The most honest lines from Ram Gopal Varma’s first short film, “Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chaahti Hai” (translates to: My Daughter Wants To Become Sunny Leone) comes right after a mom beats her daughter who openly her career aspiration to become a porn star. The daughter (played by Naina Ganguly) says “when you can’t win with logic, that’s when you start using force.” Second after second, the protagonist launches herself into head-scratching monologues on liberalism and rationalisation. The short film sets out to openly define the generational gap and the liberal thinking of the modern woman.
In a recent stand-up comedy special by Indian-American comedian, Hassan Minhaj, he explains how his father often used the line “log kya kahenge” (what will society say?). In his short film debut, Mr. Varma attacks the same sentiment. Personally, the short film was a conversation starter. Women needed to take a stand against discrimination and demand equality. Ms. Ganguly’s performance reminds you of the roughened characters played by Rani Mukerji in Mardaani and No One Killed Jessica. But, it doesn’t feel like a short film and rather like a poorly-made Doordarshan soap.
While Mr. Varma delivers his message, he also lets us know that he is indeed a fading filmmaker. His fondly remembered works are those made in the first decade of his career. His short film is a testament to his inability to create convincing cinema. The writing may be on-point and crisp, but the drama is overdone.
The short film is bookended with quotes. It begins with quotes from George Washington, Ayn Rand and the Hindu Upanishads, and ends with Mr. Varma’s own thought that women empowerment should have no discrimination. Perhaps, the most stinging part of his quote is that Mr. Varma is no advocate of women empowerment. His tweets are purely sexist and misogynistic in nature. The female characters in most of his films are either glorified pin-up dolls or damsels in distress. This short film is the equivalent of Donald Trump taking a stand against sexual harassment of women.
If there really was a silver lining, it’s that Mr. Varma, a filmmaker who hasn’t had any success lately, is trying to step back into the spotlight by taking advantage of Sunny Leone’s fame. The video is less than a week old and has already been viewed over 3.6 million times. If it weren’t for Ms. Leone’s starpower, I only wonder if this short film would have been called “Meri Beti Shakila Banna Chaahti Hai”.