Have you heard about Sita Sings the Blues yet? Simply: the Ramayana + Annette Hanshaw = zomg. But it’s not simply a platform for 1920s blues music.

The film draws a parallel between the story of Sita and Ram, “a long time ago,” and the story of Nina and Dave (now) as they progress through their relationship. The film shifts between three sets of animations, Dave and Nina, music videos of a sort illustrating the trials and tribulations of Sita and Ram, and a threesome of shadow puppets telling the story from the Ramayana. They’re totally my favorite, the shadow puppets – they sound like three relatives trying to remember a story collectively, filling in the gaps for each other as they go. When I viewed the film the first time, I remarked to my mom how natural they sounded – like they were unscripted. Turns out, that is the case:

From the FAQ

Q:The narration of the shadow puppets—how much of that was scripted?

A: None – it was completely unscripted, 100% real.

Here’s how I got them all in the studio: I met Manish Acharya (Loins of Punjab Presents) through Manish Vij…I guess Manish V told Manish A to check out Sita, and then Manish A asked me to do animation for a Loins music video, and part of the payment was he’d let me record an interview.

Aseem Chhabra had written about me and Sita and I bumped into him at the Loins of Punjab screening. I asked if he’d lend his voice to an interview and he said yes. He actually met Manish the day of the recording – he interviewed him that morning for an article. They sound like best friends who have known each other forever, and they’re great friends now, but they’d just met that morning.

Bhavana Nagaulapally I met at a play reading of Anuvab Pal… Apparently, I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was the only white woman in the audience, and she asked, “are you Nina Paley?” She had a great voice, and I asked if she’d consent to the interview too. I didn’t know if she would – luckily she showed up, and was awesome, and the rest is history. (source)

They’re all from different regions of India and speak different mother tongues, and grew up on different versions of the story. So naturally they remember “the” Ramayana differently from one another. There is no one Ramayana. Their discussion makes this clear.

Another interesting tidbit about the film is that it’s not copyrighted. It’s under a Creative Commons license. This means that you can watch and/or download it for free – you can even do showings of the film for free. Of course, you should donate to the project if you can – it’s the right thing to do, especially if you’re going to charge at the door – but you don’t have to. It’s a beautiful thing, the accessibility to the work. And if you need a little souvenir at the end, there’s lots of swag to browse through (as well as dvds now – Nina is selling a limited run of them, as copyright laws  stipulate that she can only sell so many) in the store.

So all that said, go have a look at the film. It’s just beautiful, and a lovely view.

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