NEW DELHI: An intern walked into the office asking if we had seen the Sunny Leone interview. Not particularly interested, we asked if there was any specific reason to do so. “You must” was the enthusiastic response “feminists are angry, it is going viral”, and so YouTube it was. More so as the interview was for a mainstream TV news channel and the interviewer was a well known face.

Well frankly, it was the style and not the substance that intrigued all of us. Not of Leone as she came through as sure, confident, and someone who has taken on the issue of her past as a porn star pretty straight on. In fact she completed sentences for the interviewer, Bhupendra Chaubey, did not once lose her cool, did not evade, and seemed rather comfortable in her own skin. In fact when asked if she thought Aamir Khan would act with her she laughed and said, “probably not”, accepting that she might not be kosher to sections of Indians. Chaubey was happy with that. And asked her about hypocrisy then to which she insisted that hypocrisy was not reserved for Indians ---who googled her more than they did any other person, and yet attacked her for being who she was---but was a world wide malaise. (the last is our word not hers).

And of course Aamir Khan made it worse for the interviewer later, by saying publicly that he would love to act with Leone.

Chaubey took all our attention. Right from the start. Some of us have met him and never seen him as awkward, as conscious, or as uncomfortable as in this interview with a porn star. He was fascinating. For six full minutes he did not even refer to what had by then become this monstrous elephant in the room---Leones stint in adult movies. Instead it seemed as if he wanted her to put him out of his misery and say the word ‘porn’ so he could escape. The questions thus were all leading---as any journalist watching it could see--starting with a play on her name Karamjit. And who called her that, if anyone did, any more. She said her close family and friends did, as did her husband.

Then came : tell me one thing you regret? And clearly the expectation behind the question was a, “oh how I wish I had not become a porn star” but Leone did not oblige. And rather disarmingly said something about regretting not being with her mother fast enough, when she was dying. She tried to explain that people make mistakes, so there was Chaubey again with, “what kind of mistakes”. And the not articulated expectation that came through the screen, okay now say it, say ‘porn’. Again Leone went on to issues other than her experience in the adult cinema world.

The one question that for me stood out in this strange, almost surreal interview: is your past literally figuratively a thing of the past now, is that something you think about ..I began asking if you had any regret and you spoke of your mother, but let me ask you if I were to turn the clock back would you still do what you did?” (Oh My God, and what did she do? We were almost ripping our hair out by now: for surely you are interviewing her because you are fascinated by her past of being part of the world of pornography; then why of why don’t you as a journalist say the “word”?)

Again Leone did not oblige and answered with a “one hundred per cent.”

Chaubey was flustered by now, getting increasingly hot in the seat, and responded here with a rather lame, “you would still do the kind of the work, the kind of shoots you did before you came to Bollywood?” (Oh Lord, what is that kind of work, those shoots, say it Chaubey say it? By this time we did not know whether to laugh or cry…!)

Leone said that everything she had done led her to this seat, and so she had no regrets. Finally, finally Chaubey was left with no recourse but to ask, “how many people would think of growing up to be a porn star?” (Judgemental, moralistic, smacking of prejudice but we rolled our eyes, folded our hands and thanked the gods above that finally our colleague had let the elephant out of the room!!)

Pat came Leone’s answer: “No One.”

And Chaubey again was visibly flabbergasted. His expression said it all, and we squirmed in embarrassment for him as he asked, rather weakly: “and yet you became one?”

And Leone came back with saying how she did not think this was vulgar, she thought it was sexy, beautiful….(there she was giving it back better than she got and we waited, breath bated, for our colleague to respond)

And he did. Quoting CPI’s Atul Anjan, and of course “many others” like him Chaubey asked whether she agreed with them that she was corrupting Indian minds, Indian morality.”

By then we had become putty, looking the other way, pretending we were not journalists, or that Chaubey was not, or that somehow this disastrous encounter being shared by all on the social media, would disappear…..but no such luck. Leone held her ground, came through the rest of the increasingly moralistic interview with honours where her answers were straight, and there was not even a touch of hypocrisy in her words.

The journalist on the other hand, came through as a shuffling Indian man, prejudiced, moralistic, and thoroughly embarrassed about interviewing this woman with that past!! Somehow along the way Chaubey had done the impossible: he had placed himself in the ‘hot seat’ that the show was supposed to provide for the guest!