With a production house of her own, the adult film actor has built a small business empire.
Today Pooja Bhatt would have left you with no place to hide. Or sit on the fence. You’re either going to see Jism 2 or you’re never going to. And let’s face it, if you’re going to see it (as I plan to), it’s not with the expectation of great cinema. We’ll be going to see just how far this film will push the boundaries of erotica in mainstream Hindi cinema. And to check out Sunny Leone, 31, who is seen as the most successful porn star of Indian origin.
Does that sound cheap, prurient, lower than low-brow? I’m not so sure. Cinematic or visual erotica lives or dies by its aesthetics, nudity by its intent. Going by Pooja Bhatt’s record, Jism (which she produced, and had the Bhatt stamp all over) might have been cheesy in parts but not vulgar. And it had what Bollywood loves to call a “strong, woman-oriented role”. Bipasha Basu’s femme fatale was irresistibly sultry because she was not coy about her sensuality or how she used it. What a welcome change from heroines who romp around in teensy shorts and promptly switch to sarees or salwar kameez the moment they trot off to meet the maa.
Director Pooja Bhatt not only speaks her mind but is also refreshingly free of much of the hypocrisy that hangs heavy over Bollywood. So when she declares upfront, “India just got itself an erotic thriller that truly reflects the times,” you know it’s not empty hype.
In the ‘first-look poster’ (which usually means a studio photograph taken before the film has even begun shooting), her lead star, Sunny Leone, radiated erotic tension even though she was completely covered up; she seemed to be nude under a very artistically draped and photographed sheet.
In later posters, bikinis, bare backs and French kisses made an appearance. All the photographs have one clear, unapologetic, undiluted aim: titillation.
Now, that can work two ways in India: it will get in the younger audience but keep families away. Families and repeat viewings are where the blockbuster money is, so titillation will not a Rs 100-crore-movie make. But if erotica is what floats your boat — as viewer, director or producer — it’s a free world.
In this case, the fact that the director is a woman will have its impact. Mainly in that the man Sunny is out to seduce, Randeep Hooda, is oozing sex too. Hooda is an actor who’s very nonchalant about his body and has no qualms exhibiting it, much like John Abraham. (He’s also done some steamy scenes with Nandana Sen for Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya, a film on Raja Ravi Varma). So, three cheers for equality.
Besides, I’m just plain curious about Sunny Leone. It must take some guts for a porn star of Indian origin to brave the moral brigade here. Clearly, she sees it as a smart professional move, and one should not question her business acumen: She has set up her own production company, Sunlust Pictures, along with her husband, Daniel Weber. She has acted in no less than 39 adult films, and, gosh! directed 35 of them. Her page on imdb.com even credits her with writing one movie and editing it (Lies: Diary of an Escort, which is one of the few with a printable title).
Her Wikipedia page offers other revelations. To begin with, it is close to 2,500 words long and cites 101 references. It tells you when and with whom she lost her virginity, that she has had breast augmentation and that she is bisexual. It enumerates many of her achievements, including titles like Penthouse Pet of the Year, Hustler Honey and being named by Maxim (not a magazine to be taken lightly) as one of the top 12 porn stars in 2010. And if you’d like a piece of non-sexual trivia, she was anti-Bush and pro-Obama.
Now, this here is an interesting woman who has built a small business empire and is obviously not averse to taking risks, which would explain why she joined the Bigg Boss reality show here last year and has now struck out in Bollywood. Perhaps she might surprise us all.
Or, for all I know, Jism 2 might turn out to be a crashing bore. One sexy scene after the other, with nothing much in-between, could be awfully tedious and Sunny Leone could reveal all the acting skills of a plastic chair.
All my liberal-hearted support for the movie could boomerang on me in one tacky swoop.
But let me say I’d rather take my chances with Jism 2 than Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum, which, going by all reports, has the most puerile humour and is unimaginatively vulgar in both its dialogue and visuals (Tusshar Kapoor in drag!). I haven’t yet mustered the courage to watch it. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot if Jism 2 doesn’t disappoint. Two bores in one week is more than I deserve.