This is a lushly lavish, sensuously beautiful film, superlatively directed by Mira Nair, a world class director noted for such other cinematic masterpieces as "Salaam Bombay", "Mississippi Masala", and the more recent art house feature, "Monsoon Wedding". As are her other films, "Kama Sutra" is an intelligent and mesmerizing story, peppered with excellent performances by a stellar cast.
Set in sixteenth century India, this is the story of Maya (Indira Varma), a servant girl and companion to Tara (Sarita Choudry), a Maharani destined to be Queen to a Raj. Childhood friends, they are to become palace rivals as the fates pit them one against the other, only to have them both become casualties of love. Maya, tired of being treated as a second class citizen and of receiving Tara's castoff clothing, makes a life defining decision on the eve of Tara's marriage to Raj Singh (Naveen Andrews). Sensing that the Raj desires her, Maya gives herself to him, later telling Tara that it is she who now has a cast off from Maya.
After Tara departs with her husband, Maya's perfidy is revealed to the household by Tara's hunchbacked brother, who, coveting Maya for himself, had spied upon her and saw her in flagrante delicto with the Raj. Ousted by Tara's outraged family, Maya leaves to make her way in the world. She comes across a sculptor, Jai Kumar (Ramon Tikarum), of Raj Singh's royal household and falls in love with him. Unfortunately, timing is everything. By the time Jai realizes that he, too, is in love with her, it is too late, as Maya is now the favorite courtesan of the by now debauched Raj, who is obsessed with her and cannot seem to get her out of his system, much to the dismay of Tara, as well as Jai.
Trained in the arts of love by the graceful and beautiful Rasa Devi (Rekha), Maya, as a royal courtesan, is a sensuous, beautiful sylph. Tara, now the Queen, is insanely jealous of her husband's desire for Maya, but must tolerate it, as must Jai, as it is a culturally accepted way of life. Unfortunately, when the Raj discovers that Maya and Jai are still in love, all hell breaks loose, and the piper must be paid.
This is a wonderful film of a woman's journey to find herself within culturally imposed constraints. It is a tale of the vicissitudes of life that leave imprints on one's journey. Told in the context of carnal love and desire, it also tells of a love sublime. This is essentially a woman's film, sensuous and erotic in its imagery, a veritable sumptuous feast for the senses. While there is some nudity in the film, it is tastefully and beautifully filmed, as well as highly erotic.
Indira Varma, in what is her screen debut, is sensational as the entrancing Maya, imbuing her with an impishness, as well as with a sinuous and provocative sensuality. Sarita Choudry, of "Mississippi Masala" fame, is excellent as the beautiful and exotic Tara, who appears to be relegated to a life of frigidity and jealousy. Rekha, the well known and exquisitely beautiful Indian actress, is hypnotic as Rasa Devi, teacher of the Kama Sutra. Naveen Andrews gives a good performance as the debauched Raj, and Ramon Tikarum is compelling as the conflicted artist. They both, however, take a backseat to the women in the film.
Filmed on location in India, this is a film that should be watched for its sheer beauty. Bravo!
Hotter than "Fire", but without the same depth of emotion and not much of a story line, Kama Sutra comes over as a beautiful art movie, with magnificent scenery, brilliant color, and maximum use of nature, light and texture. Yes, there are also love scenes that are not for the prudish, and some full frontal female nudity and bare backsides, but in essence it is a story of love and loss and debauchery and death.
Indira Varma is captivating as the servant girl Maya, portraying her as young, flirtatious and resilient, while at the same time, regal and vulnerable. Her lovely eyes speak volumes, and there are entire scenes that are conveyed without the need for dialogue.
Sarita Choudhury plays a major supporting role as Tara, the intended bride of Raj Singh (Naveen Andrews). Although a lifelong friend of Maya, she turns on her in a fit of jealousy when the Raj lets his gaze wander to Maya on their very first meeting, and her reaction causes Maya to flee the room in shame.
Seeking revenge, Maya makes a pre-marital visit to the Raj, and gives herself to him in a performance that he never forgets.
She however forgets that people who live in transparent tents shouldn't fool around, and when the night's events are disclosed by Tara's humpbacked peeping tom of a brother, whom Maya has rejected outright as a husband, she has no choice but to leave her home as a fallen woman.
Unlike the popular advertisement however, she is able to get up, and thanks to the artistic skill of a stone carver Jai Kumar (Ramon Tikaram) and the friendship and teaching of Rasa Devi, (Screen legend Rehka) teacher of the Kama Sutra, she finds new confidence and a whole new attitude. She falls for Jai big time, but unfortunately for him, he doesn't react well to unconditional love and chases her straight into the open arms of Raj Singh as his #1 favorite courtesan.
Tara is now living the life of the neglected wife of a debauched husband, and has a disastrous wedding night when he calls her another woman's name. Her unhappiness is aggravated when she discovers Maya lolling off in a hot tub at the palace, and unable to cope with her situation decides on a drastic course of action.
