'Jism 2 is not semi porn'
Ever since word got around that Sunny Leone, the 'porn star', was to star in Jism 2, it was expected that the film would be erotic and 'bold'.
Director Pooja Bhatt reinforced this belief when she proclaimed that the film was targeted at adult audiences.
But actress-turned-director Bhatt insists that the film has a lot more to offer in terms of the script and performances.
In a candid interview with Sonil Dedhia, Bhatt explains the difference between erotic (which her film is) and semi porn (which it is not).
What kind of reaction have you been getting from your family and friends for Jism 2?
We saw the film along with the entire cast and crew and some of my friends. My father (Mahesh Bhatt) and my uncle (Mukesh Bhatt) were also present.
Everyone was hit and stunned by what they saw. They liked the tone and the concept.
The film doesn't talk down to the audience. It most certainly has flaws, but what is anything without flaws? It is our flaws that make us.
Image: Randeep Hooda and Sunny Leone in Jism 2
'Jism looks like one of the tamest films today'
How do you look back at Jism which you directed 10 years ago?
I am happy that Jism created a new genre in Hindi films. It was the film which led to a lot of bad wannabe films!
If Jism hadn't happened, I don't think Murder would have happened. At the same time, there is a huge difference between the two films in terms of style and substance.
When you look back at Jism today, it looks like one of the tamest films.
How is Jism 2 different from Jism?
Jism 2 over-delivers in terms of the concept and the story. Right now, people are just talking about Sunny Leone, skin show, erotica.
I got the same reaction before I released Jism in 2002. But people changed their perception after it was released.
I am sure people are going to enter the theatre to get turned on, but later they will realise that Jism 2 is a film that will make them think and it will also move them.
Image: Sunny Leone in Jism 2
'Jism 2 has emotions that an average Hindi film has never shown before'
Is it going to redefine the meaning of erotica?
Yes, because I think eroticism in the film is not held back. The first sequence of the film is of a woman who is lonely, thinking of her past. She goes out to have a drink to kill that loneliness. She meets a man, picks him up, brings him home and has him.
Only a man does these kinds of things in films usually. I don't understand why people are stunned by a scene where Randeep is massaging Sunny's back. These things are shown daily on Travel and Living (television) channel. It's so stupid.
Are you trying to prove a point by showing so much boldness and eroticism in your film?
The film is not bold because Sunny Leone has worn a swimsuit or she has stripped in the film. The film talks about emotions like love, the anguish of loss, and the solitude that you experience in a sexual encounter that is not backed by love.
Jism 2 has emotions that an average Hindi film has never shown before. I think in that sense it is bold. It is a sensual film, but it goes beyond that. Sensuality is an element of Jism 2.
I think the film will re-define how the average man is going to be pegged. The Hindi film hero will normally sit back and get seduced by the heroine in a wet sari. It is extremely sexist to only have a woman drop her clothes, without the man doing it too.
Image: A scene from Jism 2
'We went to Bipasha for the role but decided that India needed a new fantasy'
As the teasers come out, a lot of people have questioned the sensibility of the film and have even termed it as semi porn.
My film is not semi porn and it doesn't bother me what people say. Just recently, a journalist asked people to post some questions for me on Twitter. One of the comments was: 'Pooja Bhatt is promoting porn by casting a porn star'.
Sunny Leone is a porn star in America. Porn is illegal in India. When Johnny Depp cast Sasha Grey he was looked upon as a cool guy, but when I do it, a certain section of the audience has issues with it.
There are people who will go to the theatre only to watch Sunny. But there will be others who won't be bothered with her being in the film. They will come to see the erotica.
Sunny Leone came into the picture much later. Who was considered for the lead role before that?
We met Bipasha (Basu) right in the beginning. At that time, we voiced our apprehension that she dies in Jism so how plausible would it be to cast her in the sequel.
Although Jism 2 does not take the story forward, there was some discussion on whether to cast her or not.
We decided to go with a new face because we thought India needed a new fantasy and Sunny Leone was just the right fit.
Image: Movie poster of Jism 2
'I know so many established actors who can't act but still achieved stardom'
Why was Sunny Leone the right fit? Was she your instant ticket to publicity?
We had considered Sunny Leone for Jism 10 years ago. I first heard and read about her in 2002 when a newspaper carried an article about her being the first Indian porn star.
I was mesmerised by her cute face. We contacted her then and her agent wrote back saying that she had been signed by Penthouse.
With Jism 2, we needed someone who had a persona that we didn't have to establish.
So, you had written in the character of a porn star since you say you did not have to establish Sunny Leone's persona when you selected her?
No, I made some changes in the character once Sunny was on board. Earlier, Sunny's character was not a porn star because in India there is no concept like it.
Did you personally have any expectations from Sunny Leone?
Sunny is not an actor. We knew what her limitations were and we had to work around those limitations.
Some people have already decided that Sunny Leone can't act. I know so many established actors who don't know how to act but they have still achieved stardom.
