You know it’s been a difficult January when the epitome of Indian manliness, the Prime Minister, discovers that his much-vaunted 56-inch chest has shrunk to 50 inches. The reduced perimeter is probably easier for Ajit Doval to safeguard, but it’s also probably less impressive-looking from the Indo-Pak border.
Speaking of unimpressive Indian men, CNN-IBN interviewed actress Sunny Leone. Everyone has talked about it for three days already, but I won’t sleep easy until I’ve deposited my two bits.
The last time I noticed anchor Bhupendra Chaubey, he was knocking it out of the park during the Bihar elections while NDTV was circling the drain, so if anything I was predisposed to like him—or at worst, to be neutral. But Chaubey struck dissonant notes before he even got to the set, setting up Sunny Leone as “completely antithetical to what we perceive is the idea of an Indian woman”. That smug generalisation set the tone for the rest of this train wreck.
The interview itself was a one-note samba centring on his own inability to believe that a former porn star could possibly go about her life without being, at all times, hyperaware that she used to be a porn star, and cling-wrapped in shame about it. This is because he obviously cannot stop being hyperaware that she used to be a porn star.
Aided by twitching eyebrows and smirks, he tried his damndest to get her to admit that Sunny the porn star was a tragic mistake made by Karanjit the beautiful family girl, going astray; but Sunny didn’t think so. In reply to a question about her biggest regret, she said she couldn’t get home fast enough when her mother passed away. When she said “I’ve made mistakes”, he begged for specifics, and she said that Bollywood was like culture shock because it’s really chaotic.
In other words, she wasn’t playing shameball with him.
He loaded and reloaded the same question multiple times, in vain. He framed Sunny Leone as a scarlet woman who, though she is now in Bollywood, won’t get to work with big names like Aamir Khan, on account of her “past”, which “haunts” her and “holds [her] back”. He made a big point of the fact that people say nasty things about her.
Sunny uncooperatively pointed out that she didn’t feel in the least bit either haunted or held back, and that people are entitled to their opinions. Chaubey gave her 7,431 chances to take back that twaddle and admit, already, that it’s her own fault that now he can’t stop visualising her lady parts, which somehow makes her disreputable. (I’m paraphrasing to include his tone.) She said that if the clock were turned back, she would do it all again. Chaubey let her know that she has been accused of corrupting Indian morality; but Sunny cleaves to the free speech, live-and-let-live end of things, which can be summed up as “So?”
In the single question about her upcoming film, Chaubey asked if it was about love, or sex and lust. He sneeringly asked if she thought of herself as an actor, and whether it was her body—raking said body with his eyes—that would take her to whatever low, commercial places his tone implied her career may reach.
Really, you should watch it yourself. Never mind undeserved TRPs: it is an object lesson in how even the most progressive men can see an openly sexual woman as shameful—and think she should see herself that way too.
And it’s an object lesson in what a sorry figure such a man cuts.