Many thanks once again to the wonderful resource Open Culture for the alert to this amazing animation film, “Sita Sings the Blues.” This film, publicly available under a Creative Commons license, mingles the Indian myth The Ramayana with contemporary events. The animation by Nina Paley (a self-taught animator) is mesmerizing.
The film is 82 minutes long, but if you can at least watch five minutes, you’ll get a sense of the range of the animation skills displayed and the rich palette of colors and music that characterize the film. (Then skip ahead to the one hour mark to see some of the contemporary scenes used to help illustrate the story.)
Paley has explained why she intermixes the American blues songs of Annette Hanshaw with Indian music in the film: “The songs themselves inspired the film. There would be no film without those songs. Until I heard them, the Ramayana was just another ancient Indian epic to me. I was feebly connecting this ancient epic to my own experiences in 2002. But the Hanshaw songs were a revelation: Sita’s story has been told a million times not just in India, not just through the Ramayana, but also through American Blues. Hers is a story so primal, so basic to human experience, it has been told by people who never heard of the Ramayana. … The story of the Ramayana transcends time, place and culture.”
And what is the story of Ramayana? Paley writes on her blog: “Sita is a goddess/princess/woman utterly devoted to her husband Rama, the god/prince/man. Sita’s story moves from total enmeshment and romantic joy (“Here We Are,” “What Wouldn’t I Do For That Man”) to hopeful longing separation (“Daddy Won’t You Please Come Home”) to reunion (“Who’s That Knockin’ At My Door”) to romantic rejection (“Mean to Me”) to reconciliation (“If You Want the Rainbow”) to further rejection (“Moanin’ Low,” “Am I Blue”) to hopeless longing (“Lover Come Back to Me,”) back to love – this time self-love (“I’ve Got a Feelin’ I’m Fallin'”).” Highly recommended! You can watch it here or here.