Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Tale Of Romance From Old India: Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love

The Good: Sexy, Stylish, Decent acting, Beautiful locales
The Bad: Simple plot, Simple characters, Not actually what the title says
The Basics: In ancient India, love is found between an artist and a courtesan in a fairly erotic tale filled with much atypical beauty.

Romance is a difficult genre to do justice by. It's true; too often the story is simple man and woman fall in love, they meet an obstacle, experience separation, realize they are stronger together and resolve to love one another. It's a pretty tight formula. Sigh. It's hard to find something new in the romance field. So, when I sat down to Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love, I had fairly low expectations for being completely satisfied.

Growing up as a servant's daughter, Maya always gets the hand me downs from Tara, who is of noble decent. So, while Tara gets much attention lavished upon her, Maya is actually developing into a kind and useful individual. Finally tired of the second-hand treatment and clothes, Maya seduces Tara's husband on her wedding night. The king, Tara's husband, becomes somewhat obsessed with Maya and the result of their affair is that Maya is banished from her village. She then falls in with an artist named Jai, whom she falls in love with. Being a moody sculptor type, he wants to love her but is worried about how his art will suffer and he pushes her away. Maya becomes a courtesan and ends up back in the arms of Singh, the king. Jai comes around and the two reunite, but Singh gets angry about the strength of their love and puts Jai to death.

And you were under the impression soap operas in the United States were convoluted, huh?

If you're looking for the Kama Sutra, this is probably the closest you'll get. What I mean is there is a book out there called the Kama Sutra which is basically the original manual on sex, sexuality and the human body. Despite the misleading title to this film, this movie does not simply illustrate the moves and methods of arousal. Instead, it is the story of a love. If you're looking for lots of graphic sex, this movie is not for you. It is not a porn or erotica film.

That is not to say that this Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love, is not erotic. Indeed, one of the successes of the film is that it is a sensual piece, filled with lovemaking. The costumes, scenery and bodies all scream "SEXY!" and it is very easy to get into this intoxicating world of sex and senses. The film is shot and edited in a way that it feels very fluid, moment to moment, so there are never terribly choppy breaks between scenes visually, even if the content and dialog is radically different between scenes. Director Mira Nair has an eye for beauty and style.

The problem is, in order to make a successful romantic film, one needs interesting characters. Jai is an intriguing character and it's nice to see an artist rendered so well. Jai has personality to him and flaws that make him imperfect and likable. On the other hand, Singh is a despot, Tara is spoiled and Maya, who seems nice and decent, consciously chooses to do something abhorrent in seducing Singh on his wedding night and then later deciding to use her sexuality as a tool on whomever she might for political gain. It's a sad romantic tale when the two most likable and empathetic characters are Jai and a persecuted humpbacked prince.

On the other hand, what the characters lack, the actors seem to have. Vastly underused in the film is Rekha, who plays a sage who teaches Maya the Kama Sutra. She seems to have both presence and a command over her lines and delivery that make her scenes a pleasure to watch from the audience point of view (as someone simply looking for a decent story and acting). Similarly, both Sarita Choudhury and Naveen Andrews seem to have talent with both bodies and lines as Tara and Raj Singh. Choudhury plays spoiled perfectly and Andrews' transformation throughout the film in the change in posture and facial control easily portray his character's decent into depression and such.

Indira Varma and Ramon Tikaram actually have chemistry on screen and their scenes seem to have the most drama. Even though their characters may be flat, the actors seem to be doing the best they can with a middling script. In the end, their chemistry and sense of fun about the piece in their scenes together as Maya and Jai make this film worth watching and rewatching.

In the end, this is a simple tale of love told with beautiful scenery and a group of actors who are not the Hollywood norm, which is refreshing to see. There is a lot of lovemaking, though it is not terribly graphic. If you're in the mood to be transported to 16th Century India for a love story, this is probably the best vessel to take there.

For other movies with a strong erotic component, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Henry And June
Love And Other Drugs


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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