Humanising Sunny Leone was the greatest challenge: Pooja Bhatt

Ananya Bhattacharya

Exhilarant with the spectacular response to the birth and acceptance of her baby, ‘Jism 2’, in India and abroad, Bollywood director Pooja Bhatt can hardly hold her happiness back. The success of her fourth film, however, hasn’t been able to catch her unawares and make her sound vain.

The director has learnt her lessons in the industry, and has learnt them the hard way. She belongs to a legacy of filmmakers who don’t hesitate to brand their own films as flops if the films turn out to be so, and Pooja is no different from the other Bhatts. But with ‘Jism 2’, the scenario is totally different.

Despite being released during Ramzan when a considerable amount of people in the country don’t watch films, ‘Jism 2’ has been able to recover the entire amount spent on it, and a lot more. Says Pooja, “As a director, this was my fourth film. And my previous films were all declared flops. Never before had I heard in my life that a film of mine had opened to full houses. I felt like shouting in happiness from the top of my roof!”

“The entire amount spent behind the film was somewhere around 12.5 crores. And in the first three days itself, ‘Jism 2’ has been able to recover that much and a lot more. There’s a certain section of the youth that finds the film intellectual and high-brow, though. They say that it is not sleazy enough, given the fact that a porn star has been cast in it. However, I know my film has an audience, and I can’t let people’s opinions colour my way of filmmaking,” adds Bhatt.

Criticism, feels the director, is a necessary part of any film. “Everybody,” says Bhatt, “is entitled to an informed opinion. But the fact that they couldn’t find a film that ‘Jism 2’ has been copied from seems to have upset the critics. Since I don’t take their praise seriously, I can’t say that I take their criticism seriously. And then there are critics who are disappointed because there isn’t much sex in the film. The same people had earlier castigated me for including a porn star in my film. I feel people need to be a lot more decisive as to whether they want to see sex or don’t want to see it.”

When asked about the reason Pooja chose Sunny Leone, a person whose very presence in the country and in mainstream cinema was much frowned upon, the director answers unflinchingly, “India needed a new fantasy. The entire campaign of ‘Jism 2’ had a woman’s image. Added to that is the fact that Sunny Leone has a kind of innocence stamped on her face. Seeing her makes people think twice about her profession – whether or not she really is a porn star. My character Izna in ‘Jism 2’ is somewhere based on Sunny. Like Izna, Sunny too has got some very traditional values, the yearning to be accepted into mainstream industry.”

Pooja is happy that her choice of Sunny, in spite of everything that the choice has been through, has worked. “Here’s a conservative market called Bollywood, and here’s a brand called ‘Jism’. The fact that a girl like her has been accepted into the industry speaks a lot about us as people. People see movies and listen to songs with their hearts. Nobody saw Sunny Leone as a porn star in the film, they saw the character Izna,” reveals the director.

Bhatt is happy that with ‘Jism 2’, she has been able to permeate the skin of a terrain that is supposedly men’s – the realm of erotica and sexuality. She is keen on working with Randeep again, but isn’t sure about Sunny. She feels the need to launch new actors, to move on to new blood, yet simultaneously, the director thinks that new people should be pushed to the point of perfection. To humanise Sunny Leone and make people think about her without the tag of a porn star was the greatest hurdle for Pooja. But she is glad that it has worked.

Pooja Bhatt believes that above all, as an artist, she needs to be irresponsible, provoke thoughts and follow her heart. She signs off with the assurance that if her film is a flop, she’d be the first one to say so to the world. But for the moment, as they say, let the celebrations continue!

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