz around it.
SL: My wish is that people like it and the producers make the money back that they put in to the film. I believe it has the potential to be big but then I am biased because it’s my film. I don’t know about awards but if my fans are happy with my acting then that is my biggest reward.
DS: Bollywood can be a notoriously ageist business but you’ve enjoyed such huge success even after entering the biz at the age of 30. What do you credit that with?
SL: Well, I am young in the Bollywood world that’s all that matters to me. However long it last is up to my fans.
DS: Do you think the fact that you were a big name in the adult film business helped or hinder you?
SL: I think a bit of both. It helped me because I had already made a name for myself but has been a negative in certain ways because I have baggage that I can’t ever erase.
DS: What was your upbringing like and tell me how you fell in love with India?
SL: I grew up in a typical Punjabi home and went to temple every Saturday and Sunday, even sang Gurbani every weekend. The first time I visited India I was very little – visiting relatives. The first time it was all about smells and new tastes and candy. I didn’t realise the magnitude of where I was or what it symbolised. And I never imagined just how much I would achieve in this country.
DS: Your husband is your rock and he’s also making his Bollywood debut soon. Both your careers are taking off…let me ask a typically Indian question – what about kids?
SL: In the future for sure. When that is I have no idea. At this moment it’s all about building our careers.
DS: You’re out and about all over India on promotions. Tell us, what does Sunny Leone do in her own time?
SL: Well I don’t have much of that. But I would fly back to LA for 3-7 days and be with my family and dogs whenever I can.