POWER COU­PLE

Mandate - - Contents - By Nairita Mukher­jee

She pipped Naren­dra Modi, Sal­man Khan and Mukesh Am­bani to be the most searched per­son­al­ity in In­dia dur­ing 2014, and he’s a tal­ented mu­si­cian, who’s rul­ing the charts with his band, The Dis­par­rows, and its in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions. To­gether, they are a force to be reck­oned with. Here’s pre­sent­ing Daniel We­ber and Sunny Leone, who beyond all the fame, are the most reg­u­lar mar­ried cou­ple you’ll ever come across.

An­tic­i­pat­ing a chaotic day ahead, the pho­tog­ra­pher and his team strut­ted around Anemos, a plush an­tiques store in SoBo, mount­ing lights and ad­just­ing the pre­cious fur­ni­ture wher­ever nec­es­sary. The stylists were busy at work, sort­ing out the cos­tumes, in a room ad­ja­cent to ground zero. A lot was at stake; after all, it was the first cover shoot of 2015. And then came the ris­ing buzz. “Sunny and Daniel are here,” an­nounced their aide—car­ry­ing ex­pen­sive de­signer-wear on one hand and fruits on the other— only set­ting us in a last minute frenzy. Right be­hind him en­tered Daniel We­ber, dressed in a pair of jeans and a T- shirt that hugged his lean, almost scrawny torso, with his mag­nif­i­cently tat­tooed arms around Sunny Leone, who seemed to have emerged straight from a mag­a­zine right onto our sets, in a baggy shirt care­lessly thrown over a pair of stud­ded welling­tons. “Glad we are do­ing this again,” she said, “And this time it’s all the more spe­cial be­cause it’s with Daniel.” Yes, Sunny graced our cover last year too—but who’s com­plain­ing any­way? A lot has tran­spired be­tween then and now.

Daniel and Sunny make a strange pair, for want of a bet­ter word, and many would prob­a­bly shift in their chairs at the idea of call­ing them a power cou­ple. For those who were liv­ing un­der a rock, Sunny re­cently topped the ‘Most Searched Celebrity’ list by a popular search en­gine, third year in a row. Now, that’s ob­vi­ously not for noth­ing, right? And Daniel, a pas­sion­ate mu­si­cian, is a for­mer porn star turned celebrity man­ager, and to stir things up a lit­tle more, hap­pens to be mar­ried to his only client. Con­fused much? Yet, when you see them to­gether, you re­alise how per­fectly they com­ple­ment each other.

Per­haps, that’s why the space looked a bit more lit up—apart from the mil­lion chan­de­liers that hung from the high ceil­ing. The chem­istry was pal­pa­ble as she smiled, turned to him and said, “Let’s do some shop­ping, Daniel.” And he hap­pily gave in, clearly en­joy­ing ev­ery bit of his wife’s tantrum. The party-pooper in me busted their lit­tle mo­ment, as I re­minded them about the in­ter­view. They looked at each other for a mo­ment and con­cert­edly said, “Let’s do it right now!” With their rather noisy en­tourage buzzing around me, I must ad­mit I was caught a bit off guard, but I couldn’t have af­forded to let the mo­ment pass.

As we set­tled down in their cozy lit­tle makeshift make-up room, I couldn’t help but ask the ques­tion which is on half the na­tion’s mind—how did it all be­gin? “Well, it was just a lit­tle good old-fash­ioned chivalry,” Daniel broke the ice, his eyes trans­fixed on his lady, as he un­rav­elled the love story. “I was in­tro­duced to Sunny by a friend and it was love at first sight. For over a month, I kept send­ing flow­ers to her to win her at­ten­tion. For­tu­nately, with time, I man­aged to bag a date with her.” By then, Sunny Leone was al­ready a known name in the adult en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, and to be bru­tally hon­est, tainted with stereo­types. Though mired with con­ser­vatism at the time, Daniel had no qualms ad­mit­ting that he never will­fully tried to change her. “A friend, whose wife and him are both part of the adult in­dus­try, ad­vised me, ‘Never try to talk her out of it be­cause it’ll back­fire. Why would she want to date some­one who’s go­ing to tell her what to do?’ And I didn’t. Be­cause that would’ve been like her telling me, ‘I don’t want you to play mu­sic any­more.’” Sunny, all this while dili­gently sit­ting and get­ting her make-up done, gig­gled away at her hus­band’s rev­e­la­tions, proud at what the two have sur­passed to­gether.

