Sita Sings the Blues – Nina Paley’s animated musical feature based on Ramayana

Sita Sings the Blues is an animation film written, directed, produced, designed and animated by Nina Paley, an American Cartoonist and Animator. The film tells the story of Ramayana from Sita’s point of view. Now in digital format, ‘Sita Sings the Blues’, 82 minutes, was animated single-handedly by Nina over the course of 5 years on a home computer. Earlier, a few scenes from the film appeared on the internet titled ‘Sitayana.’

The Trailer

The Making of Sita Sings the Blues

In June 2002, Nina Paley moved to Trivandrum, India, following her husband who had taken a job there as an animator in Toonz Animation India. Upon her arrival in the South Indian city, she was confronted with her husband’s mid-life crisis, a complete emotional withdrawal.

This is when in Trivandrum, she encountered the Ramayana. Initially, she considered Ramayana as a misogynist propaganda.

Nina then returned to the United States and one fine morning her husband dumped her by email.

She then began teaching animation and acquiring New York freelance clients. But she could not emotionally overcome the separation and The Ramayana took on new depth and meaning for Nina.

Ramayana no longer resembled a sexist parable; rather, it seemed to capture the essence of painful relationships, and describe a blueprint of human suffering. Her grief and longing for the man who rejected her increasingly resembled Sita's.

Initially, Nina animated and produced a short-film titled Trial By Fire (2003) based on Sita's walk through the fire, to Annette Hanshaw's 1929 rendition of Mean to Me.

After another failed relationship in 2004, she decided to tell the Ramayana from Sita’s point of view.

With music, humor, and a range of animation techniques, ‘Sita Sings the Blues shows how the genius of the Indian Ramayana transcends societies and generations, and is as relevant today as it was 3,000 years ago.

A Scene

Some Hindus might be outraged by some of the scenes and drawings in the film. For Nina Paley, Ramayana is not a religious scripture. For her Ramayana, is a work of a genius that has a universal appeal.

Nina says ‘My subject matter is controversial. While I have been greatly encouraged by the overwhelming positive response from desis (South Asian expatriates), some viewers in India have been outraged.

The Ramayana is a perplexing tale, and Sita is its most misunderstood character. I've heard from more than one Hindu American woman that ‘Sita Sings the Blues’ is the first Ramayana retelling that offers them a real connection to Sita.

My retelling is also humorous, which some people interpret as irreverent, and therefore an affront. I hope to show how the genius of the Ramayana transcends societies and generations, and is as relevant today as it was 3,000 years ago”

Nina is at present engaged in collecting funds to convert the film from digital format to 35mm film.