You may be familiar with the Ramayana and its characters, but chances are you haven’t seen it presented in such a vibrant and original avatar as the animation film, Sita Sings The Blues.
Told from a distinctly feminist perspective, this film recounts many incidents from the epic including Lord Ram’s exile to the forest, the abduction of his wife Sita by Ravan, the role of Hanuman in Sita’s return to safety, and the test of purity Lord Ram put his wife through on her return.
Sita, the film’s protagonist, is sketched as a curvaceous princess who breaks into exciting musical numbers every now and then. Using the vocal stylings of 1920s jazz artiste Annette Hanshaw, the film gives Sita some great tracks to express herself through.
Running parallel to the unfolding Ramayana, is the film’s director Nina Paley’s semi-autobiographical story which begins in San Francisco. American couple Nina and Dave are young and in love. When Dave must take a temporary job in India, Nina misses him bitterly and flies off to join him there. He dumps her subsequently. Over an email.
Nina is shattered and can’t make sense of her life. Until she picks up the Ramayana one day, and finds inspiration in Sita’s story – which she discovers has so much in common with her own. She moves to the East Coast, settles into a home in Brooklyn and works long and hard for five years to create this film on her computer.
Filled with witty dialogue, especially the clever narration by three shadow puppets, this film is engaging and enjoyable because of the humour it finds in the unlikliest of places. The animation, although it’s simple 2D, works well here and is used innovatively to its best potential.
Taking us around the world in what is a wildly visual spectacle, Sita Sings The Blues is really a personal story at its core, even if Paley forges a bond of sisterhood that traverses time and place.
Don’t look for the film on DVD because it’s unlikely you’ll find it there. It’s actually available to download on the Internet, and it’s totally legal too. In a move to promote artistic freedom and more loose copyright restrictions, Paley decided to release the film herself, online, for free.
Her objective behind this was to reach out to as many people as were interested in watching the film. So if you’ve got a fast internet connection, log on to www.sitasingstheblues.com and discover this wonderful film; and the director says anyone who enjoys the film and wants to contribute towards the costs she incurred making it is invited to make a donation.
That’s entirely up to you. Just don’t miss the film.