Sunny side up!

Bollywood buzz

Sunny side up!

Sunny Leone is here to stay. Her slow-and-steady upward journey is testimony to that. It’s been a long journey from her early days in India, after a stint in Bigg Boss and a B-grade debut in Jism 2, almost 4 years ago.

Sunny Leone’s first true flush with filmi fame came with the erotic horror-drama, Ragini MMS 2, and her song “Baby doll”went on to become a superhit. Her subsequent film Ek Paheli Leela, also worked at the box-office, with her in a dual role in the reincarnation tale. In early 2016, her Mastizaade, a screwball series of gags pretending to be a script, also with her in a dual role, broke even only because of her star presence in it. After all, Sunny, as the most googled Indian, must have some power even in cinema.

A true professional

As a determined and feisty girl who wants to have a great future in India, where she is in love with the film industry and is ready to “work every single day without any break”, Sunny is also planning other things off-screen. As a PETA ambassador, she has just championed the cause of adopting rather than buying dogs. She has just started her line of fragrances as a business too. Some months ago, she even launched her own fitness DVD.

“For me, business has never been a back-up plan. I started a lemonade stand in America when I was 7, was treating my friends at the age of 12 or so, took on my first job at 15, and started my first company at 18,” she smiles.

In films, she has just completed One Night Stand, and her director, Jasmine D’Souza, has categorically stated that Sunny was her only choice for the heroine’s role in this message-oriented film.

Says Sunny, “The film tackles double standards in society, where the woman is expected to have a code of conduct, while the man can do what he wants. I feel that one-night stands are a personal prerogative, provided you are single and not in a committed relationship. In this case, my character and that of the hero ruin their happiness due to a moment of temptation, where their physical instincts overpower their minds.”

Calling the movie “a lot different than what I have done so far”, Sunny states that it was wonderful to work with a female director, a first for her. As she puts it, “Jasmine shot the story from her eyes, and the same subject would have received a different treatment with a male director on board. I had endless workshops and conversations with her about my character, and she would often tell me, ‘Just shut up and shoot!’”

Sunny gives a twinkling laugh as she recalls the shooting, and adds, “But I just could not relate to my character or understand her. I found her quite horrible! She had her strong moments, but was essentially a weak woman.”

Describing her acting journey to date, Sunny says that “Acting is always a learning process. I am sure that even Brad Pitt was nowhere as good in his first film as in his later movies. Each director introduces me to something new. And I learn a lot from watching other actors as well.”

Happily married to Daniel Weber, who looks after her business affairs, Sunny gives a lot of credit to him and the rest of her team. And they all share her triumphs as well. Shah Rukh Khan’s offer to do a song cameo (which she has already shot now) for his home production Raees, left the actress completely ecstatic.

“I am so excited, and it is also a happy and proud moment for my husband Daniel that Shah Rukh invited me to be a part of his film,” she trills. “Because only Daniel and I know the kind of heartaches, all the good and bad things we have been through to get to this stage. I am always going to be thankful that Shah Rukh has taken a chance with me, and given me the opportunity to work with him. After the first shot together, I kept thanking him because I did not know what else to say! It must have annoyed him a little,” she says happily.

Handling criticism

Shah Rukh, like Aamir Khan and many other industry celebs, came out in her support after a rather unpleasant interview for a news channel that went on to make headlines, because she was asked about the deeply uncomfortable incidents in her past.

“It took me a long while to come around,” Sunny admits. “Till I went to the US and shut off my phone and stayed away from movies, my brain just could not take it somehow. After the first uncomfortable question, I thought it would stop, just like I don’t know what you plan to ask me next. But there was another question, then yet another. When I left the studio, all I was wondering is whether I had responded well, and in a way that my family would not feel disturbed. I wanted to sleep soundly after being reassured about that.”

Sunny, however, gained professionally from the incident as well, besides becoming a wiser person. She candidly states that she “expected quite the opposite” of the unconditional support she got not only from the general public, but also the media and celebrities. 

Would she be open to more cameos like Raees? “Why not?” Sunny says with a laugh. “This way, I get to preserve my bucket list and strike a few names off it.”

How does Sunny feel when a film like Ek Paheli Leela makes profits, and a Mastizaade breaks even only because she was the star draw? “I must thank those filmmakers who have faith in me. That’s great,” she says matter-of-factly. “But the pressure to perform increases as well. Friday has become like a Judgement Day!”

So has she planned her film career in any specific direction now? “Oh no! One thing I have learnt in the entertainment industry, over so many years, is that the moment you start planning, you tend to take a wrong turn. I have learnt not to plan.”

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