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.

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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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Shah Rukh Khan’s TED Talk

In this charming, funny talk, Khan traces the arc of his life, showcases a few of his famous dance moves and shares hard-earned wisdom from a life spent in the spotlight. “I sell dreams, and I peddle love to millions of people,” says Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood’s biggest star.

 

With a fan following that runs into multi-millions, Shah Rukh Khan is at forefront of the Indian film industry and continues to rule at the box office in India. (link to TED)

 

Bahubali 2 Phenomenon in the US

The desi blockbuster movie Bahubali 2 has been sweeping all records for earnings the past few weeks. Not surprisingly (for desis), the movie also beat records in North America this past week.

The desi blockbuster movie Bahubali 2 has been sweeping all records for earnings the past few weeks. Not surprisingly (for desis), the movie also beat records in North America this past week.

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The Wall Street Journal took note, highlighting

It’s being called India’s “Star Wars,” smashing box-office records worldwide. The wild superhero epic “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” which opened at the end of April, has become the highest grossing Indian film in history, and its breakthrough in the U.S. may be just as significant.

With a $10.3 million opening weekend April 28, it was the No. 3 film in America, beating DreamWorks Animation’s “Boss Baby,” Tom Hanks in “The Circle” and other Hollywood fare. It did so even though it opened on only 425 screens around the country, selected for their demographics, averaging $24,364 per screen. The No. 1 film the same weekend, “The Fate of The Furious,” averaged only $4,890 per screen, on 4,077 screens.

“We were stunned. This clearly turned into an event,” said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX. “When you have full houses on Thursday night, on something that was unbelievably viral in how the information was disseminated to the Indian diaspora, you’re tapping into something.”

WSJ writer was also surprised how the movie took off without support from mainstream movie critics  “Critics on Yahoo or Rotten Tomatoes, or somewhere. I haven’t seen anything like that,” he said. On Rotten Tomatoes recently “Baahubali 2” boasted a 92% audience score and had no rating at all from critics. Imports like this still take a back seat to Hollywood blockbusters.





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