Raj is by now totally obsessed with Maya, and when he discovers that his stone carver friend and his number one girl have not only rekindled the flames, but are busy fanning them when he's not around, he goes berserk, and orders the appropriate punishment for Jai.
To close things off, while Raj has been partying, his kingdom has been falling, and you don't need a fat lady singing to tell you that it's over for him.
Excellent performances by Indira Varma, Sarita Choudhury and Rekha make this movie worthwhile, and the attention to detail by Mira Nair makes for beautiful watching.
Amanda Richards, December 29, 2004
on June 13, 2000
This is, indeed, a Tale, a tale for adults... For in the East, it has always been known that adults NEED and enjoy tales no less than any child would.
This story is about LOVE (of course), true love broken by the society and its "powerful ones". In this case, the powerful one is a Prince, evil yet very sexy Naveen Andrews (Kip in "The English Patient"). The object of his desire is Maya, who is forced to become courtesan, after some unfortunate events. But, Maya was brought up as a princess...
Indeed, Maya grew up with the evil Prince's future wife-to-be, Tara, so it gets very complicated: Prince has beautiful Tara, but he desires beautiful Maya (they are both so beautiful, why not have them both?...Prince manages to do that for quite some time).
There is another amazingly beautiful woman in this film, whom I enjoyed seeing on screen once again: famous Indian actress, Rasa Devi, playing Rekha-- older courtesan and Maya's mentor, and what a wonderful mentor she is!
In short, Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, is one of the most beautiful and most sensuous films in years. It is entertaining and at the same time philosophical!
It was nice to see "making love"-scenes, as oppose to random and mostly meaningless sex-scenes that seem to dominate today's cinema.
I only regret that there wasn't more dancing in this film. I also regret over-using the word "beautiful" in my review:)....but, in this case, it is more than appropriate.
on June 1, 2002
Set in 16th century India, "Kama Sutra" is a seductive, sensual story of love, lust, and betrayal. Mira Nair's hauntingly erotic film brings us a low-caste girl named Maya, who functions as both a servant and companion to Tara, who belongs to the Indian nobility. Even as children, although Maya cleans up after Tara and wears Tara's cast-offs, it is Maya whose seductive charm entrances everyone who comes into contact with her; for all her family and financial connections, Tara is really living in Maya's shadow.
Tara is destined for great things; she's engaged to be married to the spoiled and dissolute young king Raj Singh, while Maya is trained to be only a courtesan; but Maya knows how to put her training to good use; when Tara is formally introduced to her future husband, it is Maya's hypnotic eyes that bewitch him. But Maya is prepared to go even further than this; for once, she will make Tara know what it feels like to feast on someone's leftovers. Maya seduces Raj Singh on the night before his wedding. By taking such an enormous step, she may become a social outcast, but Raj Singh is hooked; he will keep Tara as his wife, since he has to have a wife, but since Maya is the woman he really wants, he will keep her as his courtesan.
It's a mess all around; Tara can't win her husband's love, she's as cold and sexually frigid as Maya is enchanting; but Maya soon becomes disgusted with Raj Singh's dissipation, and at this point she meets her soulmate, the sculptor Jai Kumar. It's a love doomed from the start; the more Maya is repelled by Raj Singh, the more he desires her, and he'll never let her escape. Something has to give, and something does.
"Kama Sutra" is not an especially deep movie; it doesn't have a convoluted plot and most of the characters are pretty two-dimensional; but as a straightforward tale of love and lust, it's eminently satisfying. The setting in pre-colonial India with its exotic atmosphere and lavish costumes makes for a stunning eyeful, and the actors play their parts to the hilt. Indira Varma makes a luminous Mayra; her sensuality steams up the screen; and Sarita Choudhury is convincing as Tara, the unloved and jealous wife. The male actors, Naveen Andrews as Raj Singh and Ramon Tikram as Jai Kumar, are good, but they don't stand out as much as the women because their roles are not as compelling; "Kama Sutra" is essentially a women's film, directed by woman and telling a woman's story. It's sultry, sensual, and very much worth seeing.
on January 12, 2003
Directed by Mira Nair, the talented force behind the recent Monsoon Wedding, Kama Sutra is an earlier take of her beautiful vision of India. Ms. Nair has a flair for showing her native country with all its loveliness unfurled, entrancing people of all ilk with its endless vistas and melting sunsets. How can we resist her India, with its beguiling glimpses of beautiful women and passionate men as sculpted as the statues that adorn the Hindu temples (often used as incidental scenery). The colors in each frame, from the glinting edges of whirling saris to the flower petals that flow over the steps of the royal residence like a red river, are enchantingly brilliant. They draw the viewer into this Technicolor world without hesitation. With all this beautiful scenery, one wonders why Ms. Nair even bothers to have a plot. Unfortunately, once one is done watching this movie, the question remains unanswered.
