I haven't seen Jism 2 but thank god for the film. Had Mahesh Bhatt not lapped up the idea of using a bona fide porn star as the lead in a film that celebrates the body there would always be buzz about her doing a film like Jism, which...well...just celebrates bodies! No matter how you chose to view the development but Sunny Leone's foray into commercial Hindi cinema is nothing more than a cheap and desperate marketing gimmick that everyone seemed to love.
Almost a decade ago the original Jism, a shameless rip-off of Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity made stars out of Bipasha Basu and John Abraham. The Bhatts have regularly resorted to using the success of their films like Jism, Murder or Raaz by turning them into a 'brand' in order to ride the wave of the original. Pooja Bhatt, the director of Jism 2, believes that Jism is much more than a brand or a film. She thinks of Jism as a "a cultural war that divides the crowds passionately and turns actors into STARS." There is nothing culturally conflicting about Jism to begin with and god knows in which stratosphere does Ms. Bhatt find Jism 2 making Sunny Leone a star! In any case Leone didn't benefit as much from Jism 2 as the Bhatt making it pretty clear who needed whom more. The truth of the matter is that bereft of a single shard of originality, the Bhatts are nothing more smart business minds who won't stop at anything to make a quick buck or like in Jism 2's case Rs. 22 crores and counting. Officially made on a budget of approximately Rs. 6-7 crores, Jism 2 is a big hit by all calculations and bigger if you know the Bhatts' business model, which wouldn't peg the film at anything more than Rs. 4 crores.
The only thing that made the difference in Jism 2's case is the casting of Leone. This is same thing that some other producer might have thought when Vijendra Singh won an Olympic medal at Beijing 2004 or Raj Kapoor when he offered a film to Azharuddin in the mid 1980s. Just like sports persons or models that are offered films, advertisements and reality shows, Sunny Leone isn't any different. Her being a porn star slightly alters our perception but the end result remains the same. Before you think that I'm incapable of looking at a Sunny Leone as a human being who's out there trying to make a living, let me be very clear that I have nothing against porn or people who make it possible. I'd have had the same reaction towards a Sushil Kumar or Vijendra Singh doing a film solely because of who they happen to be. No one would think beyond boxing and a montage cut to Eye of the Tiger from Rocky when considering Vijendra in a film because that's what attracted them to him. Similarly when you think of a Sunny Leone you wouldn't think beyond an erotic subject but it's easier to think of a boxer in a film the a porn actress. It's the very audacity of Mahesh Bhatt that makes all the difference.
Even in a landscape of unlimited combinations and permutations like Bollywood there is only so much that a Sunny Leone can manage. She's done with Jism and is gearing up to make the cosmos of MMS scandals spicier still with the sequel to Ragini MMS. Ms. Leone might as well stop thinking of Hindi cinema as conservative for where else would she get to make more money by shedding less. Where else would a porn star like her get featured in a mainstream film that makes the press and the audiences' briefly delirious? And when the circus surrounding Leone starts to dwindle it'll be time for Jism the third and the fourth and the fifth…
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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