Should Bollywood embrace former adult film star Sunny Leone?
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Should Bollywood embrace former adult film star Sunny Leone?

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It’s an unprecedented thing for a former adult film star to be successful in a film industry in which kissing can even be considered risqué. Canadian-Indian actress Karenjit Kaur Vohra, better known as Sunny Leone, has done just that, but not without substantial controversy. Her critics claim her X-rated career taints the Hindi film industry and damages the cultural fabric of India. Does her past matter, or should the focus be on what she's doing now? 

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Gender relations in India are a far more complex topic than can be addressed here in the article. Regions and religions have wildly varied views of women’s rights. But should India embrace Sunny Leone as a woman of ambition and talent, or try to preserve the modesty of the culture by opposing her? 

What Leone has done is amazing. After a successful adult film career, she’s starred in a few mainstream Bollywood movies and some more erotic (though non-pornographic) feature films. She writes short stories and has launched her own line of cosmetics, in addition to supporting various charitable causes. The idea that India’s cultural heritage rests on gender censorship and slut-shaming does a disservice not only to Leone, but also to the flexibility and development of Indian culture itself. And it’s hypocritical. A nation of a billion people didn’t reproduce by cloning, you know.

She is regarded as one of the finest actresses that we have in the industry, and despite the fact that she had an undesirable past, Sunny is a person who lives it all up with zero regrets. Her charming, sweet personality makes everyone fall in love with her.

In the photo below, Sikhs protest Sunny Leone's use of the Sikh name Kaur, which they feel is inappropriate for an adult film actress. Why such a strong reaction to her? Perhaps it is because Bollywood is not about real life; it’s about fantasy life where everyone is beautiful and talented, and romance abounds. Real life is violent, but violence is not, in general, presented as blood and guts in Hindi films. Likewise, sexuality is implied rather than shown. It’s a form of visual poetry. A glance here, an embrace there, a grabbed wrist. It could tarnish the fantasy to involve explicit sex scenes, and likewise to employ actors and actresses who have done pornographic work. Keep the romance and fantasy intact. 

She's also come under fire for a condom ad, described as "shabby, ugly or immoral." Clearly, she is too much for many. 

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