INDIA—An Indian self-regulatory body has responded to complaints about porn star Sunny Leone's appearance on the Bigg Boss reality show by putting the TV channel that carries it "on notice" that any further cross-promotion of Leone's appearance on the show and her occupation as an adult performer must cease by today. The Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) is an independent group, and news reports did not specify what penalty, if any, would ensue if alleged cross-promoting continues.
"In a meeting yesterday, where 19 complaints pertaining to Sunny Leone's presence on Bigg Boss were taken up, the BCCC directed entertainment channel Colors to stop by December 26 all cross-promotion of Leone’s pornographic sites and videos—something she has conveniently got away with since she appeared on the show," reported the Tribune. "The Council, while ruling on her presence on the show, said anyone was free to appear on any show but no one had the right to promote their business through it especially so when the business happens to be illegal."
BCCC member Wajahat Habibullah told the Tribune, “We all agreed that Sunny Leone has been using Bigg Boss on Colors to promote pornography which is classified as criminal activity in India. It may not be criminal in the U.S. where she comes from but here, it happens to be so. Therefore, she can’t be allowed to use our television to promote her business. Colors has agreed to comply and report back on steps taken.”
The group pointed to the porn star's Twitter account, her blog and her adult website as places where cross promotion has occurred, but a cursory check of all three currently reveals no promotional mention of Bigg Boss, India's popular version of Big Brother. Leone has garnered a tremendous amount of media coverage in India and around the world since her first appearance on the show as a houseguest in late November. Some of the media coverage about her has been predictably sensational but much has been very complementary to the gorgeous Vivid girl and upcoming AVN Awards co-host. Some also have noted the manner in which her appearance, which was probably intended simply to boost ratings, has inspired a national debate on pornography.
"Few... anticipated that the nightly appearance of Sunny Leone, a Canadian-born porn star with Punjabi parents, would provoke a row over attitudes to pornography and the internet," wrote the Guardian in early December. "To the surprise of media commentators, [Leone] has been better behaved than most of her housemates, so far remaining polite, well-spoken and fully clothed. Leone's appearance has not only boosted ratings but triggered a debate about the place of pornography in India."
The debate is not insignificant in the still conservative country that boasts a growing population of young, tech-savvy (and presumably horny) consumers, male and female. The tension between maintaining the old values and allowing for greater tolerance plays out on a daily basis.
"Though every year brings a new crop of films pushing the frontiers of what can be shown in Indian cinemas, restrictions remain," reported The Guardian. "Censors recently objected to the word 'sex' in the trailer of a forthcoming film, and regularly insist on heavy cuts to any scene deemed too graphic. The sale or production of pornography in India remains illegal and taboo, and sex outside marriage is frowned upon."
In this light, it's easy to see how the introduction of Leone into the Bigg Boss household has turned out to be a disruptively brilliant (and culturally significant) decision by the producers, whatever their original intent or expectation. India needs to have this more open dialogue about the issues raised by her appearance, but so do a lot of countries. In the U.S., a presumably more sexually enlightened culture, a former adult performer invited to read to a group of school children became a mid-sized national scandal. It's safe to say that the mainstreaming of porn remains a hot button subject throughout the world.
In the meantime, Leone is still on Bigg Boss every day, the show continues unabated toward its ultimate conclusion with just six houseguests remaining, and the latest episodes even included an "action-packed Christmas." Who knows what unexpected drama the New Year will bring? Stay tuned.