Thinking through the Body of Maya: Somaesthetic Frames from Mira Nair’s Kamasutra

in Aesthetic Experience and Somaesthetics
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The paper reads Mira Nair’s Kamasutra: A Tale of Love (1996) against the backdrop of the ancient Indian treatise on the Art of Love, Kama Sutra by Sage Vatsyayan and of Shusterman’s somaesthetic discourse as obtains in Performing Live (2000), Body Consciousness (2008), and Thinking through the Body (2012). It traces the life of the courtesan, Maya, in a series of 12 narrative frames. It begins with her being prepared for the life of a courtesan and moves through her education at the feet of Rasadevi; through the encounter with the Master Sculptor, Jai Kumar; her revenge against Princess Tara; the education of Tara and, finally, Maya’s withdrawal from the world of action. Between the first frame, where Maya is prone on her Aunt’s legs, to the final frame of withdrawal is the discourse about the Lotus Woman, Padmini, who is the most desirable of women as she is the apotheosis of somaesthetic perfection according to the Kama Sutra.2

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