Many people will rent this movie for its title, known for the famous book of sexual positions so widely read by college dorm-goers. But if one is looking for a more visual reenactment of this lovely text, be prepared to be dispassionate. Though the movie is superficially about the life of a courtesan, its sex scenes are carefully choreographed to prohibit any real sensuality from coming out. Though the participants are beautiful, the end result lacks real passion, making these scenes a mere revel in the beauty of human form. Unfortunately, as the plot hinges on these incidental sex scenes, the rest of the movie really doesn't move along. We might care a little for Maya, the film's main figure, but her inability to free herself or her lover from their predicaments makes us wonder why the filmmaker made such a big deal about her supposed independence in the first place.
If you would like a film to show you an ideal 15th century India abounding with glitter, look no further. If you're looking for a movie with plot, look elsewhere (try Monsoon Wedding on for size).
on January 31, 1999
KAMA SUTRA is decidedly one of the best movies of the 1990s, and perhaps Mira Nair's finest work. It depicts a courtesan's life in sixteenth-century India, showing the conflict between her true love and her duty to a selfish Raj. The attention to detail is astounding, from the landscape and architecture to the spiritual and sensual teachings. The story is a moving one, as is further emphasized by the stellar cast (including Naveen Andrews of "The English Patient"). Refreshing in both its feminist qualities and frank but not contrived sexuality, the film should please adults who are interested in both visual and spoken art. There is true emotion in this story, paired with life lessons -- a rarity in today's cinema, and for which KAMA SUTRA should be recognized.
Released in '97 the exotic, sensual and visually alluring `Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love' is an intoxicating story detailing the intense, complex intermingling sensations of romance, sexual attraction and obsession as played out in a royal family in 16th century India.
While I was remotely familiar with the contents of the classic Indian sex manual of the same name I began my viewing of the fillm `Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love' with no expectations as to how explicit this production might be. For all I knew it may have turned out to be nothing more than soft core porn of an exotic nature. Fortunately what unfolded was indeed a pleasant surprise. The Indian landscape, architecture and costumes, the mesmerizing soundtrack and the captivating storyline are everything an audience could ask for. While you may not recognize the names of any of the cast, possibly with the exception of Naveem Andrews, the acting is excellent.
While the production receives high marks in every category the ultimate success or failure of this film rests solely on the shoulders of its star Indira Varma in the role of the lovelorn courtesan. Indira brings the story alive both with her stunning beauty as well as her thoughtful and passionate performance.
As one should surmise from the films title there is strong sexual content so be forewarned. Let me just say that the sex sequences are done beautifully and tastefully.
on June 1, 2003
I loved this movie for a lot of reasons--cinematography, storyline, etc. However, it's the line at the very end that spoke to my heart. I've started to use it as a guide for my life--
"Knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go. To be as supple as the wind, and take everything that comes with great courage. Life is right in any case. My heart is as open as the sky."
on November 20, 2011
The picture quality, although not extremely fabulous, but it is greatly improved. I know this isn't mastered from the original master film. It can't be! When it starts, the screen is very spotty and crackly. You know, like the sound of bacon frying. But, it does fade to a minimum very quickly, and just little white spots pop up here and there throughout the film.
But, the sound quality is the real disappointment here. When people speak, it is very hissy. Everybody sounds like they have a lisp when they speak. But, again, that starts to minimize as you get deeper into the film. And, what everyone will find extremely disappointing about the Indian released Blu-Ray, is that about 3 minutes of the film has been removed.
Yes, that's right! You've guess it! The nudity has all been removed.
India sure has a warped sense of values. They don't mind showing bloodshed, police brutality and disrespectful behavior of one another, but when it comes to showing the beauty of God's creation (the naked female body), they censor it and remove it from the appreciative viewer's eye. India's got serious morality problems. No wonder Indians that came to America from India raise their middle finger and wave it to their native country.
Anyway, I'll keep both the DVD and the Blu-Ray disc because, in the long run, I do prefer a better picture, especially with a visually artful film such as this.
You'll notice that this Blu-Ray disc isn't readily available in stores, or even sold by Amazon itself. It does have the Indian film certificate printed on the back, so I guess this Blu-Ray disc was made from a source film or tape that came out of India. This is not being released by TriMark like the original DVD. This is released by Eagle Home Entertainment. And the BD disc has an address from India. It's not uncommon to see pirated movies coming out of India, especially Bollywood films themselves. They may even be made here in the US, and are sold in Indian stores. That just might be the case here.
on March 25, 2001
i loved the movie every bit;it was great;the cast ws great;my favourite being indira verma & ramon tikaram. if anyone who expect a porno movie will be disappointed; its not abt just sex.it;s abt LOVE. sex is taken to a higher level when its shared by 2 people who truly love each other. it has got nothing to do with the kamasutra by vatsyna. its about society's treatment of the underclass and how the women is affected. great movie; indira verma ws simply breath taking in her indian beauty.
would recommend anyone who is interested in a love story.