“There I was, an American in 2002, reliving an Indian story from at least 500BC”, says Nina Paley who calls herself ‘America’s best loved, unknown cartoonist’, and now director-producer of Sita Sings the Blues.
Sita Sings the Blues had world premiere as official selection at at Berlinale on Feb 11-14, 2008. The festival is on till Feb 17, 2008. 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 is an artist who finds parallels in Sita’s life when her husband – in India on a work project – decides to break up their 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 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. We have a video for you to get a glimpse of Sita Sings the Blues (shown below).
Nina shares, “I came to love Sita for her courage and purity. How can I say this ‘doormat’ is courageous? Because, unlike me, she never fears her own heart. Sita never apologizes for loving Rama, no matter what he does. Paradoxically, by loving Rama she defies him. Meanwhile, I was left with only questions about the end of my own marriage.
The Ramayana doesn’t answer these questions. It is as mysterious and ambiguous as life itself, which is why I came to love it so much. We never really know why Rama banishes Sita. Common interpretations resemble rationalizations and apologies: Rama had to abuse Sita to maintain the traditional order of his kingdom, in which the opinion of the lowliest man ranked higher than the life of any woman. As literature, Rama’s behavior towards Sita makes no sense…except it’s so realistic. It is the Ramayana’s ambiguities that make it so compelling.”