Sawnet - Cinema - Reviews
Directed by Mira Nair
gut reaction was mixed. One part of me wanted to like
it a lot for the fact that I had finally seen an Indian made movie
was sensual and erotic more so than the usual sexual themes. I loved
the richness of the costumes, incredible scenery in Madhya Pradesh and
Rajasthan and the photography of the movie. Another part of me,
that considering this is an international movie, what would
think of this movie? Would I have to defend the story against another
set of stereotypes (elephants, opium, women as objects of desire,
you have to watch the movie to understand some of these.)
I do think the
characters both female and male needed more depth. Mira left a lot of
the characterization (in my opinion) to the audience. I do think that
some of the characters were manipulative and I didn't think that it
mattered so much that they were manipulative but I would have liked
to strengthen the reasons. The film initially showed the two female
characters when they were young and didn't detail enough of their
to justify some of the actions that later develop the plot of the
Going back to the sexuality in this movie. There are some explicit
scenes in this movie and I personally thought that it was well made
intriguing. Another part of me was partly shocked and partly
When I asked myself why, the only thing that keeps coming back is the
fact that I have been more exposed to western erotica than eastern and
quite frankly, I am not used to it. Even though I saw Mississippi
Masala, Bhaji on the Beach, I didn't think that these movies
tried to portray this type of direct sensuality.
I don't think this movie is meant to be a factual,
historical piece. I think it is a screenplay set in the 16th century
Mira has taken liberties to portray her characters in a sensual but
revengeful way to show that love brings out the best and worst of
I think we need
more balanced portrayal of sexuality in both mainstream western movies
and Indian movies. I do think that a lot of Indian movies are
crude and violent when portraying women's sexuality (any Bollywood
showing wedding nights and rape scenes are good examples of this). I
disagree that this movie didn't portray "good" sexual expression. I
think it showed a range of sexual behavior that puts you as the
in a position to determine what is good vs. not-so good.
I just saw
the movie Kama Sutra by Mira Nair. It was extremely
disturbing to me. It through off my perception of reality, fantasy,
feminism, sexuality, everything! I was left utterly confused by it,
since I was looking so very forward to it. It took place at a time
the Kama Sutra was in practice. The women competed for the attention
men, were manipulative & insecure, and basically defined themselves by
how they were viewed by men. It was tough movie to sit through. I know
this kind of stuff still goes on, but the *degree* was absurd. It was
taken to the extreme. I didn't know what to feel about it, since it's
possible that this is simply a historical piece and we are just shown
the way it used to be. The theater was packed. And I wondered, if
would start thinking even more that South Asian women are passive,
insecure, etc. There were also many South Asian men in the theater.
this encourage them more than ever to treat women as sex objects? Why
would a woman make this movie? A friend said, it's only a movie,
the big deal? I guess, to me, it was the voice of an South Asian woman
Western world. I have seen Mira's Salaam Bombay. I thought it was
incredible work and wanted the whole world to see it. I have seen her
Missisippi Masala & Perez Family too. Although I didn't totally love
movies, I was content in knowing that an Indian woman is making movies
that are viewed internationally. I am not putting the responsibility
her to represent *the* South Asian woman, but I certainly didn't
betrayed by 'my own'. Also, I want to clarify that I don't get
by sexually explicit literature or films. In fact, I didn't consider
this movie to be all that erotic. It was a regular old story of
forbidden love with some nudity. There was a 30sec 'lesbian' scene,
hardly meant for women. Overall I think Kama Sutra was made for the
pleasure of the sexually starved/oppressed Indian man. I had expected
celebration of South Asian women's sexuality but it was simply a
'Showgirls', Indian style.
-- Farah Nousheen
starts off well with pretty shots of two children
swimming, and one waits eagerly but is likely to be disappointed.
The plot is predictable, and except for the 16th-century Indian
setting, the movie is conventional. You won't even pick up any
good sex tips, unless you wish to entertain your lover with
phrases like 'Twining of the Creeper'.
I enjoyed the 'Indianness' (quotes intentional) of the film
-- all those lovely colours and outfits and jewellery, the
glorious tropical sun, the music, wonderful Rajasthani forts,
and acres of luscious brown skin. But just showing beautiful
men and women in beautiful locales does not make a good
film. Plot, character development & dialogue are unfortunate
The plot was thin and derived. And the dialogue: I can't remember
when I've heard such bad lines. I would have enjoyed the movie more
if it had been in Hindi -- melodramatic lines like 'She is my lotus
woman' somehow sound better in other languages. Occasionally the
characters came out with amazingly modern ideas like 'I don't sculpt
by committee', or wonderful little analyses of their own feelings
that sounded like they'd just come from their psychotherapists.
The rest of the time it was cliched one-liners like "You are
your father's property, and then you become your husband's".
The sex scenes left me cold, probably because any possible
mood buildup had been destroyed by the platitudes pouring out
of the actor's mouths. Like much of the movie, they were
beautiful (rose petals, torchlight, jewellery etc.) but
not erotic. About halfway through the movie I got bored
and was wondering how many more monotonous cycles of sex/talk/sex
there were to go, but the Shah's appearance livened things
up. (Isn't that a sad commentary on a film, that war is more
interesting than sex? :-))
Mira Nair said in an interview that she had not thought about
showing male or female nudity specifically, that 'you see what
I want you to see'. A rather disingenuous statement, since there
is plenty of female nudity, full frontal and all, but nary a
glimpse of the male equivalent. Surely an articulate woman
director is not that naive?
