Sunny Leone and I were pretty much on the same page: director Dilip Mehta

Mumbai: Dilip Mehta, the talented photographer-brother of Deepa Mehta known for some remarkable documentaries like What’s Cooking With Stella and The Forgotten Woman, has now made a documentary on the Sunny Leone’s journey. In an exclusive interview, Dilip discusses the dynamics of his film.

After Cooking With Stella, what’s cooking with Sunny Leone?
I was approached by a Canadian film production house to direct a feature length documentary on Sunny Leone. Although my knowledge of her, and her antecedents were sketchy at best, I knew the storyline was rivetting, a story that was compelling and one that had to be told.

Your last documentary was a haunting one on the widows of Vrindavan. From there to Leone…a long journey, no?
The Forgotten Woman and Unforgettable Woman (although that’s not the title of our film) are opposite points of a compass but as in The Forgotten Woman, I’ve once again turned the camera on a subject without compromise and with unflinching honesty.

Tell me about your first meeting with Ms Leone? What were your first thoughts on her?
I had already said yes to the producer and to size each other out, Sunny, her husband Daniel and I met at the Juhu Marriott in Mumbai over a year ago. From the moment Sunny came into the lobby and all the way to the coffee shop at the lower level all eyes were focussed on her. She has a presence that commands attention. It was as though no one else existed nor mattered.

What did you talk about during your first meeting?
Our lunch meeting was a prolonged one where Sunny and I both vented, but by and large we were pretty much on the same page. After lunch, Daniel left for a meeting and I followed her to a dance studio where she was rehearsing for an upcoming song. I was fascinated by her commitment to perfect an art form that was alien to her. Sunny was surrounded by mirrors and catching her myriad reflections reiterated my decision to make a no-holds-barred documentary on this new phenomenon on the Bollywood horizon.

Has Ms leone co-operated in the making of this film?
Always. Over the course of one year in the making of our film I can’t recall a single incident when Sunny asked us to switch off the camera. She gave us unfettered access to her film sets, the making of music videos such as ‘Pink Lips’ amongst others, and to her family, friends and team Sunny. It’s as though we were joint at the hips.

From a porn star to a successful Bollywood actress, how do you view her journey?
With awe and shameless admiration. Most of us tend to carry baggage from our past that we somehow want to shed. Sunny, on the other hand, appears to be amongst a handful of people who seemingly has no regret of her life journey. She is non-evasive of her past avatar as an Adult Entertainer and of the choices that made her a hugely successful part of a multi-billion dollar industry. And it’s not as though I’m sharing a previously untold secret with you. Almost unfailingly in all the interviews to Indian and international media she doesn’t shy away from her previous career choices, although she does firmly reiterate that the past is the past.

What are your plans for the film?
A large chunk of Indian society is growing up and despite moral policing and growing religious intolerance we’re witnessing a tomorrow that is here today. Bollywood has always defined its own terms which is why a phenomenon such as Sunny is a hand-in-glove fit. I would urge her critics to give her a break and celebrate her chutzpah instead.