Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Film Review: Sita Sings the Blues


Sita Sings the Blues (2008) is a 2D animation created and directed by Nina Paley. Paley had started animating as young as thirteen and published her shorts and comic strips not until 2012 through Creative Commons. The animation style in Sita Sings the Blues is a massive change from her previous work such as Fetch! (2002) and Thank you for not breeding (2002), both of these shorts have a very simplistic free hand style. Whereas Sita Sings the Blues is very decorative and heavily influenced by Indian culture and Bollywood theatre. Taking home a whopping 35 awards from various small festivals and differing countries Sita Sings the Blues being such a success came as a surprise.  The combination of her signature style and then a contrast of the Indian style came about due to her current situation. She had moved to India for her husband’s work, however, the marriage failed and Paley had to reside in India for the time being. Paley had found a plot for her animation and then researched into Ramayana, an Indian influence which could also link subtly to her current situation. Continuing the blending of cultures Paley had used Annette Hanshaw, a radio star in the 20s and 30s, as the soundtrack and voice to Sita when she expressed her emotion through song.
The film is an intertwining plot of Paley’s situation of her marriage failing and the story of Ramayana, a Hindu tale about a prince and princess who are challenged to be together and their kingdom. Rama, the prince, must have respect from his subjects but cannot leave Sita, the princess. Sita is shown as this very attentive wife who understands Ramas decisions and has to return to Mother Earth in order to regain acceptance. Though this is the tale told throughout the animation, there is a comic flair to it as it is described through a ‘21st century’, more relaxed view on the religious tale narrated to us by three Indian individuals who mispronounce names and comment on both Rama and Sitas’ decisions, mocking them as some of the actions seem ridiculous.
Sita Sings the Blues was successful in the deliverance of the style, it was very aesthetically pleasing, and the old jazz songs, though a juxtaposition with the style, made Sita more loveable as it gave her some depth rather than just Ramas wife. It’s unclear what Paley was trying to do other than mock a religious tale – which she did well as parts of the animation were humorous, as the view was relaxed it made the animation more relatable as if that the audience were thinking the same as what the narrators were commenting on.

Overall, I enjoyed the animation but it was far too long for what it was. I would recommend it for more research purposes rather than pure entertainment.


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