It's been a while since we saw, reacted to the controversial interview of Bhupendra Chaubey with Mastizaade heroine. However, the issue that this chat bought to forefront will remain a topic of discussion for quite some time....
Sunny Leone made headlines when she took on a news anchor in style in an interview that was extremely offensive. The actress won us over with her grace and professionalism. She could have blasted her host, even thrown a tantrum and run under her PR cover to stop this offensive interviewer and his vicious banter. But the actress sat through it, confident and composed. She calmly answered him and yes came out winner with her impeccable behaviour and honest responses. This was a Sunny no filmmaker in Bollywood had managed to project, but thanks to this jerk of an interviewer we got to see a facet of Sunny that we had never been exposed to. So, we are thankful to Chaubey, in fact Sunny took it in her stride.
The actress found confort in her fans support and her husband. Not to forget even Bollywood came out in the actress' support and Aamir Khan promised to work with her when the right script comes along. And now there's veteran actor Amol Palekar's wife Sandhya Gokhale who has written an open letter to Sunny Leone and she just makes so much sense. Read...
I felt compelled to write to you to applaud your dignified composure throughout the attempted public lynching by an immature, crass interviewer on national television. He tried to abnegate your present; his was a blatant misogyny. His look was torn between personal lust and cultural impairment.
In the very first question about 'any regrets about your past life,' his implicit agenda became evident - to get a confession of 'immoral conduct' from someone who is slotted as the best-selling yet stigmatized sex object!
His ulterior motive was indeed to grab the highest TRP (which otherwise would have remained at the rock bottom). He was itching to expose your vulnerability... probably to patronize you with his condescending overtures. We all saw how complicit he was in the dissection of your past which he was pruriently condemning.
His implication was that while making a 'wrong & morally corrupt' career choice, you had walked on a slippery slope. You were gracious enough not to point out to him that he represented all those who accompanied you all through your walk... albeit cowardly and secretly hiding to slacken their orgasmic pleasures.
You could've asked, 'where are your internalized moral prohibitions when you are with me?' You could've sermonized him on the didactic quality of your work, asking him, 'isn't the pedagogy of sex an all time need?' I'm happy that you didn't take this path as he would've remained sanctimonious, no matter the amount of enlightenment gets poured in his lap... after all as the Arabic adage goes, "It is a goat, even if it flies!"
Having said this, one thing you ought to have asked him, "Have you not consumed me? If no, then ask me any question and let's have a cathartic session. If yes, then let's talk about how and why your channel was mutilated as a result of which you were brought in." His smug face would've been downsized hopefully! Then maybe you could've gently explored whether his ambit of vulgarity/obscenity includes, among others, pimps in the free market, cricket, page 3 trivia, and of course the boot licking chamachas in politics. Had you replied, "I had or have no regrets for being a porn star. I entertained you just like any other star on the big or small screen. In fact I can flaunt the quantum of my repeat audience. I'm proud that I didn't have to use anyone else's body to hike the TRP or to hit the box office." I wonder how the next 18 minutes of the air time would've been covered!
Sunny, I was not at all surprised by his 'around the bush' approach. I would've admired him had he interrogated you straight by giving the anti-porn feminist rap about "commoditization or objectification of female body; how it's a systemized degradation, and how it leads to proliferation of sexual violence etc."
Since he isn't smart enough to drop names beyond Aamir Khan, you could've quoted scholars like Andrea Dworkin, Catherine McKinnon whose crusade has been to regulate if not eradicate pornography. There upon throwing Wendy McElroy's name who asserts that pornography benefits women both personally and politically, you could've asked, "If we as feminists believe in "my body, my choice," why cannot pornography within the regulatory limits be my choice?"
Sunny, this is a classic duel between individual freedom and social control. The present day hash-tags about intolerance erupt from this very conflict. Where do you draw the line between 'allowed' and 'offensive'? Who draws that line? Who gives them that right to override your personal liberty? But moral censorship is our forte!
In 1950, charges of obscenity were filed against Akbar Padmsee's painting of a naked couple. Public exhibition of nudity is considered a crime of an 'obscene act in a public place.' The Judge ruled that since the work was within the premises of an art gallery, it could not be deemed obscene. My point is that your craft has a context and it got to be seen in that context. Besides, pornography is not criminalised in India.
Your situation is actually very unique Sunny. Typically a chosen few hoist the moral flag after which the mob takes over and the majority remain bystanders. All these 3 categories are your fans and not just viewers!
How much they love you and your art got substantiated by the statistics cited by the interviewer. If their joint sessions with you were not enriching and libratory, why would they have visited you time and again? So you can say "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
Actually they did not cast any stone at you, and in fact expressed their gratitude towards you when they unequivocally lifted the ban on the triple-X internet sites. It is ironical that while lingam and yoni had occupied a respected space in our traditional epics and art, porno-phobia has fractured our contemporary social ethos.
The only concern you will be sharing with them is when the participation in such activities is coerced and non-consensual. When participants are under duress or are incapable of giving their consent (as in case of mentally or physically challenged or intoxicated persons), forcing them is wrong in every sense.
Our dispute arises against their omnipotent audacity to claim that the consenting women are so damaged and exploited by the patriarchy that their consent is neither voluntary nor free. If my consent for my adult acts is alleged to be notional, why won‟t you call a wife‟s freedom offered by the institution of marriage an illusion?
Is a married woman devoid of the patriarchal cultural dictate? Isn‟t she expected to present her sexy avatar to her divine husband and to surrender? Is it not objectification? When you are reacting to my actions on the screen, don‟t you think that I AM the owner of my own body?
Can you think so about your wife when you are imposing yourself on her? Irony is that a wife‟s conduct has to conform to the approved text of patriarchy. Sunny, you are free of all this hypocrisy. Don‟t believe in the accusation of married women that you corrupt their husbands as was alleged by the interviewer. He conveniently hid the statistics showing the percentage of female surfers of the porn sites.
By now Sunny you might have understood my intention behind not naming the interviewer as he shall remain a variable representing the misogynist jerks of the world (pun unintended)! Journos will also shy away from publishing this letter claiming "it's outdated". Are the issues raised here outdated? Moreover, will 'Sunny' the metaphor ever be outdated?"
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