Nina Paley created an animated movie Sita Sings the Blues that intersperses events from an Indian epic story called Ramayana. Sita is a brave and noble woman who is married to a prince named Rama after defeating his competitors. Rama is banished from his father's court after when his mother becomes jealous of that he would inherit all his father's properties. Sita loves Rama decides to go with him in exile although he mistreats her. Their journey is faced with challenges since they are overrun with evil spirits and demons from Ravana who is determined to make Sita his wife because she was beautiful. Ravana finally manages to abduct Sita when he Rama was hunting. Ravana forced her to submit to his demands or die, but Sita refuses and remains faithful. Rama discovers where Sita is placed and manages to rescue her with the assistance of monkey army. Rama does not believe that Sita remained faithful and forced her to undergo a trial by fire where she saved by gods. Ram takes her to the palace but still doubts whether she was faithful and one day he asked Lakshman, his brother to leave her in the forest so that she would die. She survives and teaches her sons to love and sing praises of their father, but she got tired of her husband doubts and asked the earth to swallow her as a sign of her purity. Paley uses Ramayana to fight against outdated cultures and religions that oppress women and make them feel inferior in the society (Paley).
In Paley's story, I can detect a feminist appropriation since the director is a self-proclaimed feminist and the movie concentrate on Sita who is a woman. The whole film is about Sita life with Rama and the challenges she faces in life as a woman. Sita gets mistreated by men such as Ravan, Lakshman and her husband Rama who be protecting her. In Ramayana, men hold power in political and social society and therefore, it a patriarchal society. In Ramayana, men are heartless and treat women as if they are objects. Ravana kidnaps Sita because he wants to take advantage of her as a woman. He forces her to give in to his demands or die. Rama is the kin who treats Sita unfairly to the extent that he makes her jump into fire regardless of the fact that it would burn her to death. He also orders his brother to leave her in a forest to die.
The role of the three puppets was to narrate the story hilariously both in modern comedy and ancient tragedy. They make the story interesting for the viewers by making the story funny and enjoyable. The puppets communicate in a language that both literate and illiterate people would understand therefore it makes the story of Ramayana easy to understand. The presence of puppets does not destabilize or subversion of the text because they tell the story the same way it is written in the text. The storyline and the background of Ramayana remain the same in their presence.
Dharma is a Hinduism word which means an ideal behavior which in accordance with the Indian society. In Paley's story, Rama and Sita represent a husband and wife in traditional society. Sita is expected to be brave, strong and faithful to Rama but through the movie, Sita is crying and is a victim of the duties of the Indian culture. Rama rejects Sita when after her kidnap despite the fact that she was innocent. Their marriage was not a happy one as indicated in Ramayana (Paley). Paley's uses a variety of genres to bring out different themes such as historical period, traditions, religious and political affiliations. The story was a legend, and hence she has to show its history. Some genres explain Hinduism traditions and religious behaviors. The story of Ramayana provides four aims of life, and they include duty prosperity, pleasure, and freedom. The goal of every individual is to achieve the four of them to live a balanced life full of happiness and satisfaction.
Nina Paley: Sita Sings the Blues (2008). [Video file] Web https://youtu.be/RzTg7YXuy34
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