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
Set in sixteenth century India, this is the story of Maya (Indira Varma), a servant girl and companion to Tara (Sarita Choudry), a Maharani destined to be Queen to a Raj. Childhood friends, they are to become palace rivals as the fates pit them one against the other, only to have them both become casualties of love. Maya, tired of being treated as a second class citizen and of receiving Tara's castoff clothing, makes a life defining decision on the eve of Tara's marriage to Raj Singh (Naveen Andrews). Sensing that the Raj desires her, Maya gives herself to him, later telling Tara that it is she who now has a cast off from Maya.
After Tara departs with her husband, Maya's perfidy is revealed to the household by Tara's huntchbacked brother, who, coveting Maya for himself, had spied upon her and saw her in flagrante delicto with the Raj. Ousted by Tara's outraged family, Maya leaves to make her way in the world. She comes across a sculptor, Jai Kumar (Ramon Tikarum), of Raj Singh's royal household and falls in love with him. Unfortunately, timing is everything. By the time Jai realizes that he, too, is in love with her, it is too late, as Maya is now the favorite courtesan of the by now debauched Raj, who is obsessed with her and cannot seem to get her out of his system, much to the dimay of Tara, as well as Jai.
Trained in the arts of love by the graceful and beautiful Rasa Devi (Rekha), Maya, as a royal courtesan, is a sensuous, beautiful sylph. Tara, now the Queen, is insanely jealous of her husband's desire for Maya, but must tolerate it, as must Jai, as it is a culturally accepted way of life. Unfortunately, when the Raj discovers that Maya and Jai are still in love, all hell breaks loose, and the piper must be paid.
This is a wonderful film of a woman's journey to find herself within culturally imposed constraints. It is a tale of the vicissitudes of life that leave imprints on one's journey. Told in the context of carnal love and desire, it also tells of a love sublime. This is essentially a woman's film, sensuous and erotic in its imagery, a veritable sumptuous feast for the senses. While there is some nudity in the film, it is tastefully and beautifully filmed, as well as highly erotic.
Indira Varma, in what is her screen debut, is sensational as the entrancing Maya, imbuing her with an impishness, as well as with a sinuous and provocative sensuality. Sarita Choudry, of "Mississippi Masala" fame, is excellent as the beautiful and exotic Tara, who appears to be relegated to a life of frigidity and jealousy. Rekha, the well known and exquisitely beautiful Indian actress, is hypnotic as Rasa Devi, teacher of the Kama Sutra. Naveen Andrews gives a good performance as the debauched Raj, and Ramon Tikarum is compelling as the conflicted artist. They both, however, take a backseat to the women in the film.
Filmed on location in India, this is a film that should be watched for its sheer beauty. Bravo!
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions