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Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
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Reviews & Ratings for
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love More at IMDbPro »

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54 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

A feast for the eyes and the ears

Author: L. Denis Brown (ldbrown1@shaw.ca) from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
24 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***



Produced in India by an Indian director and production crew for the primary purpose of introducing Europeans and North Americans to some aspects of the Hindu culture, this film was never intended for domestic markets and in fact I believe that it remains banned in most parts of India. Although in many ways the Hindu culture is highly erotic, eroticism is not normally featured in domestic Indian films and the Director had to recruit two British born actresses for the starring roles. It is a beautiful film which was quite successful in parts of Europe and it is unfortunate that it had only a limited release in North America.

Ultimately the film is a Feminist Tract, which is said to be based on an Indian legend from the early sixteenth century - the period immediately after the foundation of the Mohgul (Mongol) empire in India. It is a story about an intelligent woman born into a low cast who is the servant of a high cast compatriot betrothed to the local Raj. In most parts of the world the subservient status of women at the time of this legend made it very difficult for them to establish a satisfactory lifestyle except in the traditional role of wife to the master of a family and mother to his children. In India the difficulties were greatly compounded by the additional limitations imposed by the cast system. The film basically records the efforts of this woman to use her sexual attractiveness to develop a lifestyle that would be acceptable to her. In modern parlance Maya has the moral standards of a guttersnipe, but in the context of the period in which she lived she merely manipulated the weapons available to her to try to establish what any modern woman would describe as an acceptable independent lifestyle. Ultimately her plans basically fail and the film ends with her walking confidently towards an unknown future after losing her lover and every support that her former life had provided, but with a confidence that she could face the future, whatever it might bring, thanks to the lessons in life that she had learned during her period at the Royal Court. Women can clearly identify with this story - although IMDb users in general have only given this film fairly average ratings, the demographic breakdown of these ratings shows that younger women rate it most highly.

The title "Kama Sutra - A love story" poses a problem, Many western viewers expected a near pornographic sequence of orgies with sexual encounters involving highly convoluted positions - their disappointment can be seen both in some of the viewer comments featured in this data base, and by the low ratings many viewers have given to this film. (One IMDb reviewer has made the interesting comment that the film might have been much more successful if it had simply been titled "A love story".) The film has also been derided as an Indian version of a modern soap opera. The common feature of soap operas is probably their limited characterisation and a shallow one track story line; but if we look at European stories and legends from the same period we find that they mostly show similar features - think only of the Decameron or such works as Moll Flanders and Fanny Hill. I have never been a fan of the modern soap operas- perhaps because they cut too close to home- but I am a sucker for those such as "Dangerous Beauty" or "Black Venus" which have the ability to temporarily transport one into life during an earlier period. Consequently I greatly enjoyed this film which not only successfully recreates a long past period, but also provides a realistic glimpse of life as lived in a totally different culture to my own. Most soap operas are rather melodramatic, but despite its exotic locale and period, the film "Kama Sutra - a love story" remains somewhat underplayed. The Raj showed a fairly unsavoury character, but none of the petty vindictiveness we associate with European royalty of the period. The arrest and execution of the sculptor, Maya's lover, was clearly inevitable but it was not carried out with the oriental barbarism I expected to be displayed, and this Indian royal court was shown as both more civilised and more humane than say its European equivalent in the English court of Henry VIII.

For a film to be a success there are basically two requirements, it must have something worth while to feature and it must be sufficiently competently made to hold the viewers attention whilst watching it. In my view this film fully meets both these requirements. Although the story line was a little trite and the characterisation was somewhat shallow, the camera work was superb and was a delight to the eye throughout. It is hard for a Westerner to judge how authentically the sixteenth century Mohgul royal court was represented, but as shown its visual impact was both exotic and exciting. A important part of this film was the outstanding score which contributed much to the mood and atmosphere. This score, the sets, the costumes and the camera work were outstanding throughout and provided a continual feast for both eyes and ears. What more can a viewer expect? I give this film a rating of eight out of ten, much higher than the average rating recorded in the IMDb database, and I do so deliberately not because it was a great story but because both the score and the camerawork justify this rating. This is at least as valid as giving a similar rating to films with a great story to tell, but with very indifferent camera work. After all the cinema is essentially a visual form of entertainment and any film which can, like this one, keep our eyes glued to the screen throughout has to be recognised as way above average.

