Sita Sings the Blues

Sita Sings the Blues is such a refreshing discovery for me. Animated by a woman who was bitter over the termination of a long relationship, she delved into the mystery of Ramayana, an Indian epic about a rejected and tortured woman named Sita. As is evidenced by this film, Indian epics and folklore are stories that can be told in multiple ways and thus there is inherent mysticism to them. Instead of hiding the multiple interpretations, she showcases them by switching from many different animation styles. She also tells the story by way of narration by three native Indians who can’t seem to remember certain details no matter how they discuss it, by the songs of Annette Hanshaw, a cabaret singer in the twenties and thirties and contrasting it with her modern interruption of the story. This would not be an easy thing to pull off and she seems to blend every change in narrative and animation seamlessly. The version of Sita singing is dramatic with big breasts and a very tiny waist, but the narration by the shadow puppets, both Sita and Rama are seen in more traditional terms. The third story is told in simple, crude animation known as squigglevision (not as pronounced as a Dr. Katz, but it does bare comparisons). The resultant film is quite beautiful.

Due to copyrighting issues that Ms. Nina Paley had to go through due to her extensive use of Annette Hanshaw, she decided to put up the whole film on youtube for free. She has also become an advocate for Copyright rights and is extremely outspoken about her ideals. However if I had to pay for the film, I would have done so quickly and without regret. It was a wonder to see and I hope that she continues to work in the animation field bringing her unique voice to independent animation (such a hard thing to pull off, even in today’s more affordable industry).


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