New Delhi: It isn’t clear whether porn star Sunny Leone’s entry into the Bigg Boss house on 20 November has helped the TV show’s rating, but it has clearly helped hers.
According to analytics firm Alexa.com, since the third week of November there has been a 630% increase of traffic to the website of the star of evocatively titled films such as Undress Me, Descent into Bondage, Busty Cops, and Shut up and F*** me.
And vendors in New Delhi’s Palika Bazaar, still the centre of a thriving trade in pornographic DVDs despite repeated raids by the police (the vendors now sell only to regulars), are offering a special multi-disc package of four Sunny Leone movies.
Leone, born Karen Malhotra to Punjabi parents in Ontario, Canada, has never had it so good—not even when the 30-year-old appeared, in 2006, in Fox’s reality show My Bare Lady 2, where four porn stars compete to see who can run the best business in Los Angeles.
Today, visitors to her site make up 0.01% of all global Internet users, and the traffic is driven almost entirely by an Indian audience. Leone’s website is now ranked 296 in terms of its viewership in India. The Indian Express comes at 311, and Mint’s site Livemint.com isn’t in the top 500.
If Leone’s decision to participate in the show was part of a larger strategy to break into the thriving Indian entertainment business, then it has worked. It is also a sign of Bollywood’s global appeal (and perhaps, of the call of Malhotra’s genes), that it has attracted a former Playboy model, who has had such a glittering career in porn that she has her own studio, SunLust Pictures. In some of her older interviews, Leone had indicated a keenness to enter Bollywood.
Initially, Leone was coy about her career, telling fellow housemates in the Bigg Boss (the Indian version of popular UK and US reality show Big Brother) house that she was an actress and a model in the US, and dodging further queries about the nature of her work. Eventually, the former nursing student did share the information with some, and a few others discovered her identity from new contestants who entered the isolated environment of the Bigg Boss house after Leone.
Meanwhile, Indian men have been getting to know her online. According to Alexa, visitors to Leone’s website have fallen primarily into two age groups: 18-24 and 45-54. The vast majority of her new fan base is male, and they largely surf the Internet at home. And Twitter links showing Sunny in a red bikini have been flying around the Web.
Not everyone is happy.
“Why do they want to censor Facebook, when they don’t censor Sunny Leone? Thousands of children are searching for her on the Internet and getting connected to porn sites,” said Bharatiya Janata Party member Anurag Singh Thakur at a conference organized by PRS Legislative Research.
Twitter users were outraged that a porn star was appearing on a show that could be watched by children (despite it clearly not being a show meant for them).
Still, the Bigg Boss experience seems to have worked for Leone. In a well-publicized event, Mahesh Bhatt, whose studio churns out B-movies, entered the Bigg Boss house to offer Leone the starring role in his next film.
The movie, appropriately enough, is named Jism 2. Jism is Hindi for body.