Let’s be honest and not crib about porn stars going mainstream. Sunny Leone got her break in porn not necessarily because she’s a natural, but because the dramatically expanding South Asian viewership of porn needed a fantasy figure to identify with. Variation is the key, and a marketing decision by the US porn industry gave an enterprising second-generation Indian immigrant a job opportunity.
Nor is Leone’s cross over, in Jism 2, unusual. Sasha Grey was a popular porn star when she was cast to play the lead, as an escort girl, in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. The role Leone plays in Pooja Bhatt’s film is similar. She is Izna, a girl who Indian intelligence agents hire to ‘honeytrap’ terrorist Kabir (Randeep Hooda). The department believes that with her considerable assets, she will quickly disarm the killer so that the only gun left in his pocket will be the one pleased to see her.
But complications set in. Intelligence officer Aayan (Arunoday Singh) develops a passion for Izna that interferes with the objectivity needed for the job. Fair enough as a plot, you might say, but Jism 2 is directed like amateur theatre. The locations are all glitzy villas at various holiday resorts. Nothing looks or feels like the Indian Government’s intelligence department. The terrorist is presented more like a bad-tempered corporate type on holiday, and the pace of the film is completely out of sync with the purported genre—a thriller laced with sex.
The Bhatts are professional filmmakers, so it is amazing that basic space/time coordinates are missing in the work of this director. Characters speak in slow motion, there are languid camera movements, and nothing happens for 20 minutes at a time.
Sex and eroticism are two different things. Leone is sexy, sure, but the film is as erotic as Disney animation.