Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sing, Sita, Sing.

I'm sitting here with a mouth all pleasantly a-tingle after snorking down a handful of Tim's jalapeno kettle chips, and fantasizing about Halloween. I can't help it, it's almost July and that's what I do this time of year. Just be glad I haven't started humming Christmas carols yet; I did that for almost two weeks straight once, in August. I was on mission in Honduras, and remembering snow was the only thing that kept me from going up in a big, sweaty fireball.

Since that intro was apropos of nothing, I will now get to the point of this post! I want to talk about Sita Sings the Blues, an animated film done by Nina Paley (who had no animation experience), and is simply awesome. Bevin's madly in love with this movie; she watched it online and was one of the first people to order the Sita DVD when it came up for sale by Nina Paley. I can see the allure-- it's quirky and funny, but still true to the original story as set down in the Ramayana.

The narration is done by three people of Indo-Aryan descent (HA! Like that? I love history!) and most of the voice work is done by actors of the same heritage. But the narrators aren't reading from a script; instead it sounds like three people who know the story of Lord Rama and his wife Sita sat around and retold it to each other and it was recorded and animated as is; there are some pronunciation flubs that are honestly some of my favorite parts of the film. The title of the film is drawn from Sita's singing, animated over the performances of Annette Hanshaw, a jazz singer from the 1920's. To be honest, I would have been fine if this part had or had not been in the film; I most enjoyed the dialogue and narration provided; Sita informing Lord Ravana that his ass was grass quite made my day.

The basic gist is that Lord Rama is run out of the kingdom by on of his father's wives; he must not return for fourteen years ("don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out" is how she put it) so Lord Rama and his wife Sita leave to live in the forest for that time. Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu, and Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi, both members of the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses. Rama spends this time in exile trying to whup as many rakshasa as he can since they're essentially gross trouble makers with a taste for human flesh, and Sita is simply happy to be with her husband because she loves him completely.

Everything's peachy until Ravana, the lord of the rakshasa, gets pissed and wants to get back at Rama. Ravana's sister, who is apparently really hard to look at, plants the bug in Ravana's ear that Sita's pretty hot, and taking her as his own wife would be a pretty excellent way to get back at Rama. This is probably my favorite part of the film, because every aspect of Sita is described to Ravana as being lotus-like, including her boobs. ("They are like two.. juicy.. LOTUSES!" I peed a little at that one.) Ravana decides that he covets her juicy, lotusey form, and nabs Sita, taking her to his kingdom of Lanka (Sri Lanka today).

But Sita is patient and not afraid, and believes that her love, Rama, will save her, which he does.

I'm not going to do the complete run down of the whole story; if you want to read it it's not hard to find, just do a GIS for the Ramayana. Essentially, Sita's faith in Rama is repaid with suspicion that she slept with Ravana. She passes the trial by fire, and that's another awesome bit of animation. Sita all in black against the flames, working her snake arms:

Rama then takes Sita back, knocks her up, and dumps her again because there are rumors in his kingdom that the baby might be Ravana's. Of course it's not, but Rama, in true heroic fashion, has his brother dump her in the forest anyway. Amazingly, Sita's not bitter. I personally would have spit in his bed before I was taken from the palace, but that's because I'm bitter and mean, and if I'm an incarnation of any goddess it' Hecate. Then I would have burned his castle down.

Sita gives birth to Rama's twin sons, and raises them to praise Rama. Rama eventually meets them, realizes they're his, and decides to test the innocent Sita yet again. This time she declares her innocence and basically says "if I'm innocent let me return to mother earth." The ground swallows her up. Rama realizes he's been a putz, and in a very moving scene, cries one tear.

Interspersed through all of this is the animated account of Nina's own big break up, and how she eventually got on with her life. All around great stuff, and I'm very curious now to read the Ramayana. What I find most interesting about all of this ties into what I mentioned above: Rama is an aspect of Vishnu, and Sita is an aspect of Lakshmi. Vishnu and Lakshmi are a couple; so even though it didn't work out very well for them on earth, they're together to this day. Kinda neat, huh?

A variety of animation styles are used to tell this story; the flash styles shown above, a few more "traditional" styles, and a more realistic/ simplistic style for Nina and Dan's break up. There is even some amazingly well done rotoscoping, which is awesome to see!

Check this movie out, really. It's silly, fun, sad, and something everyone can identify with: god or human, everyone's had a truly crappy break up.


  1. That was a really nice summation of the film and its various counterparts. It's a tough one to try and explain to someone who hasn't seen it, or who might not be familiar with the Ramayana story, but I think you definitely did it justice.

  2. I less than three you, Bevin.

  3. Well, I watched this at 3 this morning. It was cool except for the singing. I hated the way the singing Sita looked. The normal Sita was better. The "Rama's right, Rama's good, Rama does what Rama should" song was the only one worth listening to in the whole movie. I loved the story though. I've had so many relationships just like it, men like that are total asses, and there sure are a lot of them out there.

  4. BWAHAHA! Evie, you crack me up! The musical was good except for the music! :D

    I liked singing Sita, personally, but I liked all of the art. I loved how she did the narration with the shadow puppets. Really cool, and kinda neat to see a real peek into Hindu stories. :)

  5. Yeah, I think the narration with the shadow puppets was my favorite. I loved their accents.