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Bollywood biopic in hot water over Sikh name


Sikh leaders in India have threatened to protest over the title of a biopic because it uses the name Kaur.

Sunny Leone is a former porn star turned Bollywood actress who plays herself in web series Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone.

Kaur - Leone's real name - is used by Sikh women as a surname or middle name and symbolises gender equality.

Having Kaur in the title has angered some Sikh leaders, who say it shows disrespect to the name's sanctity.

It has also been described as a publicity stunt.

The name Kaur was given to all Sikh women to establish gender equality and reduce caste discrimination in 1699 by the 10th guru in Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, when he established the Khalsa - the collective of initiated Sikhs.

The show's title makes reference to Sunny Leone's birth name, Karenjit Kaur Vohra, although she is better known by her porn star name.

The web series depicts her life and premiered on 16 July for Zee5, a streaming platform in India.

In a letter to Subhash Chandra, the chairman of Essel Group which owns Zee5, Indian politician Manjinder Singh Sirsa called for the show to be pulled from the network or have the name Kaur removed from the title.

Sirsa is a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal party and general secretary of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC).

But Chandra responded simply by explaining that her name can't be changed.

Other Sikh groups and leaders have expressed similar sentiments and have threatened to protest outside the network's offices if their demands aren't met.

SGPC spokesperson Daljit Singh Bedi said: "Kaur is a pious surname designated for Sikh women by the Gurus. We will file a complaint with the makers of the series on Tuesday."

The director of the web series, Aditya Datt, defended the actress's right to use her real name.

"I completely respect the Sikh community. I am a Punjabi myself but it's surprising that in today's modern day and age there's an objection to using one's own family name, which is one's birthright...and for what? The series is based on truths and facts related to Sunny's life, including her family and early does one change the truth and why?", he told The Times of India.

Leone was born in Canada to Sikh Punjabi immigrants. She became a porn actress in the early 2000s and after a successful career, went on to become an actress in Bollywood.

She made her Bollywood debut in 2012 in the film Jism 2 but had already become a household name in India after participating in reality TV show Bigg Boss in 2011.

The BBC have contacted Leone and her representatives for comment.

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