Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sita sings the Blues

All the recent Diwali hullabaloo got me thinking about the reason Indians celebrate it, which of course brings me to the great Indian epic, The Ramayana! There have been many many versions of this story, but I think none as controversial as this one by animator Nina Paley, called "Sita Sings The Blues". SSTB is a musical, animated personal interpretation of the Ramayana. Nina's marriage to her husband Dave fell apart, and retelling the story of Rama and Sita was a sort of cathrsis for her. The aspect she has focussed on is the relationship between Rama and Sita, and Nina is very clear about emphasizing that this is HER Ramayana and not THE Ramayana!

This is a brief synopsis:

"Sita is a Hindu goddess, the leading lady of India’s epic the Ramayana and a dutiful wife who follows her husband Rama on a 14 year exile to a forest, only to be kidnapped by an evil king from Sri Lanka.  Despite remaining faithful to her husband, Sita is put through many tests. Nina (the filmmaker Nina Paley herself) is an artist who finds parallels in Sita’s life when her husband – in India on a work project - decides to break up the marriage and dump her via email. Three hilarious Indonesian shadow puppets with Indian accents – linking the popularity of the Ramayana from India all the way to the Far East - narrate both the ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the epic."

In her first feature length film, Paley juxtaposes multiple narrative and visual styles to create a highly entertaining yet moving vision of the Ramayana. Musical numbers choreographed to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw feature a cast of hundreds: flying monkeys, evil monsters, gods, goddesses, warriors, sages, and winged eyeballs. A tale of truth, justice and a woman’s cry for equal treatment. Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

Interestingly Nina Paley has not copyrighted any of her material, the film, the prints, the images and has made them all freely available. So if you have the interest and the time - 1hr 21mins 32 secs - to watch it, you can do so here! I have only watched the trailer and that was enough to pique my curiosity. I will be watching the entire film one day. But be warned - this film is so different from any version of Ramayana you may have read - many have found it irreverent and bawdy, some have criticized it as lacking in any kind of authenticity, while others have found it funny, beautiful, clever and touching! You can decide for yourself. 

Here are some stills from the movie:
Ram, Hanuman and Sita

 Blue landscape
 Hanuman burns Lanka
 Rama and his army
 Rama exiles Sita
 Ram shoots demons
 Ram, Sita and the Gods
 Ravana and Sita in the chariot
 Sita and Laxman with the chariot
 Ram and Sita in the forest

I have always been a fan of animation, and whatever emotions the movie may stir up in its viewers, good or bad, I have to admire the vivid imagery and color of the animated movie. 


Laura said...

How cute! I'd seen stills and icons made from that online, but I never knew what they were from. Thanks :)

purplehomes said...

interesting...at a certain level I completely agree with her...the story as we know it does tell us that Rama did put his wife through many tests and believed people more than his own wife. I wonder if he would have been asked to prove his loyalty had he been in Sita's place. Centuries later the same still hold true...sad. Will be definitely watching the movie...v soon. Thanks for this post.

GB said...

I'll sit with a bag of (virtual) popcorn tonight! I love a good drama! and any elements of humor (my kind--NOT the "govinda" kind) are an added plus. I'd love to compare notes.........

PreeOccupied said...

Sita is so cute! Though I am not a big fan of the lady. For me Draupadi had more character and roundness. Sita anyway is quite muted as a character.

Love the colors in the pictures. What vivid imagination of the animation artist/s.

Sudha said...

the illustrations are so cute...and nice post Kamini..:)

Sound Horn Please said...

I've seen the movie and loved it! Isn't she talented? I loved her illustrations- her big hipped Sita made me smile :) As a part of the movie release, her artwork was for sale here at NYC. I was really wishing I could get my hands on some!

Anonymous said...

Watched it dozens of times and enjoyed it on so many levels. My guess is that it was controversial in India for the same reasons that a few decades ago Silsila didn't go down well or in more recent times the S.Khan and Rani M. movie (she falls in love with a ghost who's managed to take on her husband's form) didn't do well while but I like most women loved that Bollywood went there with the plot.