Mira Nair directs an erotic Indian film not about the Kama Sutra, but a story of love, hate and betrayal, in which the characters — especially the protagonist — are well-taught in the “art” of the Kama Sutra.A childhood rivalry sets the scene, between a plain yet respected peasant girl and the daughter of royalty who fails at all forms of self-imposed competition. That is, at least, until years later when she marries the king of a nearby province. In a breaking point, the Plain Jane (or Plain Rajah) in an act of oneupsmanship, sleeps with the king on the night of his wedding. Outcast, she moves to another village where she falls in love with a stone carver. Their harmony is interrupted with time as well, with doubts of love and fidelity, and an intersecting rivalry that comes up when the king searches her out. (His wife on the other hand, is reduced to a harem of courtesans.) Kama Sutra is nicely filmed, if not rather banal and dully scripted. The cinematography at times goes too far to conceal the scenes of learnèd intercourse, at least on behalf of the men. (One wonders what caused female director Nair to wimp out when she goes all the way with the women.) Still, on brief occasions, the sexuality is able to transcend the screen, but that is the only sense where it applies. The rifts and rivalries are all too platitudinous and overplayed to cover new ground or unearth anything worth better exploring. Tedium still sets its stakes out too early to prevent the glossy exteriors from glazing over into monotony, despite the pulchritudinous Indira Varma.
With Ramon Tikaram, Naveen Andrews, and Rekha.[See it if you must.]