Sunny Leone is our new mass hero. In Rajeev Chaudhari’s Beiimaan Love, she gets an introduction song even before the credits roll or even before we are told who she is, what her name or character in the film is. It’s equivalent to the flashing of a South Indian actor’s title followed by name with a leitmotif, usually from one of his famous earlier films. Or here in Beiimaan Love, it’s closer to the James Bond film opener where we see an action set piece that at times may have nothing to do with the film and only exists to drop us head on into the thick of the kind of film we are about to watch. Sunny Leone gets a song where every boy and every man is behind her, enchanted by her. Even a man on a date with his girlfriend and another just married groom. We hear hip hop music with Sunny Leone’s name called out. If this is not the ultimate commercial vehicle produced around a star’s persona, what is?
There is more. Leone as a successful businesswoman Sunaina Verma, dances with her cook and has a song that goes Mere Peeche Hindustan. Leone is a good dancer. She’s even fine with most of the speaking parts but in her first scene where she has to speak on stage, she is all awkward and jittery. She is clueless about what to do with her hands. But shockingly, hers is the only part that seems to have got the dubbing right. Otherwise, Beiimaan Love, has some atrocious dubbing/lip sync problems even for Hindi speaking actors. It’s like they made the movie a decade ago (that’s charitable considering this film’s sensibilities) and when they wanted to release it, they didn’t bother ironing out the chinks. Maybe they thought these are forgivable chinks anyway. Not like the rest of the film is perfect. They would be right. Even the faces are from more than a decade ago. Rajiv Verma. Avtar Gill!
Suddenly – at least for me, honestly I did not see this coming – Beiimaan Love becomes sort of a Sunny Leone propaganda film. Or a white washing film (not in the strictest sense because there are several issues with the foundation of that worldview) for those complaining about Sunny Leone, a former porn star “contaminating” the so called legitimate industry of Indian films. In other words, it is targeted at the Bhupendra Chaubeys of this world. There are lines about a woman going for redemption, a woman trying to lead a more respectable life and so on. What more, Leone’s real life husband Daniel Weber makes his acting debut here, as Sunaina’s (or Sunny Leone’s?) well-wisher and later partner. He is the only man in the film who has a semblance of respect and regard for Sunaina. The problem is Beiimaan Love does a hack job out of its admittedly modest but earnest intentions. But then nothing really works. Forget working, there is no visible investment of effort. It’s a series of 90s era music videos pretending to be a coherent film.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)