Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Animated Ramayana to Air on PBS: 'Sita Sings the Blues'

Nina Paley's animated retelling of the Ramayana, a classic Indian myth (it's 3,000 years old), called "Sita Sings the Blues" will be aired on PBS on March 7th. The film has won just about every award possible , but distribution had been stopped by an unforeseen copyright claim on some of the 1920s music that is integral to the film.

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

Of Paley's self-produced, self-made film, New York Times author Margy 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."
I can't wait! Here is a link to some great "stills" from the film.

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