I am sure even the Sunny-haters will be surprised with her acting skills. Since it's her debut, people will give her some leeway, which is going to work to her advantage.
Image: A scene from Jism 2
'Randeep (Hooda) is the thinking woman's sex symbol'
There is a general perception that stripping comes easy to Sunny Leone. How easy or difficult was it for her to do the film?
The problem is that people are so myopic. They have no idea about the difference between pornography and eroticism.
Pornography is sensation without feelings. There are no emotions attached when you are watching porn. A porn film just wants to turn on a person and get satisfied with that feeling.
Erotica is firmly placed in the female's fear that focuses and emphasises on feelings. It doesn't come naturally to even a person like Sunny Leone.
Taking your clothes off is one thing, but getting emotionally attached in the same situation is different.
Sunny was expected to strip, but you have stripped the two actors (Randeep Hooda and Arunoday Singh) too.
(Laughs) I pity Randeep and Arunoday. All this while we have only disrobed women as everyone thinks that they are for universal pleasure.
Traditionally, a man is not asked to strip, and let me tell you, both of them have pulled it off with style. Men only strip to show their abs in an item number and that is the extent of male erotica shown in Hindi cinema.
I believe people are now waking up to Randeep. I have had comments from women saying that the guy can act and at the same time look sexy. Randeep is the thinking woman's sex symbol.
Image: A scene from Jism 2
'It was my husband who reminded me about Sunny Leone'
When your father went inside the Bigg Boss house to sign Sunny Leone, it was seen as a marketing gimmick.
There was a lot of speculation about whether Bipasha Basu or Mallika Sherawat would be cast in Jism 2.
I decided to come up with a poster where the girl was completely covered, to create more speculation.
It was my husband who reminded me about Sunny Leone. I asked my co-producer Dino Morea to check her on the internet but not get shocked (laughs). He immediately called me back and said no.
Two months later, she was a part of (the TV programme) Bigg Boss. This time we didn't want to miss the opportunity. My father contacted the officials, and they offered to let him go inside the house and meet her.
Image: A scene from Jism 2
'When it comes to boldness, I was way ahead of my times'
It's unusual for a woman to direct an erotic film. How was the experience for you?
I met Jane Campion who made The Piano with Meg Ryan. She was in India in 2002 when we were mixing Jism. She saw some portions of the film and told me that the movie was a hit. She felt the movie stands for what it is and is unafraid to just be itself.
I remember she told me that as women we don't claim the sensual zone enough. I agree with her, I believe if you have to excel at anything there has to be a kind of sensuality in your work. Somewhere I believe women directors in this country shy away from claiming their sensuality.
In my career as an actor, I wore a swimsuit and did body paint cover for a magazine, which no one dared to do. When it comes to boldness, I was way ahead of my times. This is just an extension of my personality.
Image: Pooja Bhatt
'I don't need to do something just to get attention'
What took you so long to do Jism 2? You were almost on a sabbatical.
We needed two years to get the script in place and since it is written by my father, I didn't want to push him.
I thought it was necessary for me to get this film right as my brand and my franchise depends a lot on this film.
If Jism 2 works, I will have Jism 3 and Jism 4. All these stories are going to be about the human heart and the conflict with itself. It is also going to be about grown ups and adult emotions.
I would love to work with a lot of new people. I would like to cast Emraan Hashmi as he is doing some amazing work.
Do you miss acting? Are there any plans to get back to it?
I miss acting when I am shouting my lungs out to perfect a shot and at the same time I have to worry about the lunch break and the props and the lights. At that time I always feel why can't I just be on the sets and just be told what to do (laughs).
I have never quit acting. I am 40 today and I would like to play a woman of my age. I wouldn't attempt to play someone who's 10 years younger. I am open to doing one scene in a film but it must be something that I have not done before. I don't think I need to do something just to get attention.
Image: A scene from Jism 2
'I want to remake Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi with Alia'
Your sister Alia Bhatt is making her debut in Student Of The Year.
Alia is very bright and very clear about what she wants to do. She is so lucky to make her debut in such a big film. I am so happy for her.
She has a bunch of people helping her make her debut. Whether it is make-up artistes, choreographers, costume designers, they are all the best in the business. Mickey Contractor is doing her hair and make-up. I remember I had learnt tricks from Mickey back in the days when I was acting which I still use today.
In those days we couldn't afford Mickey for a whole film so whenever we used to do a Photoshop I would learn something from him and try it out myself (smiles).
I told her not to get used to the royal treatment as she might have to face a tough time in the future!
So can we see Mahesh Bhatt, Pooja Bhatt and Alia Bhatt coming together anytime soon?
I want to remake Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi with her as I believe she is a better version of me. This dream will come true only if Ranbir Kapoor says yes because I think he is the only actor, who can replace Aamir Khan.
Image: Alia Bhatt on the movie poster of Student Of The Year