ZEE5 Original ‘Karenjit Kaur’ Review: Sunny Leone Unplugged

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Sunny Leone in Karenjit Kaur, Mirror Scene,

Karenjit Kaur - The Untold Story of Sunny Leone, the explosive web series based on the life of porn star-turned-Bollywood actress Sunny Leone, is the best thing available on the web right now. Directed by Aditya Datt, Karenjit Kaur stars Sunny Leone herself and that perhaps is biggest USP of the ZEE5 Original. Ever since the advent of VOD platforms, the web has become the home to some of the best content-based programmes. Also, the web being a personalized space allows content that is highly customized as per the demands of the viewer, something that’s not really possible in case of cinema and television. 

In the recent times, it is really heartening to see the increase in the quantity as well as the quality of indigenous content. Also, the regional content is slowly taking over. The credit for this must go to VOD services like ZEE5. Run by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, ZEE5 is a pioneer as far as multi-lingual regional content is concerned (comprising as many as 12 languages). With its focus on the youth, ZEE5 marks a departure for Zee from its traditional approach. While a lot of interesting regional content has already been made available on the platform that’s finding great traction among the youth, it is Karenjit Kaur that is proving to be a real game changer. The ten-episode web series which uses a mix of English, Punjabi and Hindi dialogues is in perfect sync with the platform’s brand identity of ‘Apni Bhasha Mein Feel Hai’.

Karenjit Kaur is essentially is a story of the larger than life journey of India's Most Googled celebrity star from her girl next-door image as a middle-class Punjabi girl living in Canada, Karenjit Kaur, to the irresistible diva Sunny Leone who made the entire world go crazy about her. The series costars Raj Arjun, Rysa Saujani, KaramvirLamba, Bijay Jasjit Anand, Grusha Kapoor, Vansh Pradhan and Marc Buckner. While Karenjit Kaur is a series that’s divided into 10 episodes of about 20 minutes each, I personally see it as a 200 minute long feature film. And I say this with regards to the cinematic quality that it offers as well as the engaging manner in which the story is weaved together. Karenjit Kaur is just perfect for binge watching if you lack the patience to wait for the story to reveal itself in an episodic manner. Alternatively, you can also watch it like a series, one episode at a time, if that’s what you prefer. The story begins in 2016 when Sunny Leone, having already made a name for herself in Bollywood, is invited for a television interview with a host who doesn’t want her to be on his show. He sees her past as a taboo and feels that she is unworthy to be on his popular show but the producers want her because of the high TRPs that a controversial personality like Sunny Leone would ensure. Infuriated, the presenter takes it upon himself to give her a tough time, posing one acerbic question after another, hoping to break his famous guest.
Rysa Saujani as young Karenjit Kaur
Rysa Saujani as young Karenjit Kaur
The incredible story of Sunny Leone’s life is cleverly told in a nonlinear fashion, going back and forth, with the 2016 interview becoming an entry point. As Sunny begins to answer the questions we go back in time to the year 1993 where we meet a young Karenjit whose life turns upside down when her parents relocate from Canada to the US. The cultural shock of moving to Los Angeles is a bit too much for the young girl hailing from a conservative Sikh family. And, as we gradually learn about the issues plaguing her increasingly dysfunctional family, we begin to understand the circumstances that shaped up Leone’s life. Here is a shy girl who gets so embarrassed while accidentally watching an adult movie that she goes to a Gurudwara seeking forgiveness. On growing up when she starts taking up modeling assignments to make some extra pocket money she gets exposed to the realities of casting couch. Her father’s endless financial woes make her tread a path that leads her to the glamorous albeit forbidden world of the adult entertainment industry which she would rule in the years to come.
Bijay Jasjit Anand, Grusha Kapoor, Sunny Leone, and Karamvir Lamba in Karenjit Kaur
Bijay Jasjit Anand, Grusha Kapoor, Sunny Leone, and Karamvir Lamba in Karenjit Kaur
Karenjit Kaur’s biggest triumph is that it humanizes its subject. When the television presenter asks her about her maiden name, the actress acknowledges that while Karen is a human being, ‘Sunny Leone’ is merely a brand that she has created. This candid answer sets the tone of the series as far as I am concerned. For, it is difficult to think of another personality in showbiz who would so easily acknowledge that his/her stage name is nothing more than a brand identity. Often biopics can be a PR exercise but not Karenjit Kaur which always seems to go an extra mile to show the dark side of things. The credit does to Datt and team for not taking the easy way out. Also, Leone herself doesn’t leave any stone unturned to essay the different phases of her life. A series such as this demands full commitment from the lead actors and Leone is certainly up to the mark.While she looks quite bubbly playing her younger version, there is an air of elegance with which she plays the older, more mature Sunny Leone. Also, Rysa Saujani who plays the teenaged version of Leone doesn’t disappoint. Among the supporting cast, Raj Arjun (as the television anchor), Karamvir Lamba (as Leone’s younger brother), Bijay Jasjit Anand (as Leone’s father), and Grusha Kapoor (as Leone’s mother) deserve special mentions.
A Still from Karenjit Kaur, Sunny Leone, Daniel Webber, Romance
A Still from Karenjit Kaur
Overall, Karenjit Kaur succeeds in its attempt to tell the sensational story of Sunny Leone with considerable efficacy and it does so without looking cheesy or forced. If you are looking for something edgy and refreshing then Karenjit Kaur wouldn’t disappoint you.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

Karenjit Kaur - Official Trailer (YouTube)

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