Film: “Mostly Sunny”; Documentary by Dilip Mehta’ Rating: ****
At one point in this haunting look at the life of a porn star who betrayed her conservative Punjabi family to rule the adult entertainment industry, Sunny Leone bursts out, “So what if my home town disowned me? Today every Indian family wants me to be a part of them.”
Ahem. Not quite. The level of acceptability as a ‘Bollywood actress’ that Sunny and her incredibly-supportive husband Daniel Webber, imagine for her, is just not a realistic goal. During the long revealing monologues in camera in this eloquent documentary, Sunny seems to feel she has left her past, as a porn star, behind.
Dilip Mehta’s searing documentary reminds us not too gently how outrageously impossible it is to wipe out one’s past karma in a flurry of song, dance and drama that is Bollywood masala.
“Mostly Sunny” is not a fluff job. It is neither a cop-out nor an insider’s job. But somewhere in-between. It doesn’t focus on the sleazy, leery side of Sunny’s life to generate a heated titillation. Calmly, Mehta, whose earlier documentary on the widows of Vrindavan remains a haunting portrait of desolation, doesn’t take the easy route while focusing on Sunny’s provocative activities in the past to show how they impinge on her present.
Many times the acts of betrayal that turned ‘Karenjit’ to ‘Sunny’ make us flinch for their unabashed homage to materialism. This is not an ordinary raunchy-to-posh saga of a Punjabi girl from Sarnia, a small town in Canada, who decided she had to make obscene amounts of money to afford the lifestyle that she craved for.
Joining her in her cru(de)sade is her faithful husband. It is not very clear to me why Daniel gave up his thriving family steel business to become a porn star alongside his wife. Dilip’s documentary is hazy on that issue. Perhaps it is of little interest to Mehta. What he tracks down with a sleuth’s single mindedness is the ghosts from Sunny’s past as they come to haunt her present.
The most memorable moment in this diligently packaged portrait of a life entrapped in erotic excursions are when Sunny (with faithful husband) visits her hometown and is shunned by everyone as the daughter who brought disgrace and doom on her family.
To reiterate the damage that Karenjit Kaur perpetrated on her folks when she transformed into ‘Sunny Leone’, there is Sunny’s brother Sunny (Yup… she took her alias for her adult activities from her kid brother) saying on camera that their mother drank herself to death after she got to know her daughter’s true calling.
Indeed, the most genuine and humane face of Sunny Leone when she is no longer pouty, provocative, poseur is when she talks about her parents. Mehta’s camera captures her in stark make-up-less anguish. These are moments that are filled with an unspoken rage and fear about what happens when the light dims and the oomph fades away.
It is not difficult to see why Sunny Leone has disowned this saga of her life as seen through the eyes of a director who is unsparing in his morality and dispassionate in capturing a life that has forfeited a self-discipline. “Mostly Sunny” is a searing, stark, sometimes startling peek into the void at the heart of the stardom that comes to those who are in the business of titillation. What makes Sunny Leone tick? And what makes her fans get sexually aroused at her very thought? This capably crafted heartfelt homage to the heroine of the horny hemisphere spares us none of the sordid sidelights to Sunny’s seemingly charmed life.
Seen in a harsh but non-judgmental light, she comes across as strong and vulnerable and terribly misguided in her belief that it’s okay to have sex on camera and then move on in life.
Some experiences refuse to leave.