Sita Sings the Blues (animated film)

The shadow puppet narrators discuss Rama's att...

The shadow puppet narrators discuss Rama’s attitude towards Sita after her trial by fire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nina Paley‘s Sita Sings the Blues (2008) wasn’t at all what I had expected. Here is the site description:

Uploaded by CinemaNirvana on May 19, 2011

“Sita Sings the Blues” is based on the Hindu epic “The Ramayana“. Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina Paley 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 Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of torch singer Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.” It is written, directed, produced and animated by American artist Nina Paley.

For more about the film and about Nina Paley’s other work, see

A little bit cabaret, a little bit Bollywood, and a whole lot completely unique. The variety of styles grabbed my attention even when I wasn’t sure what was happening at the beginning of the film. I always think, though, that writers and artists of every kind will tell their readers/viewers how to ‘read’ a work, if we can relax and accept some direction. The animated shadow puppets try to tell a bit of “The Ramayana” and in doing so, perform an analysis of the story they narrate. Meanwhile, the story is being read by a woman whose heart has been broken like Sita’s.

Stories within stories within stories. What a great reminder that tellers and audiences create art simultaneously. Likewise, the multiple depictions of Sita and Rama (as well as the rest of the cast) enact the idea of arbitrary representation and interpretation.