Is Sunny Leone – the unlikely role-model benefiting from #MeToo ?

The Me Too movement (#MeToo ) in India has grown out of the international social-media campaign against sexual harassment of  women in workplace. In the past few weeks, a slew of actors, ministers, government officials and other influential super-stars have been at the receiving end of accusations of sexual harassment.

The Indian #MeToo movement has brought the topic of sex into the foreground. And it is perhaps a sign of our times that modern India has accepted an icon of sex, the former porn-star as a Bollywood icon. Karenjit Kaur Vohra, the Canadian-born Indian-American actress and model better known by her stage name Sunny Leone is active in Indian film industry.

Sunny has played roles in independent mainstream events, films and television shows. Her first mainstream appearance was in 2005, when she worked as a red carpet reporter for the MTV Video Music Awards on MTV India. In 2011, she participated in the Indian reality television series Bigg Boss. She also has hosted the Indian reality show Splitsvilla.

4.-Sunny-Leone-2[1]

Ms Leone’s transformation from porn-star to mainstream Bollywood has not been universally accepted in India, where modern continues to co-exist with traditional and parochial value systems.  News accounts last week described possible threats to a recent concert in the tech-city of Bengaluru where Ms Leone was staring. According to Times of India

“The pro-Kannada outfit had threatened to disrupt the event. Around 200 policemen in civil dress were deployed at the venue. The KRVYS, an offshoot of pro-Kannada organisation Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, has been opposing the event for two reasons: first, the event would spoil the culture of Bengaluru and second, Sunny Leone was playing the lead role in a multi-lingual movie Veera Mahadevi, a period drama portraying a warrior.”

Even with a few threats and protests, her concerts and public appearances seem to have a strong fan following. After a recent appearance in Bengaluru, media accounts quoted several women techies

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Chitra P, a business analyst with a leading MNC, was quoted saying: “Sunny is fabulous. She is a powerful women’s voice we have today.”

Preethi, a content writer and a fan of Sunny’s dance skills said: “The protests were uncalled for and it was not in the right taste. People must get past her previous career and see her as an artiste.”

Her fan following has also led to several endorsement deals for products ranging from condoms to Desi Ghee (link). It is a sign of our times that a generation of Indians have embraced Ms Leone’s unlikely transformation into Bollywood.

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