Last week, I briefly read an article on a prominent portal on how Bollywood diva and former adult film actor Sunny Leone was ill treated by a TV news presenter.
With no mention of the anchor in the header, I was curious to know who he/she was and how was Sunny embarrassed?
Going through the article, which looked more like a press release, I thought there really isn’t much to rave about this rendezvous. For the record, I read this article on the TV’s network’s rival portal So, I wasn’t going to take things at face value .I shrugged off the news, and proceeded with my work. However, little did I realise that this news would gain steam on print and social media. The TV anchor in question was surprisingly, no Arnab Goswami or Karan Thapar, but the usually mild mannered Bhupendra Chaubey from CNN-IBN.
Later that day, I was speaking to a friend who just wouldn’t stop talking about the issue. She kept harping that I should check the actual interview how Chaubey constantly kept referring to her as porn star.
Now as layman, I’d be tempted to see the video, but the journo is me wasn’t too keen on it. Truth be told, I still haven’t seen the video, and so it would be inappropriate for me to be judgemental on it.
There are two sides, two perceptions to every story. Well, I have quite a few points to make of my own. So, first let me play the devil’s advocate first.
- Good for business
Honestly, I seldom have seen Bhupendra Chaubey on TV. I can fairly assume that prior to this interview, most of you too may not have seen to many of Chaubey’s interviews. This is a channel that was made famous by its former editor-in-chief, who now hosts a prime time show at a rival channel.
Those who follow TV news ratings, would be well aware that how English news is a niche genre with only a small percentage of Indian TV household hooking onto it. Times Now is the undisputed, unchallenged leader for the last 8 years, taking more than 50 % of the overall viewership every week, leaving CNN IBN and other channels to slug it out for the second spot.
it’s no secret that ever since Rajdeep Sardesai left CNN-IBN, the network hasn’t been able to replace him. They were jolted earlier when ‘Devil’s Advocate’ Karan Thapar switched to other network. So, with the two stalwarts gone, Bhupendra Chaubey found himself in front of the queue. Whilst CNN-IBN has risen number 2 on few occasions, it hasn’t been a consistent performer. The latest BARC rating week 2 (Jan 9-Jan 15) placed CNN-IBN at number 4 with a rating of 194, but I believe this not the period when the interview was aired.
Given it’s vulnerable position in the table, this controversial Sunny Leone interview may turn out to be shot in the arm for CNN-IBN. If the ratings do well, then Chaubey and CNN-IBN have hit a master stroke. Sunny Leone is one of the most searched celebrities in the world, attracting eyeballs largely for her explicit videos. She has 1.27 million followers on twitter, while 1.6 crore like her facebook page. Rile Sunny, and you will have over 1.3 million gunning for your blood. Presuming that even half of these followers happen to catch the interview online, wow, just imagine the hits the link would fetch. More hits, more ad revenue.
2. Sexist, misogynist, unethical
Sunny Leone’s millions of followers, feminists were quick to slam Chaubey as sexist and a misogynist. News critics were out with their ‘presstitude’ barbs and labelled the interview as one against the ethics and principles of journalism. Constant reference to one’s explicit past, excessive use of the word porn, and even saying that A-lister would never feel comfortable working with her, is simply uncalled for and totally unexpected from a seasoned pro. Chaubey’s conduct smacks of chauvinism, misogyny . I’m afraid, despite a journalist, it would be hard to defend Mr. Chaubey here.
3. Why gag the fourth estate when Bollywood itself is intolerant?
In my near 5 years working as an entertainment journalist, the one thing that still irritates me the most is how PR professionals block any questions which they believe to be out of context. Though some Bollywood actors don’t mind answering the odd questions, most actors shrug it saying that it is an out of context or the question has no relevance to this event. For all their concern over intolerance, Bollywood likes to gag the media, keen to speak, hear only what it likes.
Sadly, most star struck reporters are happy to seal their lips, so just as to get that selfie with the star. Only a handful of journalists haven’t lost their objectivity. Stars are so used to being pampered by the media, that when they meet the few true journalists, they prefer to duck those volleys. Sunny Leone though isn’t one such celeb. She doesn’t loses her cool and answers them with aplomb.
4. Chaubey had the right intentions, but may be not the right questions
Let’s take Bhupendra Chaubey out of the equation and imagine if you are an objective journalist what would be the questions that you would shoot at Sunny? The first thing I do is look at filmography, not pornography. Having been launched by Mahesh Bhatt in Jism 2, Leone befriended Ekta Kapoor who would then cast her in few films.
She does have cameo appearance in Akshay Kumar’s ‘Singh is Bling’, but most of the films which she’s featured in aren’t from top production houses. (No disrespect meant to Balaji Motion Picture) . So as opposed to asking Sunny whether an Aamir Khan would be keen to share screen space with her, Chaubey should have asked whether a Yash Raj, Dharma, Rajshri , would ever cast her?
Whilst it was unkind of Chaubey to have said that Sunny’s film’s are corrupting the minds of men, truth is that most viewers (largely men) prefer to see Sunny in a porn than a stupid Bollywood sex comedy. What I would have asked Sunny in stead is ‘ that despite leaving her past behind, how does she feel that most viewers are still hooked on to her explicit porn videos? And why film-makers only want her to do sex comedies?
Not framing his questions rightly is a cardinal sin by Chaubey, But then again, may he must have framed them rightly, but fluffed his lines during the interview.
5. Sunny a star, but she ain’t an ‘actor’
As mentioned in the above point, Sunny Leone is unlikely to be picked by a YRF, Dharma, Rajshri and other celebrated production companies, not because of her explicit past, but it would be very difficult for them to get try get an actor out of her. She can be roped in for an item song, but Sunny Leone has miles to go before she can upgrade her skills. She’s 35, can’t do without a dubbing artist, making her a risky option for premier production houses to invest into her.
if the above argument is held against Sunny, then how Katrina Kaif has managed to get films with the Khans.? Well, therein lies the answer, Sunny didn’t date one.
6. Has the Indian society truly accepted Sunny Leone?
Yes, most of us men love Sunny Leone, but how many of us have been able to watch even her Bollywood films with our families? Be honest and confess to yourself the only time you think of Sunny Leone is at ‘nightfall’. We are proud of Sunny Leone, but I wonder would the Indian society have accepted Sunny Leone if she was a man? Would we then have allowed our spouses to salivate at the sight of naked celluloid Kamdev?
All said and done, india, like any other country, will continue to be a matriarchal society. There must be a reason why the Gods turned Karenjit Kaur Vohra into Sunny Leone. There must be reasons why the Gods have showered the riches from Bollywood upon Sunny Leone.
Sunny is a sensible and smart woman, she didn’t ask Bollywood to kiss her ass. She will not gloat about her Bollywood riches, nor will she ever be cowed down by TV anchor’s barbs. She’ll quietly take all the blessings, money, and head back to West, while poor Chaubey will be sweating over his channel’s ratings week after week.