25 August 2016
Huffington Post India

In Praise Of Sunny Leone Facing A Smug And Judgmental Interviewer

19/01/2016 12:23 PM IST | Updated July 15, 2016 08:25

A man--with a smirk curled around the corners of his mouth--asks a woman if she is proud for her past.

That's never exactly a question, that's almost always an indictment.

The existence of the question is rooted in the belief that the woman's past is loathsome and she can only hope to redeem herself by profusely apologising for it, accompanied with copious tears and preferably a tragic backstory. You know, the kind of story which seems to say that the contents of the woman's past were never conscious choices she made for herself, and even if she did, she was compelled to make them. Everyone likes a damsel in horrifying distress, everyone likes a woman who doesn't own her life.

The story of Sunny Leone would have fit right into India's beloved adarsh naari narrative, had she been game to be the newest abla on the block. Misled and duped by evil West into forgetting her traditions, but back to the roots with the guiding light of Bollywood, perhaps. But Leone agreed to play to the galleries, only up until it came to her disowning her past. So while she had gone to town vociferously declaring she had washed her hands off the porn industry and would therefore should meet India's moral compliance standards, she didn't want to play the damsel in distress majority of Indians would have liked her to.

And CNN IBN presenter and journalist Bhupendra Chaubey could hardly believe her audacity. What, she doesn't regret being a porn star? What, she doesn't regret the fact that Aamir Khan may never work with her? What, she doesn't regret the fact that some never-heard-of politician has accused her of being responsible for incidents of sexual violence? Chaubey seemed suitably shocked that Leone treated no-brainers the way they should be--with ample disregard.



Chaubey, who has been around in the journalism scene for decades, began his session by stating that Leone's work seems to have great business potential. The unmistakable emphasis Chaubey puts on the word 'work' immediately sets off the alarm bells about where the interview is headed.

sunny leone

He then goes on to prove your gut feeling right by what seemed like a desperate attempt to make her admit that she is not proud of what she has done for a living. He does that by drawing the most facetious parallels--Sunny Leone versus Aamir Khan, Sunny Leone versus an artist, Sunny Leone versus people who hate Sunny Leone. In doing it, he basically seemed to be listing out everything he thought was more respectable compared to Sunny Leone.

Oh, a thoughtful man that he is, he even offered Leone an alternative for her own personality - what about being covered head-to-toe? Don't know about Leone, but the full-sleeved salwar kameez she had worn to the interview, must have felt a little offended at having been overlooked so blatantly.

In a response to the flak he received following the interview, Chaubey wrote a blog where he explains that he was not being a moralist at all. And that he was just asking questions, in his journalistic capacity. Strangely enough, he admits in his blog, that Leone herself felt that she was being interrogated. So, unless of course, the only opinion that matters to Chaubey is his own, he was clearly on the wrong. For example, consider the following question:

"So you would want to work with Aamir Khan but Aamir Khan wouldn't work with you. How does that reflect on you then?" That question couldn't have been the result of the elaborate research that Chaubey has cited in the blog. That question is the result of thriving moral duplicity that Chaubey seems to be hastily denying.

If that's not evidence enough, this is what he writes about Leone's past in his blog: "So Sunny, you did well! It doesn’t matter that I was convinced at the end of the interview that you were an extremely brave woman to have dealt with your past in the manner in which you did."

The 'past', that Leone has apparently been 'brave' in dealing with is a non-criminal, deliberately chosen stint in the porn industry. But Chaubey seems to be suggesting that she has 'done well' only because she has managed to leave that past behind.

This is what Leone had to say about her stint in the porn industry, when Chaubey, suggested that her past may 'hold her back': "I have never said, 'haunt', I have never said 'hold back'. It's the media which is saying that, you are saying that."

Despite her clearly stating her own position on her past, Chaubey effortlessly appropriates her choice to make it seem like an unwilling one. After all, in India, it's pretty routine to tell a woman's story via various voices that are not hers. That way, Chaubey is not much of an aberration.

While he vociferously declares that he was not being remotely judgmental about Leone, his blog says otherwise. In the roughly 570-word long article, Chaubey couldn't even get himself to mention the word pornography even once. He declares that he has never seen her Bollywood films, and he has neither seen her in her 'her earlier avatar'.

And the title of his blog reads: "Sunny Leone, it's not just about sex for her." As if, had it been about 'sex', we would still have a case to take up cudgels against her.

Chaubey can be called the new face of a very old malaise--the fear of a woman who will not let others tell her what she is worth. A malaise that's so deep that it surfaces in even the defence of the woman in question. For example ScoopWhoop, while criticising Chaubey, says, "Yes, we know Sunny Leone is a pornstar. But she is so much more than what she did for a living, years ago."

Chaubey is a defender Sunny Leone neither sought, nor needed. It's time Chaubey, and his ilk, find someone else to shower their faux heroism on.

HuffPost India is published in association with the Times of India Group, which owns a news channel that competes with CNN-IBN.

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