As everyone knows, it’s the season of biographical content. Ever since Sunny Leone became Penthouse Pet of the Year, she captured the Indian media’s imagination. In a while, she made her mainstream Bollywood debut and is today a celebrity in her own right. Other adult film stars have tried breaking in Bollywood but have failed.
What makes this person tick? Well, that could be a fascinating answer. However, before that concept is picked on, Zee5 went on to make a bio-series on Karenjit Kaur, the person who finally evolved into Sunny Leone. Here’s our review of that web series – Karenjit Kaur – The Untold Story of Sunny Leone.
The story starts with Karenjit’s childhood, when she lived in Canada for a while and then shifted to Hollywood as Karenjit grew up. The web series covers her life and times as she evolves from a ditzy, awkward kid in school to her Penthouse spreads and until she shoots her first adult film – with Vivid (Why that brand’s important, we’ll come to that later).
A full-fledged adult entertainment industry doesn’t exist in India. Pornographic films are banned. Along with telling Karenjit Kaur’s story, the web series could be a tell-all look into the foreign adult industry Unfortunately, it isn’t. What it does, is romanticize the adult entertainment industry – and that’s dangerous.
Coming a full-turn is the adult entertainment industry outside India. This series talks about only the adult magazine industry, not the adult film industry, which is a big, legitimate market with their own awards. Vivid Entertainment was one of the first companies to come up with spectacularly produced adult videos.
Adult film franchises like Emmanuelle had gathered as much of an iconic status as the James Bond franchise did. But even so, the industry is riddled with issues. And if we consider the adult magazine industry to be connected to the adult film industry, wouldn’t this industry be riddled with problems too? It’s a marvel that Karenjit never experienced any.
According to this series all Karenjit Kaur ever did in her profession is pout for some glamour shots and posed for them wearing little else than a smile. The photographers were only bespectacled White females with another bespectacled White spot man.
Karenjit Kaur meets every one of her antagonists outside the adult entertainment industry. Bullying student colleagues – check. A female boss who wants her to only get coffee – check. Family members who look down upon her and her family, check. All her problems lie outside the adult entertainment industry. On the professional front, the only bad thing she ever experienced was her agent who uses the ‘F’ word with her, while saying that he’d not use it because he’s professional. These are sequences that really make a reviewer wonder whether they should just give it all up and join the gym.
Even the other token harassment sequence shown is so light, it never really registers for the audience. According to the series, she had to endure little more than a broke father, a drunk mother and the usual racial harassment? Is that all that’s to Sunny Leone? Hard to believe. Where’s the rivalry? Sunny was Penthouse, did she never come across Playboy, Hustler, Screw? Where’s the poaching? Where’s the male-female-dynamics while shooting for what’s essentially a nudie magazine?
Most of the adult entertainment business scene is set in the nineties – the naughty nineties – the era of boob jobs and big money coming into the smut magazines and all that. When it comes to salacious details, the headlines of ‘that’ Penthouse magazine reveals more about the porn industry than this series.
If Karenjit Kaur has had such a blessed life, and too being part of the adult film industry, she’s blessed way beyond anyone. It’s 2018, actors and actresses are howling out about how they were sexually harassed in the mainstream media. It’s a marvel that Sunny didn’t face any issues all her professional life – apart from an agent who uses the ‘F’ word, while saying that he’s not using it. If Sunny Leone was a superhero, her power would be meeting only nice people in the adult entertainment industry.
What’s Wow: For what it’s worth, the series does a good job of showing Karenjit Kaur’s life as a youngster and how her mother forced her to have a conservative life. The characters are well written, and performances are good. Karamvir Lamba does an explosively good job of playing Karenjit’s brother – the person whose name was taken by Karenjit as her screen-name. Karenjit does a good job of reliving her life.
What’s Blah: The series has a ‘tv look’ to it and it’s surprising why. This is one of Zee5’s flagship series and there’s zero thought gone into the art direction and the direction. The camerawork is pedestrian and doesn’t really want to engage the audience. There’s zero camera angles. For some reason, somewhere in the middle, the director decides to do the long-shot routine, but by then it’s too little and too late.
The art direction is lazy with the almost every office looking the same. The only difference is that the office of Karenjit’s agent has life size posters of adult magazines. Another thing that falls flat is the justification that Karenjit wants to give for her adult entertainment career – that Sunny Leone is just a character that she’s created and the real Karenjit Kaur is just a girl next door. It doesn’t work that way. That logic might work for some star struck person who thinks celluloid is God, but it doesn’t work for the person on the street. What this series misses, along with several other Indian web series is good art direction. The entire series has a ‘phenyl cleaned, squeaky clean look’. That look itself is so unnatural that the audience might get ticked off from the first frame.
Parting Shot: Watch this series if you don’t have the patience to read about Sunny’s life on her Wikipedia page. There’s more information on her Wikipedia page than this series.
Cast: Karenjit Kaur, Bijay Jasjit Anand, Raj Arjun, Karanvir Lamba, Vansh Pradhan, Rysa Saujani, Grusha Singh, Marck Buckner, Sujata Sehgal, Jan Bostock.
Crew: Aditya Datt
Writers: Niranjan Kaushik, Karan Shrikant Sharma
Karenjit Kaur: The untold story of Sunny Leone is now streaming on Zee5.