Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sita Sings the Blues

A few days ago I saw an absolutely wonderful little film called Sita Sings the Blues.The film is an animated re-interpretation of the Ramayana as "the greatest break-up story ever told".

I've always had a bit of a grouse with the Ramayana because of the way Rama treated Sita. I can not understand how a man becomes maryada purushottamma with the way he treated his wife. I understand this is  way before women's lib and colonialism but something about abandoning your pregnant wife in a forest is quite inhuman. I've always felt for Sita, maybe even pitied her a bit. For all her love and devotion all she got was a kick in the behind. I know right wing Hindutvadi's will disagree but let me be clear here, culture, religion and mythology just like literature, art and film are always open to interpretation, they belong to everyone and no one at the same time. Ergo no one has the right to claim supremacy of one version over the other.

Many might consider Nina Paley's version to be rather irreverent to the Hindu epic that it is based on but I think like every piece of art, it is curious, it questions and prompts one to think about what it is to be a woman and what it is to be a woman who loves a man too much.

Originally I was a bit surprised that a piece of art like this came from an American woman. It was a bit jarring initially but once I got over that bit, I think Nina Paley has done justice to the story of the Ramayana. She has not belittled Hindu Culture but has understood what is at the heart of a great story and has appropriated it.

I think bits like the clip below can bit quite funny to some (me included) and quite blasphemous to others. Irrespective it is a fascinating piece that is at once, honest, ironic, sarcastic and genuine.

The use of Jazz music is rather interesting. Personally I find it lends a beautiful transferability to the story so that no matter where in the world you are, you can feel for this woman. It takes an essentially rooted story and makes it universal.

Now Sita Sings the Blues is a part of the copyleft movement and therefore is available online at great resolutions for free. You can also watch it in its entirety on Youtube.

For more information - or if you are just plain curious visit the website.

Now I know a lot of people will disagree with what I've said. All I have to say is please do watch the film in its entirety before you form an opinion.

Cheers !


  1. I have never been able to understand the concept of a "good man" our family wants us to be with... i ask why, i am told "he doesnt smoke, he doesnt drink, he doesnt womanize, he is a raam" and i always thought (probably asked too!) "wasnt he the one who spent his life rescuing his wife only to leave her back in the woods"?!
    Strange to me. again no offense. am sure there is a 'meaning' to the epic. I may enjoy watching this i think from what you say!
    L Krishna's character is far believable as god worshipped! to me, he may make a 'real' partner :)
    nice read J!!!

  2. So true Gaea. Theres meaning and theres metaphor but at the end of it all the epic says alot about the place of women in those days no? I think my perfect moment in the Ramayana was when Sita got swallowed up by mother earth. Its just such an assertive moment. Like if you neglect the perfect woman she will leave !!!!
    Do watch the film if you have time someday - but one needs to have an open mind.

  3. Hey J! Totally love your blog and hope you create more posts!
    I consider myself to be a feminist and initially felt that if a man were to prescribe to how Ram deals with this whole issue in the Ramayana, it would definitely set back women's rights a couple of centuries, even in a place like India.
    But like all literary material, the Ramayana too needs to be studied in context. Ram's description as maryada puroshottam wasn't solely based on his personal characteristics and devotion (or what is perceived later as lack thereof) to his wife, but also his ability to do his dharma.
    The reason why Ram agrees to banbaas is to do his dharma. Sita follows him because it is her dharma to do so.
    Even in the end, Rama chooses the dharma of being a good king over the dharma of being a good husband and father.
    I haven't studied a lot of Hindu mythology, but I have studied Hindu philosophy at a college level. Dharma is an integral part of Hinduism, and I feel the Ramayana serves as an example of how even a God-king had to hard choices.
    I feel as women we often overlook the fact that Ram wasn't merry making in the absence of his wife. I am sure being away from his beloved pained him too.
    Ofcourse today a man doesn't have to make these choices. Infact I doubt if any stepmother would make her husband banish her stepson to the forest. But one can surely apply the principles of following one's dharma to their own lives.

    I feel the beauty of any piece of art, even religious literature, lies it's ability to be interpreted differently by different people. It isn't of any use if it doesn't arouse, inspire or create some feeling of some sort!