Thursday, October 04, 2007

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1997)- R

There are so many reasons to see this film despite its flaws. The main flaw is that the actors seem to “over-act,” or exaggerate their acting. To the viewers in the West the acting may even seems comical. However, this style is characteristic of the extremely popular Bollywood films of India and in fact is one of the reasons to see this film. Bollywood films are Indian produced soap-opera style dramas that, up to just a few years ago, followed strict Hindu codes of sexual censorship. Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love is a breakthrough film in that it uses Bollywood stars, is filmed in India, is directed by the Academy Award winner Mira Nair and is explicitly erotic.

It is correct to say that Mira Nair is a world famous film producer. Her most acclaimed work was Salaam Bombay (1988) that won Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards and top honors at the Cannes Film Festival. However, my favorite Mira Nair film is Monsoon Wedding (2001). Mira Nair’s films capture the amazing revolution in India today. She captures the tide change of a nation moving from poverty to an economic power. Her films are so realistic and vivid that you can almost smell the curry.

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love presents a story of a women sent by her father to marry someone she does not love. She runs away and joins a school to study the art of love according to the ancient Kama Sutra writings. The setting of the story is 16th century India. Mira Nair elevates the training of these women from lowly prostitutes to philosopher-love goddesses.

Here are some reasons to see this film. In the brothel scenes, Mira Nair hired all the extras from the impoverished sex worker slums of Bombay. The film was in the Indian courts for 15 months before an edited version was allowed to be shown in India. The film features the most famous Indian Bollywood actress Rekha, who plays the Kama Sutra instructor. During the filming, crowds of over 10,000 people would follow the production company solely to get a glimpse of Rekha. The colors and fabrics of the costumes are amazing. Despite the very erotic nature of the film, Mira Nair hired her mother to play one of the elder woman’s roles.

And then there are the sex scenes. The scenes are explicit, very erotic and beautifully filmed. The key instruction to the young women students is that the art of love is greater than the act of love. The film attempts to link the erotic and spiritual and probably attempts to do too much.

Despite its flaws Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love is a good film. However, appreciating the contributions of Mira Nair makes this film more enjoyable. The film is available from Netflix.