There are two kinds of people in India today. Those who don’t know of Anveshi Jain and those who pretend they don’t. The 28-year-old shot to fame in 2019 after she made her screen debut in the second season of ALTBalaji’s popular erotic series, Gandii Baat. She has millions of followers on social media, was reportedly among India’s most Googled people in 2019 , and has her own paid mobile app. Yet, the actor remains unacknowledged by mainstream media.
Every time I mention to someone that I am from the town of Khajuraho, home to the ancient Jain and Hindu temples with erotic sculptures, my words are met with a snigger.
It was some hormonal jumble that I still don’t understand but I remember that at puberty, my body developed quicker than other girls my age. And by the time I turned 14, my father turned unnecessarily strict. Everything became about my appearance. He would yell at me if I wore anything except salwar-kameez. While my friends dressed in jeans, I was forced to drape a dupatta to hide my ample bosom. Even on the occasions when I wore a churidar, he would accuse me of drawing unwanted attention to myself.
It’s not like I didn’t understand my father’s concerns. When I spoke to people, they looked at my boobs, not my face. Neither my grades nor my degree in electronics engineering could change that. Every day I would look into the mirror and see an ugly girl, with a body that was cursed.
Yet, another part of my brain told me this would change if I become famous. That is when I first thought of becoming an actor. I thought if I could make my parents proud, they would stop seeing me as a physical entity. But for a girl from a small town, that seemed like an unachievable dream. So I moved to Indore to pursue an MBA.
But I realised financial independence was the only way to escape their hold on my life. So I became a product designer. On the side, I started to emcee, which boosted my confidence. I worked hard for two years but my parents were not impressed. I realised it was time to pursue my dream. I packed my bags and moved to Mumbai.
At first, I thought people in Mumbai would be ignorant about Khajuraho, a temple town popular among foreign tourists that Indians rarely visited. But their fascination with it piqued my interest. On subsequent visits back home, I found playing cards and postcards with images of these sculptures being sold at souvenir shops. I wanted to find a way to monetise these knick-knacks and thought that maybe I could sell them on my website and become a brand ambassador for Khajuraho. My stint with Gandii Baat had taught me how to thoroughly milk a situation.
A role in the Hindi web series on streaming platform ALTBalaji known for its erotica was something I had taken up in desperation. After struggling for three years, the role was a means to get eyeballs. It was one final attempt at making a career in showbiz. What I didn’t foresee was the impact.
I had been nervous from the moment I landed on the set but I had attended acting workshops where I had learned that once the camera starts to roll, I have to be in the moment. So even though my co-actor Flora Saini was mechanical, I was living the scene as we kissed. That, I think, is what did the magic.
When the series streamed in January 2019, our lovemaking scene went viral. Within weeks, my following on social media shot up. By the end of the year, I was among the most Googled people from India. People would recognise me on the streets but they wouldn’t own up because they were ashamed to admit that they watch erotic content. And the ones who did were mostly assholes. Men would invite me on the pretext of work and make a move on me. But my popularity also empowered me. I no longer had to be polite to them because now I was driving my career.
But my debut tore apart my family. My dad’s friends showed him the clips of my intimate scenes in the series and shamed him. Embarrassed by their daughter, my parents disowned me. They had to face the torment by the hypocritical society that watches the very erotic content they ridicule me for. The only one supporting me through this phase was the guy I was dating at the time. But eventually, the stress took a toll on me and I had to take a break from our relationship.
For a while I struggled to get rid of the erotic image but therapy taught me to own it without being enslaved by it. I also learned that I cannot control what my parents think of me. I embraced the opportunity and started to use the image to my benefit. I would share my videos in cleavage-baring blouses or short dresses, and the Indian favourite, the saree.
I also started to take up other assignments. Now, I host events, give motivational talks, and play agony aunt to my fans on my app. I have also given a TedX talk. During my live sessions on social media, I talk to my fans about anxiety, self-esteem issues and loneliness. On some days, I simply read to them from the Kamasutra. When I do calls-for-cash, some men expect me to talk dirty. I just laugh at them and dispel the situation. I have my own tricks to deal with the raging libidos of fans.
It’s all taken a hell lot of hard work, and it’s had its advantages and disadvantages. When I try to make new friends in the industry, women see me as an opportunist and men presume I am initiating sex. I have never had many friends but the pandemic has exaggerated this loneliness. On my birthday last month, I had a million fans wishing me but not one friend who would do that.
On the upside, my parents are talking to me again. I got paid for special appearances on the series BOSS and Who’s Your Daddy?. I am finally getting movie offers with some scope for performance. I know they all cast me for my image but I don’t do erotica anymore.
The lockdown has further boosted my career. I have 2.8 million followers on Instagram and 250K new subscribers to my paid mobile app during these three months. I know many men come to these platforms, spend money to see my latest sexy pictures, to masturbate to my videos. This success has cost me dearly. But I make them pay for it, literally.
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