Fol­low­ing suit, Daniel too joined the adult in­dus­try, with the warped per­cep­tions of an un­in­formed out­sider. “The first time it was awk­ward, and I kept ask­ing peo­ple to leave the room un­til I had the crew down to five peo­ple. But, it was still dif­fi­cult. You watch it and go, ‘Oh I can do that,’ but let me tell you, it’s nerve-rack­ing,” he ex­plained. The cou­ple started a pro­duc­tion company to ex­er­cise greater con­trol over the con­tent, and as per­form­ers did films for only about two years. “Even­tu­ally, I got over the pho­bia, but my fam­ily couldn’t. But you can’t blame them, par­ents are par­ents, and who knows what I’ll be like when my child comes along,” he shrugged his shoul­ders.

“My fa­ther al­ways said, ‘There’s gold at the bot­tom of the well, but not every­body is will­ing to jump into it,’” Daniel rem­i­nisced. “What he meant was to take a leap of faith. And, I be­lieve com­ing to In­dia, when Vi­a­com con­tacted me (for Sunny) for Bigg Boss, was the big­gest one we could.” Since then, Sunny Leone has been called many things. While the self-pro­claimed moral po­lice chas­tised her for cor­rupt­ing the coun­try’s cul­tural fab­ric, ul­tra-fem­i­nists spoke of her right to ex­press her­self, what­ever be the medium. The na­tion de­bated and she slowly started to dom­i­nate in­ter­net searches, mak­ing her way into the draw­ing rooms of ev­ery house­hold. And right through this tur­moil, Daniel stood by her like a rock, as a hus­band, and dou­bling up as the man­ager. “We’d be ly­ing if we said we didn’t fum­ble our way through things, I mean that’s nor­mal. But we al­ways talk about things and that’s how we reach a con­sen­sus,” he added.

But where does one draw the line, and at what given point do Sunny and Daniel tran­sit from be­ing the celebrity and the man­ager to be­ing hus­band and wife? Sunny fi­nally broke her si­lence. “Well, we keep it sim­ple, he works on the business side and I work on the cre­ative. And at home, we have our quiet hus­band-wife time that we keep pri­vate to our­selves.” But, is it pos­si­ble to keep it so black and white and not let things over­lap? “Well, we don’t let it. So, if he comes up with an idea that he feels is ex­cel­lent, but I don’t like it too much, I’ll just turn around and say, ‘Ab­so­lutely not!’ Sim­i­larly, if I’m be­ing un­rea­son­able, he will ex­plain to me that it will be a great brand­ing ex­er­cise.” For Daniel though, things are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. “First of all, I man­age brand Sunny Leone but I’m not mar­ried to her. My wife is ob­vi­ously Karen­jit (Sunny’s orig­i­nal name). Sure, there are a lot of grey ar­eas, there’s no denying that. Yeah, some­times I do get con­fused in my head be­cause I’m so pro­tec­tive of her, but that’s hu­man,” Daniel put things into per­spec­tive. “In the end, it’s all about com­mu­ni­ca­tion. After all, it is all for brand Sunny Leone, our work and life are par­al­lel,” con­cluded Sunny.

We no­ticed a method in the way the cou­ple cor­re­sponds—silently look­ing into each other’s eyes and mu­tu­ally com­ing to a con­sen­sus. I won­dered if this tran­quil­ity seeped in or­gan­i­cally or they had to bat­tle a storm. Daniel re­called, “I had told Sunny mul­ti­ple times, es­pe­cially with the se­cu­rity is­sues that were go­ing on about the time of Bigg Boss, and the fact that we were los­ing men­tal san­ity, that we should quit and go back. It’s not worth it. And, she said to me, ‘Let’s take a deep breath and work our way through it. We will get past it.’”

Though they have clearly tra­versed the ini­tial hur­dles, Daniel still gets ob­nox­ious re­quests from dif­fer­ent quarters, which pushes him over the edge some­times. “You have no idea about the crazy and out­ra­geous things I get asked, and of course, that does wear me down. I ask my­self, ‘Is this what I want to put my wife through?’” At this point, Sunny in­ter­jected, “What the un­in­formed don’t re­alise is that his job is men­tally more tax­ing than mine, be­cause of all the bull­shit he has to deal with.

