It's never a good sign when the interviewer is getting more press than the person being interviewed. CNN-IBN might be happy that its show is being talked about, but all the chatter about senior journalist Bhupendra Chaubey's interview with actor Sunny Leone hasn't exactly been complimentary.
A Mint piece called Chaubey "supercilious and sexist." Quartz criticised Chaubey for constantly interrupting Leone and digging out "every possible negative statement" about her. Catch News said the journalist asked the actor the same question in 25 different ways. And the Huffington Post called him "smug." All of this also meant that Leone's interview with another veteran journalist, Shekhar Gupta, on NDTV got much less play.
Practically everyone agreed that Chaubey had been far too judgmental, in an interview that didn't need to be combative. It was evident from the beginning that the TV journalist wanted Leone to speak about her past as a porn actor, which would be a relevant tack to take – if Leone had not been more than candid about her career so far on a number of occasions.
Not all of the questions were by themselves probelmatic, but Chaubey's tone, as if he simply wanted Leone to apologise for her past as a porn actor, was immediately evident. Considering Leone's relative openness about her adult-film past, Chaubey instead came off as simply overbearing, and at times directly insulting. "I'm wondering," Chaubey said, "whether I’m being morally corrupted because I’m speaking to you.... Do you believe that your body will ultimately take you everywhere?"
Chaubey seems to be keenly aware of the backlash that the interview has garnered since it went up online, and he has now attempted to address some of it in a blog post.
"I have been pilloried by many, suggesting that I was obnoxious in my questioning. Some thought I was obsessed with her past. Well, Yes, I agree," Chaubey wrote on his blog. "The only reason why Sunny Leone, or Karanjit as she used to be called earlier, would have qualified to be on my show, is because its her past now evolving into her present which is the story waiting to be told."
The journalist then went on to make a complicated explanation of how he was attempting to document this evolution. First he said he tried to read up on her. Then he said that "we aren't really going to the cinemas to watch her because she is a star," followed by an admission that he hasn't seen any of her Bollywood films or the films of her earlier avatar, because he has kids at his place.
Chaubey even attempted some more damage control by patting Leone on the back. He mentioned that she felt it was like an interrogation and "conceded" that if she had known the format she would have been better prepared.
"But ever since the first airing of the interview, I am only seeing positive feedback for her. So Sunny, you did well! It doesn’t matter that I was convinced at the end of the interview that you were an extremely brave woman to have dealt with your past in the manner in which you did. It’s the viewer that counts. Whether its you or me.
He went on to clarify that he was simply doing the job of asking questions, which were perhaps moral in nature, while nevertheless insisting that he wasn't aiming to be a moralist. "Isn’t that also the story? I did mention this multiple times in course of the interview that Indians were a bunch of hyper hypocritical people."