My favourite moment in Nina Paley’s audacious and wildly funny animated satire comes when the shadow puppets strip down mythical mysticism with their very own perspective of the story of Ramayana. At a point in the film, one of them argues the amount of jewellery that Sita was wearing when she was abducted by Ravana. The ancient story tells us that she threw bits and pieces of her jewellery so that Rama could have a way of finding her. But frankly speaking, can a person really wear so much jewellery?
That is just the tip of the iceberg in Sita Sings The Blues. Slated as ‘The greatest breakup story ever told,’ Nina’s film combines three elements with an aim of a flair gun. It takes up the ancient story of Ramayana and mingles it with 1920’s jazz vocals by Annette Hanshaw. Also in the mix is a semi-autobiographical story of Nina’s own collapsing marriage where the contemporary bright and colourful animation changes into a dull lite melancholic hand strokes. The third narrative features the shadow puppets, who represent the cynical and logic seeking atheist of a country run by its various religious symbolism.
The film is an example of creative highs in a land of barren rehashes. The reason why I consider Sita Sings The Blues as a masterwork is it’s innovative and distinct styles of animation. To count it on my fingers, Nina incapsulates 4 styles of animation in a film that would have worked on a single note too. The first of them includes a greek course of Indonesian shadow puppets, secondly, an imaginative musical interlude that induces acidic tripping on the viewers, and the other two have been already mentioned above.
The hilarity and satire that the film focuses on comes from the very core of any relationship – i.e love. Primarily focusing on the epic tragedy of Sita and Rama’s declining marriage, Nina cleverly puts in a narration that states that these supposed reincarnations of Gods were deeply in love and even they couldn’t ‘make it work.’ The painstaking work that Nina went through in her 5 years of hard work shows in every single frame of the film. She wrote, animated and edited the film entirely on her own accord, making her home a one-woman studio.
Sita Sings The Blues is an important film because it shows the reincarnation of a woman deeply saddened by a broken marriage. Drawing parallels between Sita’s tragedy and her own life, Nina created this hilarious mythical epic in the most colourful fashion possible. Painstakingly sitting through 5 years of work, when Nina was finally done with the film she had to face numerous copyright issues which she bravely fought to sort out a common ground for her film to be seen by people. She put her film for a public download on a domain of her choice calling it ‘Copyleft.’
While the film can be slated as a single pointed view of a woman’s perspective which defames men of being dogs who run away, the sheer audacity of questioning Indian mythology, the hilarious takedown of what the internet would call ‘relationship goals’ and basically a dazzling animated tapestry that beautifully captures the yearnings of a woman who sings the blues for a man who has done her wrong make Sita Sings The Blues a must see.