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45 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Good Love Story / Drama

Author: toddphillips-1 from Vancouver, Canada
28 January 2002

When I rented KAMA SUTRA - A Tale Of Love, I thought my girlfriend would kill me for what the title implied. We were plesantly suprised to find a Love Story / Drama which, yes, has some very sexy scenes in it. Those looking for a movie version of the ancient text will be disapointed with the reasonable use of sexual content. There is an actual storyline here! This film is about true love, and the struggle for that love in the face of adversity. The love triangle, along with enough character development to explain the relationships between the five main characters, speaks of the human condition.

The story takes place "Once upon a time...". The costumes and sets are really well done. The cinematography is richly textured, with India as the exotic backdrop, and you are transported back into time... and into the lovers' experience.

This movie can take you through a full range of emotions, see it with your significant other, and expect it to effect you for the rest of the night.

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42 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Excellent movie and supreme eye candy...

Author: Laura from Delaware, U.S.A.
20 January 2002

I've watched this film over and over again and it just gets better. It's actually based on a book called "Hand-Me-Downs" which you'll understand after you've watched it. As the last person who commented on this stated it's not the "Kama Sutra" you're thinking of. There IS sex, there IS a bit of violence, but don't watch this with the hopes of seeing your average vulgar action and sex film. The women in the film are instructed and shown how to the master the art of Kama Sutra, mind you the ART not the positions. Anyway, the film setting is gorgeous and the acting is superb. You'll recognize Sarita Choudhury as Tara if you've already watched Mississippi Massala. Indira Varma does an excellent job in expressing her revenge, regret, and mystery in Tara's character. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE did an excellent job in this film.

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48 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

a highly under rated film...

10/10
Author: ghettoracer from sfbay, california
6 May 2005

I first saw this movie about 4 years ago. And upon the first viewing I was dis-appointed about 15 mins into it. I'm sure most males are attracted to this film simply by the title... Kama Sutra. LOL. I was disappointed because on first glance I did not find Maya and Tara attractive. Yes I know, how lame of me to judge a film based on the looks of the actresses. In my defense, the title threw me off as I was expecting something highly erotic and very porn-ish. However, other than the title of the movie I've heard accolades from critics about this movie... so I manage to finish the movie. I remember thinking wow, not too shabby, the film wasn't what I expected. It really is a tale of love. I've just viewed the movie three times in the last couple of days and at last I'm really appreciating the film.

The acting are superb and I think Indira Varma was a newcomer at that time. I think she played Maya perfectly... Her performance reminds me of how impressive Natalie Portman was in Leon as a totally unknown. Although Natalie was much younger with her debut. It was a delight watching Indira portraying the deep emotions and the hard life of Maya being always in Tara's shadow. My favorite scene was when Maya and Jai reunited. The music/score was perfect and the acting was heart felt I think they have perfect chemistry.

The sets and costumes were colorful and rich. The cinematography was stunning. Character development was complete and the pace of the story was quite good never a wasted moment. This is one of my favorite films about love. It encompasses a lot more than merely the thought of "Kama Sutra" conjures up. It is also about girl going into woman hood. Please enjoy the film with a open mind and I think you will find its true beauty that is rarely matched.

One other film that's a personal favorite is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon which is directed by Ang Lee. I grew up in Taiwan, but spent most of my life in California and I'm well versed in both the traditional Chinese culture as well as contemporary American. I understood perfectly what Ang wanted to do. There's a big similarity in the fact that both directors made the film for the _foreign_ audiences. I think these films should not be completely judged on its accuracy, but rather, from the director's vision and what they wanted to accomplish. In both cases I think the directors were perfect.

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37 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Beautifully Done!

Author: ladysylkie from York, England
11 October 2002

I must say I really enjoyed this film. I saw it late at night, when they usually only show crap on TV, and I was just blown away. I loved the historical setting, the costumes, the sets, the interaction of the characters, the dancing and the love story. I also can't help thinking that Indira Varma is probably the most beautiful woman alive. I found this film stunning, enjoyable and moving, and I highly recommend it to audiences who don't mind a little sensual nudity in their films.

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32 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, erotic film.

