We met Sunny Leone in a suburban hotel for a free-wheel chat as the 'Baby Doll' has a film hitting the silver screens this week.
Tackling every question like a pro, she was at her candid best, talking about the film, her views on one night stands, her dream come true moment when she bagged a chance to work with one of Bollywood's biggest Khans and the recent controversies that she has battled!
Excerpts from the conversation-
Q. What is your opinion on one night stands?
A. I think that if you are single and if your physical emotions take over your brain for one night then that's your choice in your life. Your intimate moments should be just with you and that's it. If you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a partner then maybe you should think twice about one night stands.
Q. But from the Indian context what is your opinion about the same?
A. I think that one night stands happen a lot here than what's perceived out there. Intimate moments are not something that people go to lunch and be like 'so what did you do last night?' It's something you are not comfortable talking about.
Q. So do you think that in the age of Tinder, youth today are more inclined towards one night stands rather than relationships?
A. I don't know about Tinder. I have never been on it so I don't know how it works. But like I was saying before, one night stands happen a lot in urban settings and larger cities. They happen all over the world.
Q. What was that one thing that made you take up this project?
A. The story was a lot different than everything that I have done in the past. I liked the idea of touching on gender equality. If a man does something it's okay but if a woman does the same thing then she is wrong, she is ridiculed and looked down upon. That happens throughout the film with my character.
Q. What was the most challenging part for you?
A. The most challenging part was that I had nothing in common with my character except for some of the strong moments that she has in the film. I didn't understand my character so I took a lot of workshops and had conversations on sets. The crew wanted me to shout up and just shoot the scene. (laughs) Because I didn't relate to my character it was hard for me to shoot and believe what I was saying as I haven't gone through all this. So it was more about believing in my director and doing what she wanted me to do. This movie was not easy for me to do.
Q. What was your reaction when you came to know that such a subject will be tackled by a woman director?
A. I think that it's great and wonderful to see different women trying different subjects and themes. Jasmine (D'Souza) shot this movie through her eyes. If a male director was shooting this he might have seen something completely different. But again if you saw a different woman shooting the same subject then too you would have seen a different film. But there is certain type of softness to Jasmine as a person and as a woman which I think gets translated to screen.
Q. Do you think that the actor in you is constantly under pressure to be shown in a certain way which is bold and sensual? Is that something that you want to break free from?
A. I think that if I came into this industry and decided that okay, I want to wear something from the neck to my toes then people would think I am crazy. As each film passes there should be some growth and with this film there is a growth in a different direction. It has its sensual and intimate moments but then that's necessary for the film since it tackles such a subject. It would be weird if I came into this industry and say I want to forget or I want to become something that I spent so many years being. I think that with time things will change.
Q. Were there any embarrassing moments between you and Tanuj (Virwani) while shooting the intimate scenes?
A. We had a lot of discussions before shooting them. I am a very systematic person. So I like all my shots written down. To make it look beautiful to what people see on screen it has to be shot properly. So there was nothing embarrassing or weird.
Q. How do you see your Bollywood journey from your first film till this one?
A. I am very critical about every single thing that I do every day. I believe acting is a learning process. You just get better and better with every film, TV shows or photo shoots that you do. I just hope that with time things get better and each director teaches me something new. The sets of 'One Night Stand' were the most sombre ones and I learnt some much about myself during that time too. I learn a lot from watching other people.
Q. You shot a special song with Shah Rukh Khan for 'Raees'. How was the entire experience?
A. I was so excited. I am so happy and feel proud for myself, Daniel (my husband) and my whole team. Because only we know what the real struggle is. Only we know what we have gone through- the hard days or even the amazing things that have happened. If somebody like Shah Rukh Khan invites you to be a part of a song for his film, it's a really amazing moment. I am always going to be thankful that he has taken a chance and given me an opportunity to what I would say a ticket to Disneyland. I became really emotional when I saw our first shot together on the frame. I went up to him and thanked him saying that's our first shot together. I must have really annoyed him by saying thank you every time I saw him (laughs).
Q. Are you willing to do such cameos in other films too?
A. I believe that if it's a nice project that I would want to be associated with then why not? I will get to fulfil my bucket list.
