MOSTLY SUNNY opens January 13 Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary and Halifax! Available in Canada January 10, exclusively on iTunes and simultaneously in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Brazil and Latin America.
Sunny Leone’s is the story of single- minded personal reinvention in two international arenas and it’s a doozy. Raised in a traditional conservative Sikh Punjabi home in Sarnia Ontario, Karenjit Kaur Vohra was keen to get out, so she headed for the hills – of Hollywood. A chance encounter led to a successful career acting in porn films and made her mark, becoming one of the leading porn stars in the world. She had a new name – Sunny Leone. Then she reinvented herself again, this time as a legitimate film actress in India, a major Bollywood star with all the trappings. Another incredible fact – Osama Bin Laden was a major fan. It’s just such a mind boggling story that it defies belief, but there it is. Photojournalist turned filmmaker Dilip Mehta documents her story in Mostly Sunny and shared stories about the making of the film
Sunny is full of contradictions, a fact telegraphed in the opening titles, with a glowing “Mostly Sunny” over a gloomy winter Sarnia snowscape.
That’s how I got the original title, Mostly Sunny, Partly Cloudy. It was changed by people whose opinions I care about and they said let’s make it sharp and succinct and I deferred and I’m kicking myself in the butt for changing it!
I remember you telling me this outlandish story of a Sarnia girl who became a porn star then a legit Bollywood star. It sounded mad.
The producers came to me with the idea and I said at the first meeting I’d love to be part of it. Who doesn’t know who Sunny is? It’s true, everybody knows Sunny, but I hadn’t followed her career. I jumped on the bandwagon but had my reservations.
There was a terrible rape case in India and Deepa (Mehta, Dilip’s sister, a renowned filmmaker) had made The Anatomy of Violence and I had serious doubts at that point. Do I want to be part of this – this woman is accused of being a lubricant for facilitating porn and rape culture in India?
The producer David Hamilton said go and meet her in Mumbai, and decide if you want to be a part of it or not. But I thought, no this film needs to be made.
Why was it so important to you?
It’s a very serious subject given that hypocrisy in India. Porn is a no-no. And yet every temple and edifice in India celebrates sex. The Kama Sutra emanates from India. But couples don’t walk down the street holding hands. If they’re necking in the park the moral brigade trashes them. It’s like Iran after the revolution.
And suddenly in parachutes this gorgeous woman with a shady past and I’m not judging or assessing, and she becomes the darling of Bollywood. It wasn’t a light story but I choose to use an iron fist. I don’t believe in using a hammer to kill a fly, you nail the situation and come out of it. I don’t dislike her or despise her crazy past.
Sunny’s attractive, smart, and really clued into survival and business and finance. We know her agenda immediately. So be it. Who am I to say that’s bad?
Sunny goes through painful moments the film, acknowledging the fatal stress she believes caused her mother’s death when she told them she was a porn star.
She feels it with every mention of her father and then she breaks down talking about her mother. That pain is genuine but obviously it wasn’t sufficient for her to change her ways. She carried on after weighing the alternatives and made her choice.
Her brother, also called Sunny, says in the film that their mother was an alcoholic and it got much worse she found out what his sister was doing. He’s not grieving, he stops talking and can’t carry on and yet he was selling her pictures and pinups. But that’s par for the course and speaks volumes for their choices.
Her career was her choice. People make choices and may regret them but she has no regret, her mother’s alcoholism grew substantially worse. There is a very dark side to her life that had to be revealed.
She seems so sweet in the film.
She’s hard, she comes across as a soft person but she ruminated about what went down. She told her parents that if they wanted her to stop making porn films, she wouldn’t and they’d end up losing a daughter.
They did didn’t they?
When she was 19 or 20 she won $100K from Penthouse as Pet of the Year. That’s a lot of money and it turned her head. Which is why the older generation in Sarnia wants to have nothing to do with her, her friends, friends of the family and their parents – no one would talk about her profession. The younger ones are fine with it. Its okay if that’s her choice, we love her. Shit happens.
Watch the trailer:
Sunny and her husband skating in Sarnia,
… and making a Bollywood music video.