By Maya Palit
“I wish all the women in the world give men as much happiness as Sunny Leone gives.” When the same person that tweeted this on Women’s Day makes a short film called Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai, the warning signs are already in place.
Ram Gopal Varma’s 11-minute film is a conversation between a girl (played by Naina Ganguly) and her parents, who are outraged that she wants to follow the same career path as Leone. Between drum rolls and mic drop lines, it tries to set her up as a progressive voice of reason, spelling out the case for being a porn star to hysterical parents who don’t have too much to say except repeat “Sunny Leone?!” and “Hay raam” frantically.
Except, as the not-quite-rave reviews have pointed out, it harps on about the huge market value of Leone: the lakhs she can make from a ten-minute appearance, the fact that people like her are paid in America. It also doesn’t expand the conversation beyond a fixation with Leone’s stardom, to the girl’s plans, or thoughts about the porn industry for a second.
The girl makes cases against things like the repression of women’s sexuality and the dignity of sex work but ultimately makes it clear that her choice is more of a strategic tap-in to a market of hungry men than anything else: “Ek aurat ki sabse badi value hai sirf aur sirf uski sundarta aur sex appeal. Bahut sare jang aurat ki sundarta ke liye lare gaye hai, kisi ma behen, dadi, ya naani ke liye nahi.”
Varma’s film is full of spiel about women empowerment, and before the end credits roll there is a grand line about his motives: “I sincerely believe that women empowerment should have no discrimination.” But you can’t go anywhere without hearing the phrase ‘women empowerment’ being tossed around and it’s losing what’s left of its sheen with every passing day. Not too surprising, then, that Sunny Leone has ignored it.