Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Animated Ramayana to Air on PBS: ‘Sita Sings the Blues’

I first learned about cartoonist Nina Paley’s animated retelling of the Ramayana, a classic Indian myth (it’s 3,000 years old), called “Sita Sings the Blues,” through an Idol Chatter post by Aseem Chhabra who has a personal relationship to the film. I was reminded of the full length feature, by a recent New York Times article, “Hindu Goddess as Betty Boop? It’s Personal” by Margy Rochlin, who brings us some happy news: “Sita Sings the Blues” will air on March 7th on PBS (WNET) in New York.Of Paley’s self-produced, self-made film, Rochlin writes: “As engaging as the film is, explaining it is tricky: along with traditional 2-D animation there are cutouts, collages, photographs and scenes with hand-painted watercolors as the backdrop. At certain points Ms. Paley mixes laughs with exposition by having three flat silhouette characters dispute the details of the Ramayana’s tragic saga of the Hindu goddess Sita, who is exiled by her husband, Rama, who fears she has been unfaithful after she is abducted by a demon king. At other points Ms. Paley weaves in the story of her own collapsing marriage, and the time switches from ancient India to present-day San Francisco and Manhattan, the images hand-drawn and jittery. In between everything else are flash-animation musical numbers featuring Sita in voluptuous Betty Boop-like form — almond-shaped head, saucer eyes and swaying hips — accompanied by the warbling voice of a real-life flapper-era singer named Annette Hanshaw.”To see just how Betty Boop-like Paley makes this Hindu goddess, check out the trailer:.And be sure to tune in to PBS on March 7th for a full viewing.

  • Nell Minow

    I am a big fan of this film and was lucky enough to interview Nina Paley. The animation is gorgeous and the combination of so many different elements in combining the ancient myth with the contemporary break-up to the tune of early 20th century chanteuse Annette Hanshaw is very moving.

  • Brian Burch

    Ramayana looks amazing. There’s actually a new feature-length, animated movie coming to the Angel Wars series. Unlike Ramayana, it’s action/adventure and targeted at Christian boys 6-12, but it’s another self-made, self-produced, labor-of-love features that has really taken off. If you’re interested in talking with Chris Waters, the creator, I am happy to help connect you.

  • debra

    I teach Nonwestern literature and would love to purchase this film as I have used the trailers and still shots in my India unit. Any help in purchasing? Many thanks.

  • Esn

    Debra, I would suggest asking Nina Paley herself at her blog:
    Nina Paley’s current plan is to release the film for free download online; copyright issues with the 80-year-old songs have made a normal official release of the film unlikely, despite all of the critical acclaim that it has received, because she can’t pay several hundred thousand dollars for the rights and no-one else is willing to. There’s a complicated distribution plan in the works, but it hasn’t been finalized yet.

  • foresmac

    @Brian Birch
    That’s a pretty despicable way to make a PR pitch. Ever heard of email?
    That said, I am pumped to see the finished work. I watched the original musical number some years ago when Paley first finished it.

  • Your Name

    Its a pretty despicable way to depict an Epic Story (that is an ancient classic as well a religious text)as a comic .The characters are very respectable and supposed to be incarnations of God ,not a sexy ,betty boop character or a clown .Please show respect to other cultures and be sensitive to others feelings and try to find out whats the exact importance or relevance such things in other cultures before attemptting something of magnanimous proportion.

  • Habibah

    This is a great artist. I love sita sings the blues. I had been waiting patiently for years to see all of the parts together. I will be sure to watch, God willing.
    Primna, I don’t think there was any malice intended. I can see where you are coming from though. That being said, sometimes the way to expose others to a culture is through art and some “over”simplification of religious beliefs. Sometimes it is overtly offensive. This is not the case here, in my opinion.
    Nina Paley is an excellent artist. Not a religious figure.

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