SHIRT: FRENCH CON­NEC­TION

They try and has­sle you or take ad­van­tage of you. And he screens it at his level.” Talk­ing about the hard­ship, she con­tin­ued, “Cer­tain ac­tors have a buf­fer of rel­a­tives who are in this business, so that pre­vents oth­ers from cross­ing the line. But we, be­cause of our back­ground and the fact that we’re com­ing from the US, don’t have a cir­cle of peo­ple to act as that buf­fer, there­fore peo­ple think they can say or do any­thing and we’re go­ing to be okay with it. They think they are do­ing us a favour.”

But, not all is dark and gloomy, as Daniel pointed out. “Ev­ery tree has that one bad ap­ple, but what about the rest?” he asked rhetor­i­cally. “We’ve met some amaz­ing peo­ple too, let’s not take any­thing away from it.” As a re­sult, Sunny finds her­self be­ing a part of five up­com­ing main­stream films— Mas­ti­za­ade, Tina Lolo, One Night Stand, Bei­iman Love and Kuch Kuch Locha Hai, whereas Daniel, and his band, The Dis­porrows, in the last six months have col­lab­o­rated with Spellz, a Pak­istani band, and did an east-meets-west combo by merg­ing two popular songs, Say­onee by Junoon and Turn the Page by Me­tal­lica, in­clud­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive ven­ture with Ali Quli, who is cur­rently a con­tes­tant on Bigg Boss sea­son 8.

At the men­tion of Daniel’s mu­sic, Sunny was all smiles, per­haps re­lieved, as the con­ver­sa­tion fi­nally steered away from her and her for­ever head­line-mak­ing ca­reer. “Daniel is a man who dons many hats. He can man­age so many things at the same time; it’s in his DNA. He can jug­gle it all.” I asked Daniel if his mu­sic ever takes a back­seat when hav­ing to choose be­tween his pri­mary job as a man­ager and his pas­sion. “No, it doesn’t. I just have to sched­ule ev­ery­thing very specif­i­cally and ac­cord­ingly. Peo­ple don’t do just one thing to­day, es­pe­cially in the cre­ative fields, right?”

Per­haps it’s time to launch brand Daniel We­ber in Bol­ly­wood, now that Sunny Leone is soar­ing high, I joked. “Oh no, it’s never like that. My work with Sunny can never be sec­ondary to any­thing. Though I do fancy play­ing a vil­lain of some sort in the movies, I can­not imag­ine how I am go­ing to man­age 20-30 days to be on the sets, away from my sched­ule. The time that I save here, I put that into mu­sic. I don’t need to throw another ball in the air,” he laughed, throw­ing his hands in the air. Though Daniel was seen in a cameo role in the movie Jack­pot, and will be seen in Tina Lolo and Kuch Kuch Locha Hai shortly, he con­fessed that act­ing adds a con­flict in his mind. “In­dia needs a con­nect, they con­nect with her (Sunny) and that’s why they’ve ac­cepted her. But they don’t con­nect with me, and there­fore, I don’t think I will add any­thing to a film ex­cept for PR.” But Sunny thinks oth­er­wise. “You’re cute! And, I think you’re to­tally wrong when you say you can’t add value to a film. I can vouch for the fact that many women will love to see you on screen,” she said. “Yeah well, you’re my wife, so you’re to­tally bi­ased and we can­not take your opin­ion on this,” he laughed, almost blush­ing at his wife’s im­promptu ro­man­tic ges­ture. “The truth is, I’ve learned never to say no. When­ever I’ve said no, it’s al­ways ended up hap­pen­ing. So, maybe if Sunny man­ages my work, I can think about it,” and that is how he threw the ball in her court in a ro­man­tic ex­change. “Yeah, why not, maybe I will,” was Sunny’s come­back.

In ret­ro­spec­tion, when we walked into the shoot this morn­ing, there were sup­pressed mur­murs among the crew whether they would be able to break the stereo­type they have been boxed into by the judge­men­tal so­ci­ety, and the unan­i­mous re­sponse was: ‘No, it will haunt them like the ghost of Christ­mas past.’ But now, as I see them walk out of the sets, hand in hand, blow­ing us a kiss on their way out, I re­alised that they don’t need to break it. They’ve taken it in their stride and played the curve ball life threw at them with the spin. And, that’s where Daniel and Karen­jit de­serve ap­plause.

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