Keeping up with Sunny Leone: On Splitsvilla XI, motherhood and her new biopic
Motherhood and a biopic has Sunny Leone reinventing herself in that unflinching yet graceful manner, which is now being accepted as the actor’s signature style. The 37-year-old has come long way since her sizzling Bollywood debut in Jism 2, six years back.
The spunky actor is celebrating motherhood with her adorable twins on one end and on the other hand she is exploring interesting professional challenges like her biopic on the video streaming service Zee5. Not an easy decision for the former adult film actor, who says, “It was not easy and it was something that I was not ready for.”
Her decision to say yes to this project is a unique and brave one on many counts. Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone recreates handpicked chapters from her life that was before she shot to fame in the Indian mainstream film industry, and this is the first time Sunny is playing herself in a role, an experience that she describes as daunting. “When I signed the project, I did it to tell a story and share it with my fans. But I did not know how difficult it would (turn out to) be at that time,” she adds.
The web series, which was launched last month, portrays the evolution of Karenjit Kaur into Sunny Leone, explores her early days of her career, her uneasy relationship with her parents, and will look into her transformation into a mainstream actress in the subsequent seasons as well.
Role with it
Sunny is happy that her fans have enjoyed the series. But at a time when the authenticity of biopics is under question (courtesy Rajkumar Hirani’s controversial take on Sanjay Dutt’s life in Sanju), the web series by Zee5 has expectedly divided critics. While there has been objection to the use of the surname Kaur in the title, others point out the honest approach to the story. Sunny, on the other hand, is all praise for director Aditya Dutt, the one who gave us Aashiq Banaya Aapne and the sinister psychological thriller, Table No. 21.
“I think that there could have been no other director to tell this story the way Aditya has. He has really shot this nicely, and was so sensitive to me and my feelings. I also believe that no other production house could have done what they all have collectively done without destroying my story and me,” she says, as she awaits the release of her debut Telugu movie, Veeramahadevi, later this year. There are also fresh reports that she has been offered her first ever role in a Malayalam movie. “Whether it’s a big role or a small one, I just want to be a part of a story that is great. Right now, I am focusing on a lot of different projects,” she shares.
Love is on air
One of the things that has been consistent for Sunny in the past three years is her role as a TV host in MTV’s flagship dating show, Splitsvilla. In its latest 11th season, which started last week, Splitsvilla takes the help of a mathematical algorithm called the ‘Oracle’, which helps participants choose their partners wisely.
Speaking about the contestants in this edition, Sunny says, “I think they are the best-looking group to date. I personally like this show a lot because of the idea of two people working together for a common goal — which is to win the show. I also love watching how each contestant grows each day, and see who they become at the end of the show, because we challenge their minds, hearts and physical well-being. It really is a transformation.”
Has Splitsvilla influenced new-age relationships among the youth? “I don’t know, but it definitely changes the people who participate on the show.”Shot in Jim Corbett National Park, this edition has ten single men and nine single women, and has Sunny teaming up with co-host Rannvijay Singh for the third year in a row. “I love that we get to work together every year, and I look forward to it, as we laugh together everyday. He is also my rakhi brother and I care for him and his family very much,” she shares.
Talking about how much Rannvijay helped her when the going got tough, she says, “This year was special, and I can’t thank him enough for showing so much love to my children, and also being there for me and them when I got extremely sick and had to be hospitalised. It definitely was not an easy time, but he was there for me and my family.”
In June last year, Sunny posted an adorable family photo on Instagram, announcing the birth of their twins, Noah and Asha Kaur Weber. The two joined Sunny’s daughter Nisha, who was adopted from Maharashtra. “My children have definitely changed everything for me, for the better. Whatever I do, including the job, I do for them. They may not be clued in to my work yet; all they care about is getting lots and lots of love from my husband and myself,” she shares.
Talking about how Daniel helps manage her work, she says, “We speak about all jobs that are taken up. He is the one who is at the front line, listening to people’s proposals. He is mainly involved in the business side, and I am creative.” Sunny is also set to debut in Karan Johar’s Koffee With Karan.
As for Bollywood, it might be a while before we see her grace the big screen again. “When the right story comes along, I shall take it up,” she says. That decision is perhaps influenced by a string of box-office failures (read: Tera Intezaar, One Night Stand and Kuch Kuch Locha Hain). Her last reasonably-acclaimed movie came in the year 2015 — Bobby Khan’s Ek Paheli Leela.
The lack of projects in mainstream cinema does not seem to bother her at all, even as more actresses continue to share unfortunate casting couch experiences in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Sunny shares some positive advice for young aspirants who are new to the industry. “The first step is to recognise that it is harassment, and to say ‘No, I will not be a victim’, and be prepared that you might not get the work,” she says.
“(What matters) is that you stayed strong, and at the end of the day, you have to be okay with who you see in the mirror. Only God will judge and the rest can do what they please,” she says, adding,“You can always make money in life, and it might not be the same as someone else, but at least you know it was on your own terms.”
MTV Splitsvilla airs every Sunday, 7 pm. Also watch Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone on Zee5.