Friday, 6 March 2015

{Adaptation} "Sita Sings the Blues" Film Review

Fig. 1: Sita Sings the Blues’ poster (2008)

Sita Sings the Blues (2008) is a brilliant and surprisingly relatable musical indie film directed and almost entirely animated by the American cartoonist and animator, Nina Paley.

The film depicts events of the Hindu epic poem, The Ramayana, but told primarily from the perspective of Sita, along with the biographical story of the decline of Paley’s relationship with her ex-husband, and how she reacted to it; both these stories fit together extremely well. While Paley depicts her experience, she does not obsess over the pains of her past, instead the entire film benefits from her sense of humour, one visible even in the use of camerawork. Key characters include Rama, Sita and Paley herself.

Sita was mainly animated within Adobe Flash, but with some of Paley’s watercolours scanned in and animated within After Effects (Paley, s.d.). The film uses multiple different animation styles including those naturally inspired by Hindu art, as well as a more ‘squiggly’ art style when depicting events of Nina’s life, among others. Other techniques used include rotoscoping of actress Reena Shah for parts of the Agni Pariksha (Trial by Fire) sequence (Paley, s.d.).

Jazz and blues recordings of the late Annette Hanshaw are used as Sita’s voice, and add greatly to the appeal of the animation. Paley’s three friends Aseem, Bhavana and Manish discuss the Ramayana entirely unscripted, acting as narrators and appearing as shadow puppets within the animation (Paley, s.d.); this unscripted nature adds another level of comedy, appeal and honesty to Sita.

Sita Sings the Blues is online and sits within a Creative Commons license so can be viewed and distributed freely; it is a film so relatable, fun and inspiringly animated that the recommendation is that it be watched as soon as possible.

Paley, Nina (s.d.) Frequently Asked Questions [online] In: At: (Accessed 06.03.15)

Paley, Nina (s.d.) Sita Sings the Blues – Collaborators [online] In: At: (Accessed 06.03.15)

Illustrations List

Fig 1. Paley, Nina (2008) ‘Sita Sings the Blues’ poster [poster] At: (Accessed 06.03.15)