Though it contains several erotically charged and explicit love scenes, Kama Sutra - A Tale of Love
is not a sex film, but a tragic romance set in the royal court of 16th century India. It is Princess Tara's (Sarita Choudhury) misfortune to marry the debauched, increasingly opium-addled Raj Singh (Naveen Andrews), and servant-girl Maya's (Indira Varma) fate to become the object of the Raj's desire, though she in turn loves the sculptor, Jai (Ramon Tikaram). The Kama Sutra
itself is already hundreds of years old at the time of this tale, but it provides the love lessons by which lowly Maya learns to become a royal courtesan.
Varma dominates the film in her first starring role, displaying a determination, quiet intelligence and sensuality which offer compensation for the often overly languorous pace. This is certainly a beautiful film, with a deeply evocative score by Mychael Danna, but as a drama it only really comes to life in the last half hour. Both Anna and the King (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) are more effective Eastern historical romances, while the overlooked Heat and Dust (1982) introduced Greta Scacchi alongside Julie Christie as two Western women discovering the erotic pleasures of 20th century India. --Gary S. Dalkin
In 16th Century India, women are regarded as the possessions of their husbands. Tara (Sarita Choudhury) is betrothed to the debauched Prince Singh (Naveen Andrews). Singh, however, is attracted to Tara's childhood friend Maya (Indira Varma). When Tara rejects Maya out of jealousy, Maya seduces Singh the night before his wedding. Maya, banished, finds shelter with sculptor Jai (Ramon Tikaram), who introduces her to Rasa Devi, master of the art of Kama Sutra (lovemaking). Maya learns fast, and soon she and Jai have embarked on a passionate affair.