Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom/India/USA/Germany/Japan, 1996. NDF International, Pony Canyon, Pandora Filmproduktion, Channel Four Films, Mirabai Films. Screenplay by Helena Kriel, Mira Nair, based on the story Hand Me Downs by Wajida Tabassuh. Cinematography by Declan Quinn. Produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher, Mira Nair. Music by Mychael Danna. Production Design by Mark Friedberg. Costume Design by Eduardo Castro. Film Editing by Kristina Boden. Independent Spirit Awards 1997. Toronto International Film Festival 1996.
Sumptuously photographed but emotionally flat love story based in Indian folklore. A servant girl named Maya is brought up in the house of princess Tara until she is rejected by her mistress (Sarita Choudhury) when Tara’s new prince husband (Naveen Andrews) has sex with Maya on their wedding night. Having to fend for herself, Maya goes and lives with a teacher of love who instructs girls on the art of the Kama Sutra. While there she meets the man to whom her heart will be bound, but because this is an ancient folk tale, it will all end in tragedy. Mira Nair photographs everything with rich colours and passionate exuberance, but her story is far too familiar to even raise an eyebrow, and the many scenes of eroticism don’t help any. A huge controversy when released in southeast Asia, the film is now hardly more than a distracting, soft-core video rental.