Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ramayana Lite

I recently stumbled across one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. I am fascinated by it and keep going back to watch sections of it on YouTube.

Sita Sings the Blues is a personalized retelling of the Ramayana, one of the great sanskrit epics, the twin tale of the Mahabarata. The movie is subtitled The Greatest Breakup Story Every Told. Nina Paley took inspiration from this ancient tale, the breakup of her own marriage and the songs of Annette Hanshaw. She created this stunning interweaving of animation styles, ad lib interview, storytelling and music. The animation alone is inventive and beautiful work, fascinating to watch and sheer delight. The integration of Annette Hanshaw's music is exceptionally clever, but manages never to feel strained. And for westerner's like me, this Ramayana lite is an easy way to be introduced to this ancient and profound tale.

It's about 1:20 long, but worth every bit of it. If you want to take it in chunks, it is also available on YouTube broken into 10 sections. I warn you...they are like potato chips. You may not be able to stop once you start.

As you might imagine, there are many detractors of this film. Because of it was made by a white american woman who is not Hindu, and because it takes a light tone regarding some things that many Hindus feel are very sacred, it treads some difficult ground. As a westerner, I can see where Ms. Paley actually was working out of a real reverence for the material, but her way of honoring it is to personalize it. She makes it very clear also that she is really focusing on the role of Sita, and developing her concept of Sita's side of the tale. In the actual sanskrit story, Sita's role is very small -- almost a side note -- compared to that of Raman.

The idea of honoring a story by personalizing it is a very western concept. I get it, but I can see why some of her critics might not. Regardless, I would encourage everyone to see this.

1 comment:

solarblogger said...

Thanks for the link. I did a readings course in Hinduism when I was in seminary. I really enjoyed the epics. It reminded me of reading Greek Mythology when I was a child, and always having a favorite character. I later realized that one of the Twilight Zone episodes was based on the story in the Mahabharata where King Yudhistara would not leave his dog to enter heaven.