To find a film like this from the s, made by a man, would be one thing; to find it made in by Mira Nair is more startling. Nothing in her previous work the great film "Salaam Bombay! The heroine is a servant girl named Maya Indira Varma , who has always lived in the shadow of her childhood friend, the well-born Princess Tara Sarita Choudhury , from "Mississippi Masala''. When Tara is betrothed to the king, Raj Singh Naveen Andrews , Maya slips into his chamber on the night before the wedding and seduces him. The next day she taunts her rival: "All my life I have lived with your used things.
Two female friends become sexual rivals at maturity. Maya : Knowing love, I can allow all things to come and go, to be as supple as the wind and to face all things with great courage. My heart is a open as the sky.
In 16th-century India , Tara is a princess while Maya is her beautiful servant. They are best friends, but there is an undercurrent of jealousy and resentment, symbolised by the fact that Maya is given Tara's hand-me-down clothes and never anything new to wear. As the girls approach marriageable age, Tara resents that Maya is a better classical dancer than she is and that her parents and hunchback brother, Prince Bikram aka "Biki" show affection for her servant. Tara is prepared to marry Prince Raj Singh, but when the prince comes to view his future wife, he is instantly infatuated with Maya instead. Noticing this, Tara spits in Maya's face and sends her from the wedding in tears.