Kalyug ki 'Sita' - Sunny Leone

The word ‘Sita’ is probably more loaded with meaning than ‘Ram’, the word that promises to launch a thousand ships any minute now. In this piece I intend to compare Sunny Leone with Sita, both prototypes rather than people in our minds, not to legitmise the already-several-times-legitmised-but-just-not-enough-Sunny but try and draw a parallel in the women as women.

If I tread on any feet or offend someone please kill the comment section with your ire and leave it at that, don’t we have way better things to spend offence time on?

So back in Satyug during Ram Rajya all was hunky dory in the world with men doing the hunting and women cooking and both happy in their places (well, that’s what we are told). Until Sita decided that her self respect as a person was more important than her role as a woman.

She left her husband who doubted her and this after she had passed a trial by fire ignoring the aspersion the demand cast on her. All her life she refused to go back, raising her two sons single-handedly and in the end choosing her own death. Sita was empowered because she understood choice and made hers on her own and this was back in Satyug.

Back in Kalyug during Har Har Modi times nothing is hunky dory with the world because we have a Sunny who chooses to become a porn star and remains unapologetic about it even as we feverishly invoke Ram Rajya back so that we don’t have to deal with the Sunnys of this world.

We crave for Sita, who is a Sita we want to know - meek, humble, choiceless, sacrificing and ‘pure’ whatever that means. (But if she is then why is the husband who doubted her seen as equally pure? I mean, if he was pure he would have recognised her purity, no? There is a contradiction there we don’t seem to want to see.) So we push a Sunny into a corner because through her choices she has defied our idea of Sita on every level. And she remains unapologetic.

When Sunny first hit the Indian scene with Bigg Boss, middle class homes all over India didn’t quite know how to deal with a porn star in their living rooms. There was a great tingle of excitement simmering under the surface and with it a patronising acceptance, to hide one’s own unwarranted enthusiasm. The image building exercise seemed to be ‘gain the approval of the great Indian middle class and you have arrived.’ It worked but Bollywood being the fossil it is, it decided middle class audiences wouldn’t want to see Sunny in anything except lewd and poorly directed films. And Bollywood being Bollywood, not seemed to have recovered from Mallika Sherawat yet, failed to do anything bold or brave enough to fit Sunny. And soon she was a B grade actress doing ‘those’ kind of films (which usually earned a lot of money because it got a lot of audience.)

Sunny was accepted in the exploitative circle of glamour but was yet to gain respectability. Oh, the Indian middle class may have ‘allowed her in’, but the upper middle class were yet to approve of her or her choices, past and present both. And fair though it may seem, underneath that there seemed to be a need to present approval. As if without that Sunny could never really blossom or have a right to.

Patronise; that’s how we treat anyone tainted with that sex thing, na? Eve-teasing, sexual harassment, child abuse, rape, sex workers, porn stars. As if sex is one big dirty thing and not the politics of patriarchy that creates a dirty world while using sex as its excuse.

Ram rejected Sita because he thought she could have had sex outside marriage. We rejected Sunny because she had sex for money. And today when we can no longer ignore her independence we rush in with support, as though to anoint her of having finally cleared heragnipariksha that somehow cleansing her of her earlier ‘evils’. That the fallen woman could be resurrected now. Assuming she needs this approval, permission almost. She doesn’t and we must know that. Because she is as fallen as you or I are, not any more.

Sita needed no one’s permission to live or die. Sunny didn’t need anyone’s permission for sex, she doesn’t need it to become Sita. Because she already is. Just not the way we want her to be, but maybe that too soon. After all, even an Aamir Khan felt the need to contribute with his regular patronising take. Her next could be – Karanjit Kaur as Sita in Ekta Kapoor’s ‘Ekkkk aur Ramayan’. And then the legitimacy will be complete.

It is we who are oscillating in our ideas of a Sunny and a Sita, both of them moved on long ago.

S for silence.

Fatema Kagalwala