Sita Sings The Blues
Sita Sings the Blues is a unique and magical animation which takes a mixture of different mediums and styles to bring this popular Indian story of Ramayana. This is a story about the Indian lord Rama, who is the seventh avatar of the Hindu God, Vishnu. The film joins the legend at the exile of the Prince Rama from his father's court due to the jealousy of his father's favourite. She schemes to get rid of Rama, so her younger son can become the heir to the throne instead of Rama. The scheming queen asks that Rama be banished from court; the king agrees due to owing the queen a favour for saving his life, so Rama is sent to live in the wild for 14 years. Rama’s beautiful and faithful wife Sita, also leaves so she can stay by her husband's side then a king named Ravana decides to kidnap Sita as he has heard about her radiant beauty. After kidnapping sita Rama has to go on a journey to save her from the King Ravana.
On his adventures he meets the monkey prince Hanuman who helped Rama find Ravana’s kingdom with the aid of the Hanuman’s monkey army. Rama rescued Sita and defeated Ravana in combat. He returns to his homeland with Sita, to find out that his father has died. Accordingly he is now king, but the only problem for these lovers is that Rama does not trust Sita's purity. She proved her purity by completing a test, which should have cleared her name, but after over hearing a subject talking about his honor for taken back an unfaithful wife, Rama banish Sita. She is now pregnant, but forced into the wilderness. Again Sita leaves heart broken and gives birth to twin boys who grow up to be spitting images of Rama proving again her faithfulness and purity.
Then Rama finds out he is their father, discovering this when hunting as he overhears the boys songs of adoration to their father. Rama investigating these songs of praise comes across Sita and her sons in their dwelling. Although happy to find out he has sons Rama still has doubts about Sita, devastated about the continued doubt of her love and devotion to him. She prays to the earth to swallow her as a final proof of her purity and devotion; her prays are answered by the gods who know that she is truly faithful and pure, leaving us with a bitter ending to such a magical story.
The film takes this story and employs a new and very unique look at it, as director Nina Paley has done something very bold with her creativity. Firstly, she made this film without any prior knowledge of animation which is highly impressive, in itself. Whilst also creating a very smart and unique story which has a personal touch both in art styles and plot as every facet of this film has been very carefully crafted and thought about and painstakingly created, and it shows.
As much as the film is a retelling of the story of Ramayana, it is also a look at the absurdity of some of the ideas in these old stories and the difference in versions of this story from place to place. The director does this by having scenes where three traditional styled Indian silhouette puppets discuss and give the audience expositions of what is happening in this very complex and layered story. This is done through lively improvised and unscripted discussion of their own thoughts on the epic of Ramayana. They add a unique insight into this story and how it varies from region to region in India and how the story is viewed by contemporary audience and how some of the themes and ideas and values which this story promotes are not that of a current day audience and are some what outdated. This shows one of the many concepts this film brings up which is the comparison of Modern and postmodern views and adds a strange contrast between ancient tragedy and how it is now become humours to a modern audience.
The film also takes a fresh view at the story which is to focus more on Sita and her plight through the story and how she is the true victim in all of this epic. This look at a female lead in any old text is a bold choice as it highlights issues in the princess’s methodology and how these stories tend to be creations of a patriarchal society; the views are that of days of old.
It also couples this perfectly with blues musical numbers, which creates this strange blend of flash animation and 1920s jazz vocals of Ann Hanshaw which are used to show Sita’s warped world in a very sweet way. As the visuals are very colorful and striking, but the coupling of the 1920s jazz love songs and Sita being unwittingly faithful to Rama paints a instant picture for the audience which is that of the doting princes and adds an element of sadness of her actions and the treatment of her.
This main character choice and use of the blues is another personal touch which helps build this film, but the true exercise of this film is that of a personal story of being abandoned by those you love. The director laces a element of a person experience of her boyfriend leaving her and her finding solace in this story Ramayana and the 1920s blues shows that this film and adaptation is that of a true piece of personal creation and self healing. This reflection of self and use of personal expression is what holds this film together, when the fact that this is a way of showing parallels between how the director felt and acted to that of Sita and how she feels a connection to this character. This is why we have been given this bold film and a little gem of animation; the elements that this film contains all complement each other perfectly and nothing feels out of place. The director is aware that the story of sita is outdated so the narration by the puppets keeps us the audience engaged as the narrator points out the absurdity of the film’s element and then with the mixture of the musical numbers and the flashes to the modern day, personal story of the director, we are given a film which is captivating from the get go.