Hugh Hefner’s ‘Playboy’ has been called many things over the decades but I am fairly certain it has never been called a “fabulous cause” as described by its first Indian playmate Sherlyn Chopra.
During an interview with CNN-IBN news channel in New Delhi Sherlyn was asked by a reporter, “You know some people might say that your claim to fame is, you know, taking your clothes off. How do you react to comments like that?”
Sherlyn (thoughtfully): “I did take my clothes off (pregnant pause) but then I did for a fabulous cause. And the cause was Playboy.”
Since her return from Los Angeles after shooting nude pictures for Playboy, the 28-year-old model and actress has been ensuring that her fellow Indians understand the enormity of her accomplishment. She has been educating people about the difference between being a porn star and posing in the nude for a world famous magazine. “Yeh baat to sab ko pata hai ki rolling camera ke saamney nude pose karna aur rolling camera ka samney sex karna yeh to do alag baaten hoti hein. (Everybody knows that to pose nude in front of a rolling camera and engaging in sex in front of rolling camera are two different things),” she explained.
She has also been telling people that this is her life and her body and she will do whatever she pleases. . “I do not think about what the people of India might say about my nudity. This is my life, my body and my work,” she said. For her the body of her work is indeed working her body.
I have nothing but admiration for Sherlyn for swimming in the shallow waters of celebrity and going whatever distance she has set for herself. Along the way she knows what to say so that the broadcast media will continue to slobber after her.
During a post-Playboy shoot news conference she said many things that less than two decades ago would have seemed sacrilegious coming from a young Indian woman. That Sherlyn comes from the joint Christian-Islamic heritage makes it even more compelling. Her father was Christian and mother is Muslim.
For instance, in what sounded like a question about whether she has augmented her body, she answered with apparent mocking seriousness, “I am glad I have met people from the field of modern science who have enhanced my tangible assets and I am grateful to the universe for blessing me with confidence and belief in myself.”
At one point when a female reporter seemed to express disappointment that she was fully clad in a sari and since Playboy is banned in India people may be deprived of seeing Sherlyn’s body, she said, “Aap karib se dekho. Sab kuchh dikhega. (Come and see up close. You will see everything) This is an Annette sari aur is ke neeche petticoat nahi hai.(This is an Annette sari and there is no petticoat underneath).” A quick clarification: I am presuming that there is a popular designer brand of saris by someone called Annette.
She was also asked about whether women dressed in skimpy clothes are more vulnerable to sexual assault. “I don’t think wearing less clothes leads to rape and fully covering the body saves you from rape. It is foolish to think like that. Rape happens when men lose their senses and become demonic. Being demonic has nothing to do with the length of one’s clothes.”
More than anything else, what I find greatly entertaining is that Sherlyn has figured out a path to success and celebrity and how she is playing the media like a fiddle along the way. The media is a willing accomplice because every time she says things like “There is no petticoat underneath” it gets them some ratings or hits. Under a thin veneer of derision and semiserious dissection of her comments I too have joined the ride for more or less the same reason.
If I am writing about Sherlyn for the second time in five days it may be mainly because I think I have an unconventional point of view but somewhere along her currency as a popular keyword and her ability to draw eyeballs is also a factor. As of this morning her name in Google search throws up 17,900,000 results.
No serious academic, or even a frivolous one like me for that matter, would say that a handful of sassy, ready to strip young women such as Sherlyn or Sunny Leone, an Indian-Canadian porn star who is getting movie roles in Mumbai, running around the world of showbiz in ever diminishing clothes constitute of a significant sample for a sociological study. But they certainly represent fading inhibitions among India’s urban and semi-urban population about female body.
Of course, no one can ever make the case that this apparent trend is in anyway helping reduce the unnervingly high incidence of sexual assault on women throughout the country. I have no intentions making this post into a serious discourse so it makes sense to end it right here.