After making a splash with popular TV Big Boss season 5 in 2012, Sunny Leone’s Bollywood dreams are gaining momentum by the day.
When Sunny Leone was a young girl in America, she watched Bollywood movies. Sometimes she and her mother talked about how she might one day become an actor. But growing up in a conservative Sikh family (her parents migrated from Punjab to Ontario, Canada, where she was born and later moved to the United States when she was 14), she did not nurse lofty dreams about being one. On the contrary, she studied to become a paediatric nurse.
Leone was born Karenjit Kaur Vohra and it was in Michigan and later Orange County, California that her family moved and where she grew up in. Perhaps the most written about information about her growing up days is the fact that she went to a Catholic school.
After finishing her high school, Leone was studying nursing and doing some part time jobs when a friend got her in touch with an agent who in turn introduced her to photographer Jay Allen for Penthouse magazine. It would be the turning point in her life. For starters, Bob Guccione, the owner of Penthouse, gave her a new name and surname Sunny Leone. She was named Penthouse Pet of the Month in March 2001, and Penthouse Pet of the Year in 2003. The latter title put her on the cover of the magazine and appearances around the world.
That same year, she got in touch with Vivid Entertainment, the world’s largest producer of porn. A report says, Leone took a meeting with Vivid’s founder and co-chairman, Steven Hirsch and said, “I’m Penthouse Pet of the Year. I haven’t shot with girls. I haven’t done all this hardcore stuff in my life. I haven’t done any of this. And you would have first rights.” Of course she was taken for her value – she was exotic, she was beautiful and different from other girls. In 2005, she signed a three-year contract with Vivid Entertainment. It is said that Leone has a firm understanding of what her audience wants.
But it was also time to have that awkward conversation with her parents. In interviews to other magazines, she has spoken about how she wanted to tell them before others told them. And when she did have the conversation, her mother had no idea what she was talking about at first and when she did, she was obviously upset. “But I don’t know which mother would say, ‘You are naked and you are in a magazine, Yay!” Did her father give her the usual line of an upset father saying ‘I disown you’? He was distressed too, says Leone, but in the end he offered the advice that he had always given them – to do the best.
So success came along pretty early for Leone. She was taking home good money and before long, she rekindled her entrepreneurial bug in 2009 launching her own production house – SunLust Pictures with her husband Daniel Weber, a musician and also her manager, whom she married in 2011. She also credits her husband for much of her success.
In 2012, Sunny Leone entered the conservative drawing rooms of millions of Indian homes after she participated in Big Boss. Entering the house on the 49th day, not many of the housemates were aware of her professional life. But such was her popularity that she became one of the most searched celebrities on Google. Her website says, “In a record number of 3.5 crore times, Bollywood actress was searched online in December 2012. From the time Sunny Leone came to India and Bollywood, she is topping all the popularity polls. So it comes as no surprise as she became the World’s most searched Bollywood celebrity.”
It was also while she was in Big Boss that filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt offered her the lead role for Jism 2. She was seen next in Jackpot. Her third film Ragini MMS 2, earned her rave reviews. Her current projects include Masti zaade, Leela and Patel Rap. That apart, Leone has done many item numbers, hosted a show and done other promotional appearances.
“As far as my career goes I don’t regret anything that I have done. I believe that everything that I have done has led me to today,” says Leone, adding, “This is the most amazing time of my life and this would not have been happening if my past did not exist. So there are no regrets regarding my profession.”
While most actresses build a career in films before marriage, Leone’s has been a reverse gear. But she has never had it so good though making a place in Bollywood has been tough. “It is difficult because the industry is new for me. It’s difficult because you don’t know what is right and what is wrong. Are they the right people? Or are they going to take advantage of you? All these questions are always there, but you have to believe that your decision is the right one.
“I am married now and maybe I will have kids and continue with my work even after that. We are in 2014. It’s an individual experience, individual decision (to work after having a baby),” she says.
Having initially been afraid of making the switch from the adult entertainment industry to Bollywood, the actor says everything that is happening now is beyond a surge. “It’s complete insanity. I am so unbelievably happy about everything that is going on. Happy to be working and happy people are showing so much support.”
The fact remains, Sunny has reshaped the definition of bold in Bollywood. For fans in Melbourne, Leone is coming in November. Watch out this space for more…
“I can’t wait to be in Melbourne”
You have made a special place for yourself in Bollywood. What has been the experience so far?
My experience has been amazing and a crazy roller coaster ride.
Tell us more about your role in Mastizaade for which you have started shooting?
I have a double role in the film and the two heroes of the movie are Tushaar Kapoor and Vir Das. It’s a crazy adult comedy and I believe the audience won’t stop laughing once they enter the movie theatre.
What is your dream role?
I want to be a super hero 🙂
How do you select scripts?
It’s based on a triangle theory – who the producer/director is, the script and who the hero is. All these things combined help me decide but ultimately it is based on the script and how strong and interesting the story is.
Who are the actors who have inspired your approach to film and acting?
Angelina Jolie because she has done it all and is still so successful.
Which film in history would you have liked to be a part of? How would you have liked to interpret that part, and who would you have wanted as your co-stars in that film?
None. I believe that the actors in my favourite movies could have only be played by them and only them.
What are your future projects?
I have Masti Zaade, Leela and Patel Rap at the moment.
Are you looking forward to being in Australia? What do you best like about this place?
Yes I can’t wait to come. The last time I was there I was in the suburbs for 24 hours and left. Didn’t see anything or do anything :(. Looking forward to visiting the place that has been on my bucket list for a long time.
By Indira Laisram