Sunny Side Up
Sunny Leone is known for smashing the proverbial glass ceiling. In a conversation, the actor-producer looks back at the last seven years of her film career, her three children and dealing with detractors
You have worked for seven years in the industry. What were your perceptions about the Hindi film industry before you became a part of it, and how much has it changed over the years?
My perceptions about the film industry were in line with the picture that my parents had painted for me. We saw a girl wearing a mini-skirt in the movies, but I was not allowed to wear a mini-skirt. When you are entering a new entertainment industry, it is always very, very different. It is completely different from your perception of what it is actually going to be like.
I also think that people's perception of me is not always correct and my perceptions, obviously, were not correct either. I thought everybody was going to hate me and I would not be able to work here. I thought I would work here for a couple of weeks and then fly back to the US. But I am still here! (Laughs)
Your last film, Tera Intezaar, released in 2017. Was it a deliberate decision to stay away from films in the last two years because you wanted to concentrate on your digital project, Karenjit Kaur?
Well, that did take up a lot of time and energy. It was not something that was done on purpose; it just happened that way. I also came up with my cosmetic line. There are so many other things that Daniel (Weber) and I do, that my team does, other than films. After the last few films, Daniel and I thought let us stop for a second and evaluate some of the wrong decisions we may have taken.
We only have each other; we have no one else helping us and the options out there are not always as vast for us as they may be for someone who comes from a film background or for someone who is really amazing at being a social butterfly (Laughs). They are so social and good at meeting people! I am not that person. I try to be but I fail at it miserably. I have a few films that are going to come out this year, for which I will start shooting. So, we will see how it goes!
What made you think you were going wrong somewhere?
The box office numbers! It is very simple. I am a numbers person; I always have been. When certain things were not working out, I wanted to look at why they were not. I believe that most actors know if their films are going to work. It's a feeling you get. We had no idea what was going wrong. Like I said, I have no one who could tell me about the person I should be going to. There are times when people say they are going to do something but they deliver something completely different. What I read on paper and what I then see as a film are very different from each other. That is something I cannot control.
As a person, as a human being and as an actor, I have to believe that the people I am working with have the same intentions as I do, the same goals that I want to achieve, and have genuine intentions to make something amazing. I am not the producer; I am the actor that you have hired, who believes that a story is nice when read on paper before someone gives an elaborate, detailed narration. Sometimes, a narration is completely different from the story that I read (Chuckles). This is fair enough because some people are great storytellers but that does not always necessarily translate into something that looks good as a film.
So you have experienced a sad Friday?
I have had many. If nothing else, I have learnt so much from some of my choices of films but, more than anything else, what has come from the good and the bad or the sad Friday and a happy Friday, is so much more. Between all the businesses and things that Daniel and I have our hands in, there have been so many positive things that I can say. There have been many more good Fridays than sad ones. (Smiles).
So, coming to Karenjit Kaur, was it emotionally taxing to bring your personal story out into the public domain?
Oh, absolutely! It was not easy. But when I read it on paper, I felt it would not be all that tough. All stories that are in both these seasons are real stories. Those are real things and situations. In a lot of different places, we have real dialogue. Those were the things that my family actually had said to me or I had said to them or conversations with my brother and friends. There are a lot of those conversations in the film that are real. I am not saying all of them are real but what I am saying is there are sections that stayed pretty much the same.
Yes, it was extremely difficult. It was hard. It wasn't fun. It took me a long time to snap out of it and not be depressed and sad. In between all that, I had three kids and, as a mother, you cannot be sad, upset or depressed around your kids. You cannot harbour feelings like that, especially when you are in front of them. There are times when all you want to do is crawl into a corner and cry at the end of the day. So, yeah, it was emotionally very draining.