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.