Canadian-Indian-American actor Sunny Leone is making her Cannes debut with Anurag Kashyap’s “Kennedy.”
Presumed dead for years, Kennedy (Rahul Bhat) is an insomniac former cop who continues to work for a corrupt system while seeking redemption. Leone plays a pivotal character named Charlie.
“She’s a little bit of a complex character and she hides behind some of her motions. And one of the things she hides behind the most is this laugh. And I believe she’s a woman who’s caught in two different worlds – one is the one that she wants to live in and one is the one she has been deliberately caught up in. I really enjoyed playing this character. And I think she is someone who’s trying her very best to be as strong as possible at every moment of the day,” Leone told Variety.
Leone’s laugh in the film is distinctive and the actor says that Kashyap was “very adamant” that she got it right. “It’s not something that’s a part of who I am. So I had to practice and when I mean, practice, I practiced in the car, I practiced in front of my family, my kids, my husband, my friends, on set, in the middle of shooting a song or shooting something, I would practice laughing like Charlie. That way, when I got on set, it was out of my system, wasn’t something that I felt odd about, it was just part of the character,” Leone said.
Several films directed by Kashyap have played at Cannes, including “Psycho Raman” (2016), “Ugly” (2013), “Bombay Talkies” (2013) and “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012). In addition, several films produced by him have made it to the Croisette, including “Masaan” (2015), “The Lunchbox” (2013), “Monsoon Shootout” (2013), “The Congress” (2013) and “Udaan” (2010).
“I love his style of making films because it’s not very bubblegum. It’s something that I am generally interested in, and something that I watch in my regular life,” Leone said. “Just the idea of working with somebody who is so amazing in filmmaking is something that I’ve always wanted.”
It was been quite a journey for Leone. Born Karenjit Kaur Vohra in Canada, she made a mark as an actor in the adult entertainment space. Highlights include being named Penthouse Pet of the Year in 2003 and a stint with Vivid Entertainment. She changed direction and moved to India and featured in the MTV Video Music Awards on MTV India, reality show “Bigg Boss” and hosted “Splitsvilla.”
Leone made her Bollywood debut with erotic thriller “Jism 2” (2012) and career highlights in the Bollywood sector include “Jackpot” (2013), “Ragini MMS 2” (2014), “Ek Paheli Leela” (2015) and “Tera Intezaar” (2017). The actor also appeared in south Indian films, including playing the lead in the Tamil-language “Oh My Ghost” (2022).
Being at Cannes is a deeply emotional experience for Leone. “I want to cry every time, the feeling is so overwhelming. From the beginning of stepping into Bollywood and being part of the industry going through all these crazy hurdles and all this negativity and all these also very amazing things that have happened – I won’t discredit that all. But, at the end of the day, we’re human and after seeing all these things for so many years of people writing all sorts of crazy things – this, I believe, I don’t think they can say anything bad,” Leone said.
“The entire journey of what I’ve done, this is really one of the most amazing moments of my entire career – being here. And having my film at the Grande Theatre Lumiere theater doesn’t get any more prestigious, the honor doesn’t get any higher,” Leone added.
Next up for Leone is a south Indian psychological thriller.
“Kennedy” is produced by Zee Studios and Ranjan Singh and Kabir Ahuja for Good Bad Films. The film premieres May 24 in the Midnight Screenings strand of the festival.