Bollywood actress Sunny Leone, who’s all set for the red carpet at Filmfare Middle East Achievers Night on October 28 at Meydan Hotel, isn’t a fan of extreme diets or embarking on a punishing fitness regime before an event that invites scrutiny.
“I don’t believe in crash diets. Fitness is an everyday activity. Nothing can happen overnight, so why try? I eat my regular meals and sleep well, unless the kids decide to give me a hard time. But they have been less naughty off late,” said Leone in an exclusive e-mail interview with Gulf News.
Leone, who believes that confidence is a great accessory on the red carpet, joins an army of talents including Kajol, Nora Fatehi, Mahira Khan, Mohamed Ramadan, and Zeenat Aman on Thursday night as part of a celebration meant to honour the best in Bollywood, Arab cinema, Pakistani films and beyond.
The former adult film star and proud of mother of three young children — Nisha, Noah and Asher — made her Bollywood film debut with ‘Jism 2’ in 2012 is undoubtedly the queen of re-invention. Her career has seen several transformations including starring in her own biographical web series titled ‘Karenjit Kaur – The Untold Story of Sunny Leone’ and launching her own make-up brand StarStruck. She’s currently working on an action-centric role for director Vikram Bhatt’s web series ‘Anamika’.
Now, Leone — born Karenjit Kaur to a Sikh family in Canada — is set to light up the FFME Achievers Night stage with a song and dance spectacle.
Excerpts from our interview as we talk about body positivity, her precious Filmfare Awards memory, the COVID-19 pandemic and more …
What are your thoughts on attending a star-studded event post the COVID-19 pandemic? This event is significant because it’s the first of its kind in Dubai since COVID-19 hit us all.
I am super excited to be out at an event again. A large part of an actor’s life includes making these appearances. I won’t lie, I had missed these quite a lot. The whole getting ready, choosing an outfit, and make up is a pretty fun routine.
What’s your biggest Filmfare Awards night memory over the years?
The first time I attended the awards is my most favourite memory. I love performing at those events and attending them too.
There’s a strong dialogue now on body positivity among celebrities so that they normalise all body shapes. What are your thoughts on celebrities embracing their perceived flaws in public now?
I believe as women we are always subjected to harsh criticism and we are expected to adhere to a set idea of beauty. Body positivity needs a hard push from women who are in the social arena. We have the voice to make that difference. I have always been proud of my size. I even make jokes about being a hairy Punjabi teenager. I have never tried being a smaller size. I work out and I try to be as fit as possible. Size inclusivity as a dialogue has come a long way and I want more people to join in this conversation.
How has the pandemic treated you and what has been your biggest learning during this time?
My biggest learning is to be grateful. I was with my family, surrounded by so much warmth and love. Every day we would hear stories of people suffering and I would just look at my husband and kids and say a prayer. I know today, more than ever before, that nothing else matters.
How has it been as a working actress and a mother? Can women have it all?
To be a working woman and a mother are interlinked, everything goes hand in hand and schedules are made accordingly. Daniel [Webber] and I have always created a set up at home where the kids know that mom and dad are working parents and that they both run the household. Women can have it all, of course. There are more and more women who are great examples of it. I draw my inspiration from every woman I have met on my film set who wake up early, help the kids, do kitchen chores and report to work. If they can do it with such little help, I don’t see why can’t I?
Tell us more about your future projects and what kind of offers are now coming your way since your Bollywood debut ‘Jism 2’?
‘Jism 2’ was the start of a roller-coaster ride. For a long time I was put in a box, but with the space having drastically changed, I feel the quality of offers has altered. I am doing an action film and an action series so that really says a lot about how I am perceived now. With a fresh wave of content, I believe, people are casting against the norm which has benefitted me hugely. I love to be in front of the camera and it would be a lot more enjoyable if I did different things. There is ‘Anamika’, ‘Oh My Ghost’ and ‘Sheero’.
With the advent of web streaming platforms, do you think there’s greater scope for actors to perform in stronger roles?
Absolutely. OTT by nature allows an actor to go deep into the psyche of the character. It’s episodic so you delve more into the person’s life, their back story and their motivations. I feel I have benefitted a lot from the first series I did, which was biographical. While I was playing a slightly fictionalised version of myself, people did realise that I am capable of bringing a certain range. I have shot for another series with Vikram Bhatt called ‘Anamika’. Every day it was a huge learning for me.
What’s your take on gender wage parity among male and female colleagues in the entertainment industry at large?
I have been fortunate enough not to face these issues and the makers have always obliged to pay my fees. Every artist faces their own situation, but I feel everyone should know their worth.
You are an enterprising artist and you have diversified your brand not just as an actor but as a make-up maven and more. What next are we looking at?
The sky is my limit. There’s a lot happening which we will announce soon. Beside my make-up line , there is IAmanimal, a clothing line that will be launched soon.
What’s the most useless skill that you have acquired during lock down (mine is that I can squat and brush my teeth)?
I have gotten really good at playing several annoying app games on my phone.
What is the latest series that you found binge-worthy this COVID-19?
I was watching a Dutch drama series called ‘UnderCover’.
What is Filmfare Middle East Achievers Night?
A star-studded night filled with a song-dance spectacle and a glittering red carpet call aimed at honouring the best in Bollywood and the Arab and Pakistani entertainment scene. Organiser claim more than 100 celebrities from the world of Bollywood, South Indian cinema, Pakistani cinema and the Arab scene will be in attendance and they will be given a nod for their contribution to the field of arts and cinema.
Who are the stars attending this year?
Prominent actors from the world of Bollywood, the Arab world, and Pakistani cinema will attend. The red carpet call will see actors including Kajol, Nora Fatehi, Sunny Leone, Shruti Haasan, Manushi Chhillar, Jaideep Ahlawat, Mohamed Ramadan, Mahira Khan and Maya Ali, Arab superstar Mohamed Ramadan will also grace the night. His ‘Versace Baby’ co-star Urvashi Rautela will also attend. Singers including Tulsi Kumar, Kanika Kapoor, Amaal Malik, Sattar Saad and Udit Narayan will also perform. The event will be hosted by Maniesh Paul, known for his incredible wit and comic hosting style.
What are the safety protocols in place?
All guests must wear masks and proof of vaccination is mandatory.
How do you attend the awards and what’s the easiest way to get there?
Tickets start from Dh157 and can be purchased at Platinumlist. There are several ticketing options based on your budget, with the Star Enclosure tickets being pegged at a steep price.
At what time does the event start and how long will it last?
It’s best to reach there by 7pm. If you are driving to Meydan Hotel, factor in the time you will take to reach the venue and find parking. Alternatively, taking public transport like a taxi to the venue is also an idea. Be warned, Bollywood ceremonies can run for several hours at a stretch. Wearing comfortable shoes and dressing up to the nines but with comfort in mind would be helpful.