Veteran filmmaker Dilip Mehta (Cooking with Stella) returns to the Festival with this fascinating documentary portrait of porn actress turned Bollywood starlet Sunny Leone.
A former nude model and adult-film star in the United States, Leone has in recent years focused on forging a career in mainstream popular cinema in India. While the transition hasn't been entirely smooth — one of Sunny's first star vehicles, Jackpot, was a huge bomb — Sunny and her husband Daniel Weber (who is also her manager, as well as an actor and musician in his own right) press forward with determination. Mehta skilfully lays out the contradictions and complications that Leone's career has revealed in both Indian and diasporic Indian societies. Though not exactly known for its liberal views towards sexuality or the empowerment of women, India has seemingly had fewer qualms about accepting Sunny than has the Indian community in her Ontario hometown, which remains scandalized by her unconventional life choices.
One of the reasons Leone has been embraced by a mainstream audience is her demeanour. Instead of a privileged, upperclass Bollywood starlet, the Sunny we see here is a common-sense small-town girl who is deeply devoted to both her family (perhaps the most touching moment in the film comes when she discusses her father) and her work. What emerges from Mostly Sunny is a portrait of a woman whose exposure on the job has not destroyed the loving wife and daughter at home: if she's Sunny to millions, to her family she's still Karen.
Isabel Bader Theatre