10/10
Author: lilithg from Roanoke, VA
24 February 2001

I bought this movie after seeing most of it on Bravo several different times. I really love this movie. It has beautiful imagery and a good plot. I was captivated by the lovely erotic scenes. Although there is a love story in it, the film isn't entirely an happily ever after affair. However, the ending retains the feeling of hope and the fact that love (though not necessarily the lover) survives all things.

A sad, yet hopeful movie. I highly recommend it.

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30 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Insightful, romantic, moral tale

9/10
Author: schilauefer from United States
24 April 2005

Having read The Kama Sutra and having found it disappointing, I figured this late night showing couldn't be anymore disappointing than the text of the same name in translation. The subtitle, A Tale of Love, does help inform the potential viewer that this is not a hot porn flick.

The few pieces of Indian literature I have read treated love stories similarly. I was curious though, as to how the Bombay movie industry would treat this story, knowing they do no show kissing in the romantic films for domestic consumption. IMDb was the source I turned to to learn more about this film and its production. Thank you for the answers.

This movie is a fine tragedy carefully told in the context of 16th century India. It portrays a woman's plight in that time, marry or be a courtesan in a harem. By giving the women empowered roles the writers allow viewers to see that while today would would find those roles unacceptable, some women of those days could find satisfaction, if not happiness. The mistress of the courtesan school gave everyone her pupils a view of the truth and their options, even before the women were ready to see them.

The movie also contains moral lessons. Maia misuses her sexuality to her own detriment. The princess, could not buy happiness. The sculptor rejects Maia's love out of fear for loss of his independence, then gets paid back in kind.

This is a captivating story I will watch again, to catch the dialog I missed while away from the television, and I rarely watch movies twice.

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23 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

I watched it again and again

Author: Kris Dilworth (causeimreal) from Tupelo, MS
5 September 2003

This film was wonderfully told to me. The characters where great, the location was magical, and the whole film just left me with a great feeling. I love Indira Varma, she is so beautiful and such a talented actress. The role of Queen Tara portrayed by Sarita Choudhury deserves mention also. I would recommend to anyone with an open mind. Though I was very young when I first watched it, it is for the more mature audience.

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28 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

rich and lovely

Author: Robert Guenther (robt_chi@yahoo.com) from chicago, illinois
1 December 2004

i admire mira nair's films. she clearly loves India and its culture, a fact evident in all of her films i've had the pleasure of seeing. but her real art is showing her passion through so many prisms. vanity fair showed us India from the British home perspective which we usually see from western directors, while salaam bombay showed us modern urban India at its most destitute and triumphant. monsoon wedding introduces to the rapidly expanding Indian middle class, providing us with a far more intimate appreciation of her subjects than we might get calling for tech support for our computers or trying to understand a credit card bill.

kama sutra shows us India through yet another prism. first a prism of history, which she lushly recreates, and then through a prism of sexuality, which she (rightly) brandishes as legacy of a great and ancient culture. perhaps she suggests that the British morality imposed by the empire attempted, with some success, to obscure a vibrant and enthusiastic sexuality. well, if British sex is anything like British food, and Indian sex is like Indian food, she might have a point. curiously, i've been told that if you want to eat good English food in London, go curry.

i don't think that nair's ultimately interested in instructing us on sexual physics, or in telling us an epic melodrama. but through her four characters, she reveals love and sex as they are manifest continuously through the human story. a king imposes himself on his queen (patriarchy and rape), a king demands his coutesan (adultery and carnality), unrequited love (every character, each with a twist), jealousy, shame, sex as love, sex as passion, sex as brutality, and so on. the shades of sex that she reveals through her characters' relations are familiar, and she artfully sketches the nuances in three dimensions, where you rarely see more than one or two in Hollywood tripe. yet, like a good tikka masala, the chicken is familiar, but the colors and the flavor are distinctly and marvelously Indian.

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25 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

A beautiful work of art with an incredible story and even more incredible actors.

10/10
Author: Maya (Xev_Lizard@yahoo.com) from currently U.S.
25 April 2001

I saw this movie and I loved it. It was powerfully beautiful and the character of Maya was unbelievable. (I was pleased to share the name with her.) Indira Varma did a wonderful job and I was completely taken with it. I recommend this movie, although will not be liked by everyone. It is truly a work of art.

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