Q. In retrospect an unpleasant thing (the infamous Chaubey interview) had happened with you in the past. Do you think you gained from it as a person?
A. It took me a long time to get into my head what was happening around. I didn't expect that incident to happen. I don't always know what a journalist will ask. I thought that after one uncomfortable question maybe it will stop. But it just continued one after the other. I was in a very awkward situation. It took me a long time to kind of heal myself until I went back to the US and I detached myself from everything- no phones, no interviews. It wasn't like something that bad happened. But it was just that my brain couldn't process.
Q. A lot of B-town celebs stood up in your support..
A. I was shocked at what was happening. After the interview I called them (channel) and told them that I didn't liked the way the interview was conducted so please let somebody from the team watch the interview and tell me if I answered the questions properly so that I could at least sleep well at night. Because you are going home to your family but I have to deal with the repercussions of the content, the manner in which the questions were asked which I in my head knew was wrong. I didn't walked out of the interview. Nobody around me also stopped that interview. Thankfully a lot of people around me supported me. Even the journalists, the media and the Bollywood celebs.
Q. But did you at that time expected such a kind of support from industry?
A. No..I thought that the opposite would happen.
Q. Do you think that some celebrities including you these days have become a soft target for media?
A. Yes, I am a soft target for media but what am I going to do? It sells your newspaper and gets more hits on your website. Our lives are out there for everyone to see. The thing I really wish that goes away from India is the 'copy paste' culture. Because if one interviewer writes something then everybody copy-pastes it. Why? Copy-paste should be eliminated from journalism. (laughs). It's sad to see and then you know how the words between get twisted around. But what the publications or the journalists don't realize that the person in that small town believes in every word that you say and it's a lie. So it's unfortunate.
Q. How do you deal with the negativity around you?
A. I just kind of brush it off. There is nothing that I could do about it. All I know is that I work everyday. I have a great family and a great support-system. My goal in life is to work as much as possible. But if every single time people have to say bad things then I don't care. I am happy in my life making money.
Q. When Mr Chaubey's interview happened you are pretty quiet though support came from everywhere else. But then you were more vocal about expressing your displeasure when the slap incident happened...
A. Because I didn't have a chance to defend myself. That person spoke on my behalf which I don't think that person had the right to. So in front of Chaubey I could say what I want to in his face. But if somebody in a newspaper writes something that is a blatant lie, supports it and sends it out to millions of people which most of them later copy-pasted then what am I supposed to say. We are pretty upset with the paper that decided to print it but then they refused to take back what they said. I am so anti-violence that it kind of hurts me which someone would say that I slapped somebody.
Q. Sometime back Aamir had tweeted that he would love to work with you..
A. I know it's amazing. There is nothing on the table at this moment. But I hope, trust me if something like that happens and I am allowed to talk about it then I would be the first one tweeting it.
Q. Your film 'One Night Stand' will be competing at the box office with 'Traffic' and '1920 London'. What's your take on that?
A. There are going to be multiple films on every single weekend. So you can't sit and worry about all the other films. You have to worry about pushing your film and believing in your own product. I hope all the films make their money. Because that would mean that the whole film industry as a whole is succeeding. It's not a good thing when a film doesn't do well. It should at least recover its money back. Some have to collectively think about Indian films before making those so unpopular that all the Indian films don't succeed.
Q. Your films see the most number of downloads on Torrents. What do you have to say about that?
A. As far as my household goes there is no stealing of content that happens. I buy all my songs and movies. I know that it's really difficult for people to resist from the temptation from watching it online for free. But if everybody does that then there won't be any films watched any more. You will be watching those old films over and over again because nobody will have the money to make any more movies. So it's a vicious cycle. There's nothing we can do about it.
Q. Many Indian actresses are moving towards the west. Do we see you taking a similar move soon?
A. It's not something that I am pursuing. I love being in India and I love this film industry. I believe in focussing in one place for me at this moment.
Q. Tell us your three best career-defining moments in Bollywood
A. Bigg Boss show, definitely Shah Rukh Khan's 'Raees' and 'Baby Doll' song