Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love

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Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMira Nair
Produced byCaroline Baron
Lydia Dean Pilcher
Mira Nair
Written byMira Nair
Screenplay byMira Nair
Story byHelena Kriel
Mira Nair
Based on"Utran" by Wajida Tabassum
Music byMychael Danna
CinematographyDeclan Quinn
Edited byKristina Boden
Distributed byTrimark Pictures
Release date
  • 28 February 1997 (1997-02-28)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$300,000 (estimated)

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love is a 1996 Indian English-language historical romance film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Mira Nair. It takes its title from the ancient Indian text, the Kama Sutra and serves as a common link between the characters. The film stars Rekha, Indira Varma, and Naveen Andrews in pivotal roles.[1]

The plot takes its origin from a short story by Urdu author Wajida Tabassum titled "Utran" ("Hand-Me-Downs" or "Cast-Offs"). The portion of plot derived from "Utran" takes place from the film's beginning until the scene where Maya says: "Now something I have used is yours forever." After that the story is the screenwriter's creation.[2][better source needed] Declan Quinn won the 1998 Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography for his work in the film.[3] Kama Sutra was nominated for the Golden Seashell award at the 1996 San Sebastián International Film Festival and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.[4][5] The film generated controversy at the time of its release and was banned in India and Pakistan due to its erotic-theme and sexual content.[6][7] As of June 2018, the film's trailer has become the third most watched trailer on YouTube (behind Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and has been watched over 91 million times.[8]


Set in 16th century India, this movie depicts the story of two girls who were raised together, though they came from different social classes. Tara (Sarita Choudhury) is an upper-caste princess while Maya (Indira Varma) is her beautiful servant. They are best friends, but an undercurrent of jealousy and resentment is caused by Tara's haughtiness, symbolised by the fact that Maya is given Tara's hand-me-down clothes and never anything new to wear. As the girls approach marriageable age, Tara resents that Maya is a better classical dancer than she is and that her parents and hunchback brother, Prince Bikram (aka "Biki") show affection for her servant.

Tara is prepared to marry Prince Raj Singh (Naveen Andrews), and Maya is forced into the role of a servant at their wedding festival. When the prince comes to view his future wife, he is instantly infatuated with Maya instead. Noticing this, Tara spits in Maya's face, sending her from the wedding in tears. Maya takes revenge when she seeks out Raj sleeping alone, before he has completed the marriage rites with Tara. Maya has her first sexual experience with Raj but, unknown to both, Tara's brother, Prince "Biki", hides and watches the two of them.

Biki is crushed that his childhood infatuation has slept with his future brother-in-law but, at first, keeps the knowledge to himself. The wedding rites are completed the next day.

As Tara is leaving home as a newlywed, Maya tells her that just as Maya wore the princess's used clothes all her life, Tara will now have something Maya has used. During her wedding night, Tara, a sheltered virgin full of romantic dreams, is hesitant to consummate their relationship. This angers and sexually frustrates Raj, who rapes his horrified bride, even calling her Maya, setting a tone of violence and humiliation for the marriage. Despite this, Tara still yearns for a loving relationship with her indifferent husband.

To save Maya's honour, Biki sends a marriage proposal for her. When she refuses, he publicly brands her as a whore, and she is forced to leave her home. Wandering on her own, she meets a young stone sculptor, Jai Kumar (Ramon Tikaram) who works for Raj. He reveals that Maya has been the inspiration for his beautiful and highly erotic statues. Realising she has nowhere to stay, Jai takes her to an older woman named Rasa Devi (Rekha), who is a teacher of the Kama Sutra, the ancient art of seduction and love making. Maya begins an intense romantic and sexual relationship with Jai that is abruptly halted when he fears he might not be able to work properly with Maya consuming his thoughts. Rejected by her first real lover, Maya finds comfort with Rasa Devi, making the decision to learn the courtesan's art.

Raj, now the king, recognises the visage as Maya's in one of Jai's sculptures. He dispatches his attendants to find Maya; she is delivered to the king as his new courtesan. Soon after, Raj and Jai have a "friendly" wrestling competition. Jai wins. Jai gets the king's favour but is warned that there will be dire consequences if he defeats the king again. Jai then learns of Maya's new status as the favoured concubine. Jai understands that his king is a dangerous man and he must keep his former relationship with Maya a secret, for their mutual safety.

In the meantime, the threat of an invading Shah inches closer. As Raj descends deeper into opium addiction, sexual cruelty and debauchery, he becomes irresponsible with his duties as king. He insults Biki sexually and for being a hunchback. In retaliation, Biki writes a letter to the Shah to rid the kingdom of Raj, who now taxes the poor for his own perverted pleasure. Jai and Maya rekindle their passion and the two begin meeting in secret. As tensions between Jai and Raj grow, Maya and Jai exchange wedding vows in private. Raj later catches the two lovers together and sentences Jai to death.

After finding Tara in the midst of a suicide attempt, Maya reconciles with her childhood friend. Maya then teaches Tara how to seduce the king, while Tara promises to help Maya escape to visit Jai. However, when Tara goes to her husband, he recognises Maya's style of seduction and again tries to humiliate his wife. Finally free of her tormentor, Tara tells Raj that she doesn't even love him enough to hate him; she leaves.

Maya leaves the castle and visits Jai one last time. Telling Jai she is his forever, Maya hacks off her long hair, symbolising that she will be his widow. Maya then tries her best to convince Raj to free Jai by promising him her total surrender. But knowing he can't have her heart, Raj rejects her plea.

Just before the execution, a box arrives from the Shah, holding the severed head of Raj's brother, the grand vizier. Jai is deliberately crushed to death by an elephant while Maya watches from the crowd. Meanwhile, soldiers of the invading Shah take the king's palace. Maya walks away into the distance, meditating on her new spiritual freedom: "My heart is as open as the sky."


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seduction, A Skill That Gets Results
  2. ^ "Film citation - Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love". Cinefiles. University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archives. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  3. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1998-03-22). "Apostle Takes Top Honors at Independent Spirit Awards". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love". 28 February 1997 – via IMDb.
  6. ^ "9 films banned in India that you will really want to watch". India Today. Retrieved 2018-09-08.
  7. ^ "Movies that banned by Indian Censor Board, but viewers loved them". Daily Pakistan Global. Retrieved 2018-09-08.
  8. ^ "After Avengers and Star Wars, Kama Sutra trailer is the 3rd most watched in history of YouTube". Zee News. 2018-06-28. Retrieved 2018-09-08.

External links[edit]