Judging from the interviews, her 'vision' was far more complex
than she was able to portray in the film. She talked of 'radical
ideas in historical literature', but women using their bodies for
power is hardly radical, and the principles of how to please
a man are explored regularly in women's magazines today. She sneers at
Bollywood, but the film had lots of classic Hindi-movie bits, like
loss of virginity being pointedly demonstrated by large bloodstains
on the sheets, or a woman dramatically wiping the tikka off her
forehead when her husband dies. And a bizarre hair-cutting scene
near the end, which is meant to be heavily significant but is
merely bewildering. (Altogether, Sholay is much better on the drama.)
Rekha and Naveen Andrews thoroughly enjoyed themselves hamming
it up. Rekha was stunning as always, and brought some dignity
to the film. Sarita Chowdhary had no role -- she was offscreen for a
chunk of the film, and the rest of the time she had to be either
resentful or miserable. Indira Verma was clearly the star, but she
would have been better without having to spout those awful lines.
Ramon Tikaram played his part completely straightfaced, which
made it hard to take him seriously.
But all of them looked good.
-- Susan Chacko
I saw "Kama
Sutra" with two Caucasian American female co-workers last
night. We all got a good deal of enjoyment out of it, and came away
with surprisingly similar thoughts about it. We all thought the movie
was a visual treat - beautiful scenes and beautiful people, much like
everybody else's opinion, with no great character or plot development.
None of us thought it very erotic either, and at least the two
colleagues that I went with didn't "exoticize" the movie in any way.
can safely attribute most of my enjoyment of this film to previous
SAWNET reviews of it which totally prepared me for the
story line. The other factor was my draining day at work which made
crave something visually but not physically or emotionally
It was a good way to unwind. Also, my fears that a movie of this
would create this impression of Indian women as "sex goddess / love
slave" types were laid to rest. I'm fairly certain that none of my
non-Indian friends would use this movie as part of their database for
impressions of India and Indians.
-- Jayshree Aiyar
What was Mira Nair thinking? Talk about exploitation of one's
It was a terrible movie. In Mira Nair's own words, the original
she got the idea from lasts for the first 10 mins of the flick. Well
folks, get up and leave after that.
[Other than stunning jewellery and
clothes, and hunky Indians there is nothing, nada, kuch nahin, nyet,
non in the flick.
I stayed thru the flick by concentrating on the colors,
clothes. I couldn't believe how long it was taking and looked at my
watch at least 10 times. Was too scared to get up from my center seat.
Also, did you see the look on Navin Andrews face. He simply
couldn't believe what he was doing in the movie. Also, Mira Nair
claimed that the two women characters were equally strong. Ha. I
she and I were at different movies.
I finally figured out the movie about three quarter's into it. It
wasn't a movie about India, Indians, the Kama Sutra, our culture, or
anything Indian. It was a bunch of people who looked Indian, wore
century Indian clothes, and fabulous jewellery (OK I'm fixated on
jewellery) and were in a country that looked Indian. It all made
After the movie got over, a white woman responding to my
horrified outburst said that it was like Danielle Steel in a sari.
-- Sonya Pelia
I guess I didn't get shocked/horrified/angered etc., but rather
(though I grant the gorgeous photography, gorgeous costumes,
scenes,beautiful dance choreographies, parts). And no, the English in
accent didn't bother me, what bothered me was the insertion of
Indian comments. The King's eunuch sees Maya and says 'Aare vah !'
drop these exotic pretensions and have him say 'Oh wow !' But parts
movie struck me as totally idiotic. I mean, why the heck call it Kama
? What was Kama Sutra about it except Rekha's lectures on it ? And
pretension of having one white haired old woman in every single
scene ! What's the message ? Indian women obsess about pleasing their
till the day they die ? Anyway, there wasn't a single technique which
been shown in any darn X-rated movies anywhere--toe-sucking, kissing
over punctuated with bites--groaaan !
And nobody seems to notice that Tara had actually been taught
since she was a kid. Guess she had 'exam blues' on her wedding night,
had to be re-tutored ! The only part that offended me was the scene
Tara and Maya. I have a strong aversion to lesbian sex being shown as
something cutesy to stimulate the male appetite--that its something
are supposed to do to excite their EVENTUAL male partners. And
like 'he'll know a woman made this marks and it'll excite him' want
me smack 'em both.
The overwhelming feeling at the end of the movie was 'So bloody
what ?' Why
call it 'Kama Sutra', why not just---I don't know---'Mayavati' or
Strip it down to the bare bones: A woman seduces her mistress's
king for revenge, gets into trouble, falls in love with another man,
misunderstading with him, joins the king's harem, re-ignites affair
ex-lover, king finds out--tragedy ! What, exactly, was KS's role? The
was obsessed with her before she learned KS. Her scenes with the
(I'm terrible with names) before and after KS weren't that different.
there is exactly NO higher philosophy in the actual Kama Sutra, it is
exactly what it claims to be. A book on sex-techniques, some
chapters like 'how to seduce your worst enemy's wife', practical
dress, food, walking, playing hard-to-get, how to get gifts out of
lover, etc (I've tried the last. doesn't necessarily work !). So this
about Maya somehow achieving a higher plain of self-realization
is--well, totally pretentious. And how come there weren't any men
the KS ? The actual book is FULL of instructions to MEN on how to
their women ! Also, all those lovely naked women, and not one single
penis shown in the entire movie. Hmmm !
-- Bisakha Sen
Film description: Inspired by Wajeda Tabassum's short story Utaran (Hand-Me-Downs), Kama Sutra is the story of a princess and a maid and a king and a sculptor, who share each other's beds in various combinations. Exotic and erotic.
Amy Laly in
the Seattle Examiner.
Maslin in the New York Times.
Peary in Phoenix.
Rhodes in rec.arts.movies.reviews.
Hartl in the Seattle Examiner
Renshaw in rec.arts.movies.reviews
Girls on Film
Utaran and Kama Sutra, by Abha Varma at kahany.com.
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