Finding Vatsyana

Debarati Palit Singh
Saturday, 2 June 2018

TV-web series writer and documentary director Jaya Misra talks about her first book Kama: The story of the Kama Sutra, and why she was fascinated by Vatsyana

Say Kama Sutra and all we can think is sex and sexual positions. But TV-web series writer and documentary director, Jaya Misra, who turned author with Kama: The Story of the Kama Sutra, tells us, “The book is not so much about sex as about philosophy of life and the enigma of love. It has pointers on how to live a very genteel and good life.” 

Misra is fascinated with Kama Sutra as a reader. “I am an avid reader and fascinated by history and art. I had read a lot about Kama Sutra and every time I read a new version of it, I would think about the man who penned it. I was intrigued with Vatsyana’s life.” 

The book, which has been released by Om Books International, is a fictional story about Vatsyana writing the Kama Sutra. “Two thousand years ago, around post-vedic era, when people were saying, ‘women can’t have orgasm’, here was a man who was thinking about female pleasure. I started researching on him and realised that not much is known about him.” 

As a writer, it meant that the field of creativity was open for Misra. “I could write whatever I had imagined and felt about him — how did he get hold of the seven erotic positions, how did he write his book etc. Many people say that he was a celibate. But I believe that while he was writing the book, he must have been a celibate. Otherwise he must have loved a lot of women and gone through heart breaks. I also think Vatsyana was witty. In his book, he hasn’t written about any kings and given salutation to any important people. That was usually done by writers so that you could put them in a time zone. Thus it was difficult to find out in which period Vatsyana wrote Kama Sutra.” 

Misra has put together all the mythological stories that one has heard about that period, about men and their desire to be connected with divinity and used contemporary storytelling. The book has been designed by Pune artist Harshvardhan Kadam. 

Set in 273 AD, in a land fraught with war and unrest, Kama... is the story of a catastrophic day in a writer-artist’s life that sets him off on a journey unto himself, beyond the boundaries of love, family and betrayal. “Since it was difficult to put a date on him, I decided to create an era which is not written about. I took history of a period which is 100 years before the Gupta period,” she says. 

Misra, who has worked with Ekta Kapoor on her web series, Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain and several other projects, says that she did background research on the book for almost six months. “I went to Varanasi and spoke to this professor who is an expert on Kalidas. Kalidas came 700-800 years after Vatsyana, but I decided to take the lyrical quality of Kalidas’ work and base the background around that era. I also met Prithvi Kumar Agrawala who has written The Unknown Kama Sutras, in which he says Kamas (erotic text) existed from the Rig Ved period. I also researched a lot on ancient Varanasi through its heritage sites.” The author also went to Khajuraho, even though the site came up much later, because she wanted to see the temples. 

Kama: The Story of the Kama Sutra was recently launched by Bollywood personalities like Arshad Warsi, Ekta Kapoor and Kabir Khan. The event was hosted by Mini Mathur and it was attended by Sandya Mridul, Mandira Bedi, Gul Panag, Roshan Abbas, Maria Goretti and Manu Joseph.

Misra is happy with the response she has received from her industry. friends. “Their reactions were so positive,” she says before signing off.

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