A recent interview of actress Sunny Leone by a TV channel grabbed national headlines primarily because of her “past”. Many viewers found the interview cringe-worthy, disgusting and outright misogynistic.
To me, the interview was rather amusing and downright hypocritical. To start with, many of us felt that the interviewer was more apologetic of Sunny Leone’s stint in the adult film industry than she herself, so much so that he repeatedly used the word “past” to describe her former profession. The whole nation knows that Sunny is a former porn star and the film industry seems to have accepted her despite her “past”.
So, I fail to understand as to why the news anchor in question had a problem with this. The fact that Sunny has been marketed as a “bold” actress worked in her favour, since we had the whole nation dancing to her song “Baby Doll”, accepting that here was an artist who clearly had a “past” and has no qualms in holding on to it as long as it helps her build her career in this country. Fair enough.
The problem arose because the news anchor in question chose to insult her deliberately, which was disgusting and made us cringe. If the anchor could not handle her “past”, he should not have interviewed her in the first place. These days many of us shudder at the thought of switching on news channels, as anchors consider it their birthright to insult the very people they invite for their shows. You are neither permitted to speak nor finish your point, and that’s what exactly happened with Sunny Leone. During the course of her interview, many of the questions put forward were answered by the anchor himself, without giving her a chance to speak. We all know that the leading news anchors of our country have a spotless reputation; they needn’t insult another person to prove their point. Instead of sending Sunny Leone for a moral science lesson on Indian culture and so called values, the anchor himself needs a lesson or two.
While many of us, including Aamir Khan, have praised Sunny Leone for her frankness, confidence and poise, it is just a gentle reminder to everyone that we are all responsible for what happened to her during her interview.
Firstly, we need to put an end to all this tall talk about Indian culture and values, because they are long gone and most importantly, many of us struggle to understand what this even means. We take great pleasure in others’ misery, especially if Bollywood actors or actresses are breaking up with their girlfriends/boyfriends or their marriages are falling apart.
We are more interested in the fact that our neighbour is having an extra-marital affair or beating up his wife, rather than putting our own house in order. We are more interested in the news about Aarushi Talwar’s alleged relationship with her domestic help, than on the reasons behind her murder. We are more interested in the news about Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor’s social life than on the causes that led to her death. We are ready to laugh and dismiss Indrani Mukerjea and her “past”, than look at the reasons for dysfunctional family relationships. This is also because the elected representatives of our country choose to blame Sunny Leone for polluting our minds rather than realising that those who commit rape, their mind is already polluted.
So, there is no point criticising the news anchor in question, since he conducted the interview in a manner he thought would entertain us and probably fetch him the highest award in journalism.
Since the time that the Indian media industry has risen and expanded, there is no dearth of instances in which news that has been delivered to us contains a pinch or a liberal dose of sensationalism. It is here because we demand it and there is a market for it.
News anchors today have understood that they are in a stronger position precisely because they have an audience and unlimited access to it. They are busy building their reputation at the cost of others and they do not seem to mind it at all. Sunny Leone has the right to choose what she does and how she chooses to do it. If she chooses to do things differently, so be it. Why should we have to pull her down especially when it is not needed? She is here to work, let her do it. Why are women always being judged for the choices they make?
Does it have to do with the fact that she does not fit into the image of a sanskari Bharatiya nari? Sunny Leone is clear that she doesn’t fit into this image and nor do scores of women in India. They cringe at the thought of being asked to conform to a certain stereotype.
It’s time we celebrated this much-needed diversity and the desire to be different.