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Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love Movie Review

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For reasons that are beyond me, Kama Sutra received a critical roasting. It's a Tale of Love—well, 16th century sexual politics, really—through the eyes of women who are trained from childhood to please men. Sarita Choudhury is Princess Tara, fated to marry a king, Raj Singh (The English Patient's Naveen Andrews). But Tara is cruel to her maid Maya (Indira Varma), who seduces the king before the wedding night in revenge, and is exiled from her village by Tara. Needless to say, the union of the princess and the king begins badly and goes downhill from there. Maya lands on her feet, though, and soon attracts the professional attention of Jai, a handsome sculptor (Ramon Tikaram). When Jai learns that he can't focus on his work and the lovely Maya, too, she embarks on a crash course in Kama Sutra, winding up as Raj Singh's favorite palace courtesan. Mira Nair focuses on how the women of the 16th century develop the only power they are permitted to wield and how the men in their lives, more often than not, would rather die than deal with that power on its own terms. Filmed in spectacular Technicolor, Kama Sutra is a feast for the eyes, and Indira Varma makes an appealing first impression. Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love works wonderfully well on the level of an adult fairy tale. It doesn't even try to be a 16th century documentary. If Nathaniel Hawthorne could speculate about 17th century colonial America in 1850's The Scarlet Letter, what's the big deal about Mira Nair creating a compelling fantasy about the women of another time? For a bunch of middle-aged male movie critics who got all hot and bothered about Kama Sutra's “historical accuracy,” it seemed to be a VERY big deal. Hey, guys, if that's all you want, read a history book!

1996 117m/C IN Indira Varma, Sarita Choudhury, Ramon Tikaram, Naveen Andrews, Devi Rekha; D: Mira Nair; W: Mira Nair, Helena Kriel; C: Declan Quinn; M: Mychael Danna. VHS, LV, Closed Caption, DVD

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