Sunny Leone biopic's director Aditya says that she is not crying for sympathy
As the world gears up to watch the biopic of former porn star Sunny Leone alias Karenjit Kaur, the director says that the web series is not aiming at creating shock value
While making a biopic is one matter, having the subject of the story play herself, is another challenge altogether. So, when Aditya Datt set out to film Sunny Leone play the lead in the story of her own life, he had a task in hand. Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone is a 20-episode web series that premieres on Zee5 tomorrow. Interestingly, Leone herself is yet to see the finished product. "She will see it tomorrow, with the rest of the world," says Datt.
The first season of the series traces Leone's life as a young adult up to the point where she takes the decision to do the first photo shoot for Penthouse magazine, which turned out to be her claim to fame, and paved the road for a career in pornography. The second season, which is yet to be filmed, will delve into her life as a porn star. The story in Season 1 digs deep into her equation with her family, her mother, father and brother, and how the decisions she took in her career affected them. The narrative naturally lends itself to risqué content. However, shock value was not what Datt was trying to achieve.
"We could have easily exploited the subject and the freedom of the medium and indulged in pornographic content. That is not the point of the biopic. You'll find plenty of that in pornography sites. So, no, this won't be an uncomfortable watch as far as nudity is concerned. Yes, there is sensuality, and enough vulnerability especially in the [Penthouse] photo shoot scenes. I don't subscribe to the thinking that you can only make something believable by showing the graphic version of it," says the 34-year-old director.
Datt follows the method of camera-blocking that involves creating a detailed storyboard, choreographing each scene, risqué or otherwise. "For the sensitive scenes, we used to have a small unit. There were no moments of discomfort as we are all professionals here. So, it is all about mastering the technique." The story was initially written for a feature film, and it was the makers of Majid Majidi's Beyond The Clouds who first approached Datt, whose last film was Table No. 21, to direct it. After several rounds of deliberation and discussion, the project took on the format of a web series. The writer, Karan Sharma, spent a lot of time talking to Leone to pen the script.
Before he began filming, Datt had a big fat book on all the information about Leone's life. "But, I realised that I needed to understand her as a person. This one was bound to be tougher than a regular acting job. Here, she has to play herself, as she was over a decade ago. She had to go back to a past that she has moved on from. And to be your younger self is not easy, because you are so different now."
Discussions on the scenes were aplenty and Leone, we are informed, did not want to tone down anything. "Sometimes the writer would be cautious and not say certain things in the script. But while reading or doing that particular scene, Sunny would insist that it be told exactly the way it had happened." It also took Datt a while to get Leone to strike the exact note of her character. "At times, after she had read a scene, I would tell her, 'no, this is not the way your 18-year-old self would have spoken'. She would reply, 'but, this is how I speak'. Point is, that's how she speaks now — confident and self-assured. I needed her to be as vulnerable and clumsy and excited as she was then. It took us time, but we got there."
Certain scenes were too overwhelming even, for the actor. "There were times when she would break down on the sets, and then we'd have to take a break to give her time to get back into the right frame of mind. It's not easy to tell your parents that you want to become a porn star, and certainly not easy to relive the same for a scene, especially so, when they are not around anymore. It only got tougher as the filming progressed. I honestly don't know how she put herself through it," Datt says.
While biopics these days are being described as "glorified PR stunts" the director clarifies that this one is in no way an image cleaner. "Someone asked me the other day, how do you expect this biopic to inspire. But, not all biopics are meant to inspire. It tells the story of a girl who did what she did, and stood by her decision. She is not apologetic about it. She is not even providing an explanation. You might like her at the end of the story, or you might not agree with what you've seen. This is not a cry for sympathy, or a plea to people to 'understand' her as a person. It's a story, which happens to be a true one."
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