The Two-Way
3:58 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Summer Film, Starring Real-Life Porn Star, Is Testing India's Limits

The prolific and pervasive film industry of India, often called Bollywood, is pushing the country's decency envelope with its latest summer release, which features a real-life porn star. The film, awkwardly titled Jism 2, is a sequel to a 2002 blockbuster and stars Indian-Canadian adult film star Sunny Leone in the leading role. (The title means 'body' in Hindi.)

Jism 2's self-professed sexual revolution for Bollywood has been met with protests, bans on advertising and, in the case of one particularly disgruntled audience member, a lawsuit claiming there wasn't enough sex.

The debate over the film centers on questions of morality and decency in the new India, a country in which movie stars are treated liked near-deities and attitudes toward family and sexuality are shaped by the silver screen. India is also home to an especially aggressive and sensitive Censor board, which orders cuts and splices in films on moral grounds.

Earlier today All Things Considered host Audie Cornish spoke with film critic Aseem Chhabra who explained that while Sunny Leone is "hot," she is most certainly a "terrible actress." But he adds that the film and the emergence of its provocative starlet into the Indian mainstream is forcing the country to talk more openly about sex — a topic once tucked far behind the scenes.

"India is changing in a very interesting way and rather fast," he said. "This is the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema, and a hundred years ago, women couldn't even act in Indian films. Today there's a porn star who is acting in a mainstream film, and the middle class Indians are having a conversation about it. She's been interviewed a lot in print media and on television so people are sitting in their living rooms with their parents and actually watching this woman being interviewed, which says something about the way in which the country is changing."

Listen to the full conversation, including the reactions of some moviegoers in Delhi, on today's edition of All Things Considered. We'll also post audio of the full interview later tonight.

(Bilal Qureshi is an assistant producer for All Things Considered.)

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