Film Review: Sita Sings the Blues

In today’s times, everything ends up falling into certain stereotypes. This is true for most movies as well, including animated ones. Even though they all differ in theme, they leave us with a similar experience. In such a time, it is truly refreshing to watch a movie which chooses to be different, using a story which is very familiar to us.

Sita Sings the Blues is the story of a woman who follows her exiled husband into dangerous lands. There, she faces terrible hardships, but throughout her experience she continues to worship him, and has faith that he will carry her out of her misery. He does just that, only to banish her soon after, suspecting her of adultery. That’s right; the story is that of the Ramayana, from the perspective of the wife of Rama.

Helter Skelter: Sita Sings the Blues
Still from Sita Sings the Blues. Image courtesy of Nina Paley.

Written, directed, and animated by Nina Paley, the movie tries to link the story of the Ramayana with the present day scenario. It begins with a couple in San Francisco, who have problems once the husband is relocated to Trivandrum, India. This is based on the real-life story of the writer. From there, it jumps to Ancient India, and the story of the Ramayana. The story is narrated by Indian shadow puppets, who discuss the story as three friends who have tiny disagreements about the story, and make glib remarks in a humorous way. The movie constantly shifts from the ancient tale to the present one, illustrating how distance can cause relationships to break.

The style of animation is varied throughout the movie. It changes from basic 2D animation with squiggly lines for the writer’s story; to Rajput-style inspired illustrations animated in stop motion for Sita’s story. The musical episodes of the movie are done using a modern technique of vector graphics animation, with curvaceous characters and vibrant colours.

Even though the story is primarily based on ancient Indian mythology and the music is western, never throughout the movie does one feel like the association is disjointed.

The soundtrack of the movie is 1920s inspired, featuring the vocals of jazz artist Annette Hanshaw. Even though the story is primarily based on ancient Indian mythology and the music is western, never throughout the movie does one feel like the association is disjointed.

Sita Sings the Blues is not recommended for conservative religious folk. Having said that, it is a must-watch film for everyone else. Funny, unique, and well made, the story deals with some serious issues such as egotism and mistrust, but is depicted in a way that makes the viewer smile. The whole movie is filled with subtle, smart humour, which is one of its best features. All in all, a pleasant experience.

The movie can be downloaded and watched for free in a range of formats, as creator Nina Paley wanted it to be accessible to the masses. Alternatively, if you prefer to stream the film online, you can view it below —

[Independent; 2009]

Priya is a freelance graphic designer based in New Delhi. Here, she tries her best to live her life without falling down too often, and hopes to become extremely successful with very little effort (she is also a very unrealistically optimistic person). She enjoys writing articles and short stories, and maintains a blog that contains all her random thoughts.

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The City Speaks #34

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