Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues

Ramayana has never been told like how it is told in "Sita Sings the Blues," a visually masterful animated film that not only shows the legendary Indian figure and his wife, but also puts it in modern context and adds very sharp narration. Nina Paley has done two previous shorts, but this is her first feature film, where she does practically everything.

Going for greatness straight out of the gates, she does very well. She supplements her story with Annette Hanshaw's eerily perfect music and with extreme visuals where she goes way over the top and is successful. The story itself is enough to drive a movie, but fortunately she sees the full, fascinating potential. Rama (Debargo Sanyal) is almost crowned king, but is kicked out for 14 long years. His love, Sita (Reena Shah) comes with him to the forrest where, at least for a while, they share a happy existence. Everything is utterly ruined by Ravana (Sanjiv Jhaveri), who lusts after Sita from the minute he sees her and steals her away from Rama, deeply saddening him. Hanuman (Aladdin Ullah), a monkey of some sort, offers to find Sita. He does, but he does not bring her back. Our strategists (Bhavana Nagulapally, Manish Acharya, and Aseem Chhabra) believe this is the mistake that made all the troubles begin. Although Rama fights a war to perish Ravana (with help from the monkeys), he believes Sita to be impure and shuns her now repeatedly.

Sita sings her troubles frequently, voiced by Hanshaw and by a different type of animation than that that is used for the more important scenes. Although this at times can be a little too much, it adds a twist that is very interesting, and the film wouldn't be the same without it. At the same time, Paley also looks back apparently her own past relationship with Dave (also Jhaveri), who gets a job in India and slowly begins to separate from her. The parallels that she establishes between her life and the story she eventually finds, Ramayana, are skillful. This shows that Paley has got a mind for details. "Sita Sings the Blues" is a fascinating, bizarre, and crafty piece of animation. Paley has a magnificent imagination, and if this is any sign, her next film will be a delight. A
Note: You can view the film online here:


Literary Dreamer said...

Thanks for providing a link! I'll be sure to check this movie out over the weekend.

S. M. Rana said...

Certainly a great film, breathing fresh life into an ancient scripture-and what art-work, both streams of narrative!