The first reaction to adult actress-turned-Bollywood star Sunny Leone’s upcoming performance in Dubai this Friday was met with a snarky “lock your husbands and boyfriends” jokes from our peers. However, when you speak to Leone over the phone, the 31-year-old siren doesn’t come across as a wicked man eater.
The Indian-Canadian star, who made her Bollywood debut with Pooja Bhatt’s ‘Jism 2’ last year, is earnest, eager-to-please and even extols the virtues of hard work. Recently, she even bagged an energy drink endorsement deal for a whopping Dh15 million and her item song ‘Laila’ from upcoming film ‘Shootout At Wadala’ received millions of views on YouTube hours after it went live.
Leone, who began her adult career at 19 and runs a production company called Sun Lust Inc with her husband Daniel Weber as its partner, is also eager to shatter the misconceptions. Prior to her gig entitled Wild N Sunny at Chi, Domeland, organised by Premiere House Productions, tabloid! caught up with Leone over the phone from Mumbai.
Excerpts from the interview:
“The cage dance is just my entry”
In Bollywood, as you know, entry is very important. It has to be dramatic and exciting. I need to see the cage once I get there, but once I make my entry in it the performance will be held outside the cage.
“Bollywood and everyone has been wonderful to me”
We had to move our whole life into Mumbai. We now have a place, a car, a house-help just like normal people who live in India. I have this set-up in America too. But people in India have been so accepting. All I want to do here is to work and do a good job. Not everybody who walks into Bollywood has that same attitude. Many feel that it will be handed to them in a platter. I know that it’s going to take a lot of work to get where I want to.
“I don’t quite understand why people in Bollywood don’t get married or keep their relationships hidden”
Everybody needs to realise that the entertainment industry is entertainment. We play roles in movies and act in stories – those are not real and are fictional. We are entertainers but in my personal life I am like everybody else. I have a husband, two dogs and I am normal when it comes to all of that. I don’t believe in hiding my family numbers. I want to live my life the way I want to. I don’ t want to live it in a manner where I feel I need to lie about it. It’s what it is. I am who I am. Having said that, we are not all over each other at public places. We are professionals in our working worlds.
“The common misconception is that I still make erotic movies now”
I haven’t made a movie in so many years. Before I got into Bollywood, I wasn’t making any such movies. But it’s a part of my background and I am not ashamed of it. That’s who I am. Our company in America Sun Lust Pictures is like a well-oiled machine and functions on its own.
“I don’t have issues with speaking in Hindi”
I now speak to my house-help and driver in Hindi. For instance, the woman who does my hair doesn’t speak English so I speak to her in Hindi. I try to speak the language as much as I can. It’s all a part of my learning process.
“I was nervous about meeting John Abraham”
Everything from rehearsals for ‘Laila’ in ‘Shootout At Wadala’ to recordings, we were in sync. It was so much fun and easy. It felt as if everything in the world was working to make it a grand success. All the stars were aligned and we all looked gorgeous. In the past, when you see actors like John and Tusshar on screen and you wonder when you can be on the big screen along with them. Believe me, I didn’t think it will happen so soon. They were so patient with me.
“I had workshops and preparation time for ‘Ragini MMS 2’”
Balaji [Telefilms, producers of ‘Ragini MMS 2’] is a huge corporate company and the Bhatt camp is a huge brand but it’s a company on a smaller-scale and they run it like a mom-and-pop store. So for ‘Ragini MMS 2’, we had acting workshops and diction classes with all the actors. I made many come early to the sets so that they could know me and I could rehearse my lines. I have such a big part in this film.
“Yes, I feel more in control now”
Acting is a learning process. What you learn from one film shoot is different from what you will learn from another one. Bollywood’s a huge learning curve because I am speaking Hindi, a language that I am not used to. You have to learn so much in such a small amount of time.
“It was upsetting to read weird reports that I was having trouble finding a place in Mumbai I to live”
It was completely wrong. We put a halt to our hunt because my father-in-law was having a by-pass surgery and we had to go back to America. Come on, guys, every single person who owned the apartment we were looking into had no issue about who I was or where we were coming from. All of them were briefed about who’s going to walk into their homes, so we had no issue finding a place. The truth was: we went back home for two weeks to be with our family and not because we couldn’t find a place to live as widely reported.
“I don’t feel like a star yet, but I am enjoying Bollywood.”
I am learning something new and different which is not a part of American culture. It’s such a huge learning curve for me and my husband. We are just figuring it all out and we are learning to go with out gut. We are sticking with stories we like.
“I am not new into entertainment”
I have been in this entertainment industry for 12 years now. I am not new to the fundamentals of how this business works. So it’s pretty amazing that I have signed my biggest endorsement deal for an energy drink in India, but it shouldn’t come as a shocker. I believe every entertainer is a brand and how you choose to monetise it just varies from person to person.
“It’s my first trip to Dubai and we want to enjoy it because we have been working so hard”
I have been to the Dubai airport. It’s beautiful but I can’t wait to explore Dubai. We are keen to go on a desert safari, go swimming with the dolphins and also plan a yacht trip. I want to enjoy a little bit of time to ourselves. We have been working so hard, so this trip will be our fruit of labour.