Indian censors lay down the reel position on Kama Sutra

The film-maker Mina Nair (left) is rocking society with a production of the most famous sex-book that `empowers women', writes Jan McGirk in New Delhi

Indian censors are taking a variety of positions on the Kama Sutra. The film-maker Mira Nair, whose latest feature is inspired by the world's most venerable sex-book, says most of these would prove impossible for her. A special tribunal in Bombay will rule this week on Ms Nair's appeal against a ban on the uncut version of her film.

The review committee has called for the award-winning director to "delete sexuality" from her Kama Sutra - A Tale of Love, and specifies 14 explicit scenes that must be cut before Indian audiences would be allowed to see the film.

While battling to get her erotic vision passed by censors - who wanted only seven cuts after the initial viewing but recently doubled their list - Ms Nair has shown sneak previews of the English-language film to middle- class audiences in New Delhi and Bombay.(A Hindi version will also be released.)

In the cinema, there was utter silence as nude bodies writhed on-screen. Close-ups of naked women caressing each other, the noises of foreplay, full-frontal nudity, and obvious oral sex under the blankets seemed to stun a sophisticated group more accustomed to coy Hindi film conventions. Even on-screen kisses were rare until the last few years, and nubile bodies still tend to be draped in wet saris. Passion, usually mimed by dancing around trees or made melodramatic in hackneyed rape scenes, suddenly loomed large. "It was raw, and it did disturb me," said Amrita, a young film- buff eager to see the latest work by the director of the acclaimed Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala, "But there was nothing you could call raunchy."

Ms Nair said: "How do they expect us to have a nation with nearly a billion people without knowing about sex?" Educated in a Himalayan convent before attending Harvard and achieving international acclaim, the director is not oblivious to Indian sensibilities.

"It is absolute hypocrisy to say that India is not ready for this. It's just a visceral reaction to flesh. Sex that is repressed becomes taboo, pernicious, and twisted ...These women [in the film] empower themselves. It is a narrative tale of sexual politics, back before the Mughals came. I try to marry Eros with the divine."

Ms Nair, who already has an Indian distributor lined up, plans screenings across India for all-female audiences, all-male audiences, and for couples only. The idea emerged when women viewers in Bombay requested some cinema owners to ban men from afternoon showings of last year's controversial film Bandit Queen, by Shashi Kapoor. That film also suffered at the hands of the censors before being certified for distribution.

Kama Sutra, unlike the soft-porn Emmanuelle, which brought blue movies mainstream in the 1970s, is seen from a woman's point of view. The males are mostly insensitive brutes. A jealous servant girl winds up at a school for courtesans after she seduces her royal mistress's husband on the eve of the big wedding. Later she returns to give the spurned wife some pointers. Passionate, obsessive, selfish, and unrequited love - all are explored through this tale of rivalry. "Men generally feel threatened by this movie," Ms Nair said. "The women are so knowing." Ironically, a woman justice heads the censorship tribunal."I think she caught my wavelength," Ms Nair said."

Kama Sutra - a Tale of Love stars Rekha, a fortyish star who crossed over from the potboilers pumped out by India's "Bollywood", and casts her as a sexual maestro with provocative apprentices. It also introduces the beautiful Indira Verma as the plotting servant. After getting kudos in San Sebastian and Toronto, Ms Nair feared overexposure and withdrew the movie from the London film festival. It is due to premiere on Valentine's Day in the United States and should be in London cinemas by early spring.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat