There are chances that Mira Nair doesn’t know who Kanti Shah is. There are also chances that if Mira Nair reads this article, she’ll guffaw and shake her head at the very notion of her name and Kanti Shah’s name being taken in the same sentence. But Bollywood being what it is, Kanti Shah once made a film named Kamjwala, that was completely based on Kamasutra. It’s another matter that Mira Nair’s film was highly controversial and heavily censored and nobody did a pipsqueak about Kanti Shah’s Kamjwala. So, without further ado, here’s what her Kamjwala was all about.
Kamjwala is the story of two women who have grown up together, one a daughter of the King and another her servant – or dasi. The two are good friends while growing up, but there is always that thing about one being a servant and the other being a princess. The princess is soon married off, but before the wedding ceremony, the prince is enamored with the servant and has sexual intercourse with her. Basically, Kaamjwala is faithful to the original Kamasutra but changes track when it wants to bring it to a mainstream end.
Let’s get it out there – the film’s a badly cobbled together script for Sapna to strut about in skimpy, medieval dresses that reveal more than all the scenes in the original Kamasutra – apart from the actual sexual intercourse scenes.
Kanti Shah knows what his USP is every other scene has Sapna in various stages of undress. The executive producer (if there was one) leaves things such as AC ducts, processed glass, mechanical clocks, wrought iron window frames in the frame – so it is difficult to say which century the film is set in.
What Kaamjwala doesn’t have is subtlety. While Nair took pains and the actors used acting chops to bring out aspects like feminine jealousy, class divide, misogny and such, Kaamjwala does it all with a background dialogue that tells the character’s thoughts. The teacher who teaches the art of Kamasutra literally moves about with a bound copy of the book that looks like it’s picked off the nearest stationery shop. The costumes are in all colours, but there are two similar factors – they are flashy and they are skimpy.
At SaamriCom, I usually stay way from smut cinema – simply because there’s so much it’d be impossible for one person to cover all of it, but Kaamjwala didn’t just interest me but intrigue me too. Here are two films based on the same concept – one of them never got a proper release in India because of frontal nudity.
While in Kaamjwala, Sapna is never fully clothed and her attire is more revealing than medieval. Kanti Shah has gone wild with this one, even the men are picturised in their ‘langots’. One of the scenes has Sapna partially nude, being massaged by a woman. Another scene has her make out with the female tutor who teaches her the Kamasutra. It’s amusing – and infuriating – as to how these scenes made the cut when these same ones caused controversy in another film. You can watch it over at YouTube: