Sita Sings the Blues

Ram’s great, Ram’s good,
Ram does what Ram should.
Ram’s just, Ram’s right,
Ram is our guiding light.

Perfect man, perfect son,
Ram’s loved by everyone.
Always right, never wrong,
We praise Ram in this song.

Sing his love, sing his praise.
Ram set his wife ablaze.
Got her home, kicked her out
To allay his people’s doubt.

Ram’s wise, Ram’s just,
Ram does what Ram must.
Duty first, Sita last,
Ram’s reign is unsurpassed!

[Warning: This video may offend you. Viewer discretion is advised. ]

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Things get interesting and quirky pretty fast when you start looking at Ramayana as Sitayana… the same story, but from Sita’s perspective. That is what animator Nina Paley1 ended up doing after a devastating relationship. Five years, many hand drawn paintings, 500 flash scene files2 and copyright struggles3 later she brought out the brilliant and engaging – the greatest break up story ever told – Sita Sings the Blues. It is beautiful, epic, thought provoking and witty and that’s a tough combo to pull off in a single animation. And the best part, she’s put it under a CC-sa license, so download it and watch it… like right now! 4 This is a mix of old jazz music, three funny chatty Indian narrators who know less about Ramayana then even me and the story of Nina’s own life and if you are anything like me, you will totally love it.

I give this a 4.8/5.

Update 0: A convenient 700 MB download.
Update 1: There’s gotta be a better way of importing facebook/twitter comments. None of the plugins I tried worked well. I hope this thread merge is ok.

  1. American… born and brought up there. It makes me sad that it is impossible to do something like this in India. We unfortunately do not have the right to criticize religion. We are so backward.
  2. Wired Interview
  3. She used some 1920 jazz music in her movie which should legitimately be in public domain but isn’t and got her into trouble. That’s just plain wrong.
  4. Youtubers can try this.



Anshul is a geek and an entrepreneur. He loves math, coding and all things good.
This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Sita Sings the Blues

  1. Samik says:

    I disagree with the America comment. Religion is a huge issue in the country.

  2. Aditi (via Facebook) says:

    American… born and brought up there. It makes me sad that it is impossible to do something like this in India. We unfortunately do not have the right to criticize religion. We are so backward

    I disagree. I don’t think people can rip bible apart in the US. And it is not just about religion. Even Deepa Mehta had the same problems with “Water”. And when it comes to religion, Americans are as touchy-feely. I was very surprised when Obama’s mother’s religion was turned into such a big issue.

  3. Anshul says:

    Maybe. But it is not illegal in the US to criticize religion. Sam harris, C Hitchens, Bill Maher, George Carlin have written books, made movies and done shows bashing the Bible. They are alive, well and not behind bars. It is not even possible to try those things in India. If Nina were in Bombay she would very likely be behind bars by now.

  4. Samik says:

    Yes, they are not behind bars, but , as Aditi correctly pointed out that it is a huge issue. – Look at this. In this country there are churches, and other religious institutions in almost every other street. There are strong religious groups all over the place, even in educational institutions!

  5. Anshul says:

    US without doubt has it’s religious nut jobs, I am not denying it. My point is that nothing in the US even compares to the tyranny of the Indian penal code. Insulting or attempting to insult a religion or religious belief is illegal in India.

  6. Well..In America you can at least have an opinion. Remember South park, the way they make fun of Christ, Moses and lots of religion. In India you can not imagine something like they. Recently people tried to burn certain cinema halls, when SRK’s Billu Movie’s one song said something along God’s aura, and people confused it with something else.

    Btw I liked the Sita Sings ..and I am downloading it.

  7. Btw..I just saw it’s a huge file, if you have already downloaded it please share it.

  8. err… you can have all the opinions in US on religion too… google up george carlin and his commandments

  9. Jigar says:

    this is superb!!

  10. Aditi (via Facebook) says:

    You can, of course have opinions on anything, anywhere on the planet. The question is that of expression. As a very strange example – most Indians friends on facebook have stated their religious belief(Hindu/atheist/whateverelse) in their profile. Only one of my American friends (a Catholic) has listed his.

  11. Aditi (via Facebook) says:

    Akash, the reason why Indian public goes violent is because most of it is jobless. In the US, unemployment is low. Those who are employed, don’t want to lose their jobs. So noone will take the time to go and do stupid things like burn theaters. The problem in India is not really religion, but poverty and unemployment. Even when there are riots in India, the people who do the killing are hired by political parties in exchange for food or money. I’m unsure of their religious inclination.

  12. Anshul says:

    Try the 700MB Xvid from here. Or come over my place sometime and take it.. ;) Do watch it… It’s really good.

    Yea… I so hope she makes more such stuff.

  13. Anshul says:

    Those are interesting cultural differences but I believe the US society is going through a period of change. Athiests, anti-religious and the other minorities are gaining numbers. A few generations later I expect to see more religious expression being the norm. Nothing like that is going to happen in India. All the vehicles of possible change are dead. It is not just the unemployed and poor that participate in mob activity anymore. That India is long gone. It is the brainwashed ones that do. The real problem is that cultural boundaries of this country are being made very rigid. Social change is difficult and slow to bring.

    The real reason behind that is that it is mostly illegal to shock and provoke thought in the Indian masses… not difficult or non-trivial (like in the US), constitutionally illegal. Like I said if Nina Paley was an Indian in India, she would very probably be behind bars by now.

  14. @Aditi Your are sounding like an American :P.

    Well its true that jobless people are the one which are leading these “faltu” moments, but that not the case always.

    And as for as Facebook is concerned, I don’t think even 1% of India is on Facebook.

  15. Samik says:

    Anshul, it is not true that the social boundaries are rigid in India. For example, the urban society has undergone a sea of change to embrace consumerism as their life from a culture of conservation.. And most of this change is incentivised by the state and the big corporations, and facilitised through western education.. In India you can have religious enmities but still different religions and cultures exist in largely peaceful ways.. For a very good perspective of what I mean about different religions living largely peacefully together in spite of not believing each other, you should read Ashis Nandy’s ideas about Cochin. Quoting a report of a lecture by him at UC Berkeley –

    India’s pre-partition history of various communities living together was the result of a pre-Western tradition of tolerance, Nandy said. This became clear after he researched the 600-year history of communal peace in the Kerala port city of Kochi.

    The initial response of people, when asked about their history of peace, was predictable.

    “They gave all the responses people like us would love,” Nandy said. People said that the absence of violence was because people were secular, progressive and educated.

    However, said Nandy, deeper examination revealed something else.

    “Nobody liked anybody else. Tolerance, alas, was based on mutual dislike,” he said. “Every community thought they were the best. Yet in Cochin there was no instance of serious violence in 600 years of recorded history.

    “And then gradually I deciphered that in a community-based society, a society where individuation has not gone beyond a point, there is bound to be this dislike and this sense of superiority. . .

    “But whereas you think your community is the best you also learn the (other) community’s right to believe they are the best. That mutuality is there. Secondly, the other is not only the other, but they are a part of you, you internalize. . . . The other is crucial to your self-definition. . . There are no annihilatory fantasies. . .

    “This is not the enlightenment vision of cosmopolitanism, it is the alternative form of cosmopolitanism, and I am now convinced that this is the cosmopolitanism with which societies based on communities survive.”

  16. FJ says:

    First thing first.I dont think religion is unquestionable in are free to believe and question it.In school and college you can debate on such issues,the teacher and professor wont punish you for that.In fact you can find many stories written by Hindi authors with alternative viewpoint on Ramayana/Mahabharata.And generally spekaing they are not decalred blasphemous.

    And if you ask Hindus about his opinion on Rama’s character,I am sure at least a small group disagree and even question his ways.I think Indian public are as tolerant as western people in such matter.But when you incliude STATE then ,yes there is a difference.And most of the time its small narginalised groups which create the ruckus and misuses the loophole of IPC in matters of religious sentimnet.

  17. Aditi says:

    Anshul, grass looks greener on the other side. You need to come to the US and see things for yourself. Every country has its own set of problems, and comparing two countries without experiencing life in both, is not fair. Having said that, I’m not sure of Nina being behind the bars in India, maybe. I didn’t even think she did something as daring as Deepa Mehta (Water and Fire) or Nagesh Kukunoor (Dor). I would think most men (and some women) would’ve been outraged at the message of Dor, but I am not sure if anything like that happened. That’s progress. I am not overly concerned about religion. I care more for women’s rights and minorities – and which is my primary reason for disliking religion.

  18. Aditi says:

    Akash, how does stating facts make one sound like an American?

  19. Anshul says:

    Look, even accounting for the atmospheric color distortion, this time, the grass is actually greener on the other side. :P The point here is not of religion or women, the point here is that of a basic fundamental right to think critically and not be thrown into jail for it.

    In matters of cultural change, social/mob boundaries come much much later than legal/state boundaries. The former are softer and malleable and it is one of the goals of at least some forms of art to target them. The US has these boundaries. What we in India have is much worse. We have laws that few know or discuss, which say that “thou shalt not hurt religious feelings of any significant number of people” and in practice this law has only one caveat which is that you can break it iff you are a politician targeting some religion other than that of your followers.

    I acknowledge the facts that India is making progress and that US has its own set of religious problems.

    My point is that cultural growth can never be stopped, it can only be slowed. In most of the Muslim world it’s been slowed down to a snail’s place. In India it is slowed to a crawl. The so called developed world is at least walking briskly.

  20. Anshul says:

    Aditi, Deepa Mehta or Nagesh Kukunoor exactly prove my point. Deepa Mehta is a Candian. Fire talks about homosexuality which is a social boundary in India. Do you think she could get away with lets say a tale from Indian mythology where a nude actress portrayed a Hindu Goddess? No. Legal boundary. Jail or exile.

    US is different. Check out Jesus will survive… When will someone in India be able to get away with Ram walking in his undergarments on Mumbai streets singing? It will happen someday. But at this moment we are quite provably ummm… backwards.

    FJ, the State matters. I can hide from the mob. I can be funny and popular enough to raise a mob of my own. I can be clever and sarcastic enough. I can just tickle the mob and not hurt them badly enough to react. I can soften a mob. There are a lot of ways to deal with the mob. But the court judge, the non bailable warrant and the police can’t be argued with. It is an important issue and it is slowing our cultural growth down.

    Samik, that was a very interesting excerpt and while I do agree that the author has a point and that a sort of equilibrium of mutual dislike is at work in long standing peaceful Indian communities. I would like to explore that more sometime. However, I refuse to accept that that is the best we can do or hope for. Nate Silver explores what effect living in mixed neighbourhoods could have. I think better solutions exist and must be explored.

    Also, I think my points above should make more clear what I meant by boundaries.

  21. Aditi says:

    Kukunoor is Indian. A nude actress in an Indian film will be problematic anyway. And then you ought to respect differences in cultures. India had its own period of nudity, it isn’t there currently. The western period began in the 1600s, it wasn’t there before.
    As for the video, Jesus is wearing what he’s always wearing in all the idols in Churches. I don’t think folks out here even know of that video. Also, it is not a Hollywood production, and youtube is full of idiotic videos anyway. I am also not sure that I even want to see Ram on Mumbai streets.
    Having said all that, I am quite sure Nina Paley wouldn’t have been behind bars even if she was Indian. And I am totally sure, she wouldn’t have been if she followed Hinduism. Her lawyer would just need to read the Ramayana in the court.

  22. Aditi says:

    And as I said before, unemployment is the cause for mob formation in India. They don’t say “Idle mind is devil’s workshop” for nothing. There are hardly any people you see over here to even come close to forming a mob, plus the cops are super-efficient.

  23. Samik says:

    Anshul, here what one says might not mean the exact reason.. It is very non trivial over here for someone to say that race is a big issue in voting.. In spite of that the fact is that there are places where 20% say that race was a factor.. Its a huge amount.

    Do you know the Patriot Act? Do you know that 50,000 Pakistanis were humiliated and deported after 9/11? The daily interactions for us in this country are filled with racial overtones. Thats about racism. About freedom of speech- people get arrested even if they are communist. Its a capitalist society in which the value of a person depends on his amount of capital. So, people with a greater capital have far greater rights than ones without. Thats what dictates freedom, choice, etc.

  24. Aditi says:

    Just found something interesting:

    It just occurred to me that I have seen a modern rendition of Ramayana, by an Indian. But you see the mob makers don’t read books. So it didn’t get all that “publicity”.

    Anshul, I doubt you have all that is required to “control” a mob :P

    But seriously, criticizing/analysing/discussing without comparing is more fruitful. Countries are complex entities, and you can’t think of things as being black and white. (Shortly after coming here, I wrote this). Understanding people is hard enough, I don’t even know what to do with countries.

    By the way, have you seen the documentary “Rockstar and the Mullahs”? Or for heard of the band “Junoon” from Pakistan?

  25. “Each nation, like each individual, has one theme in this life which is its centre, the principal note round which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any one nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction that has become its own through the transmission of centuries, that nation dies… In India religious life forms the centre, the keynote of the whole music of national life… Social reform and politics has to be preached through that vitality of your religion. Every man has to make his own choice, so has every nation. We made our choice centuries ago.” -Vivekananda

    On a personal note, I think it has been a good choice.

  26. @Aditi

    Nudity has always been a part of the “west.” The Greek heritage. The Roman heritage. And then the Renaissance. How else do you propose to define the “west?”

    If a nude actress in a Hindi movie is anyway a problem, then take M F Husein’s paintings as an example.

    Unemployment might be the cause for it, but religious fundamentalism is already a phenomena and it’s going to stay. Unemployment may or may not be the source of this fundamentalism, but it doesn’t alter the fact that we don’t have religious freedom of speech.

    Come to think of it, we don’t have a lot freedom of speech anyway. And this choice of compromising our freedom of speech came from our constitution. In fact, this is the only difference. The US constitution grants freedom of speech without any “but”s, but ours came with lots of them. That has made all the difference.

    What Vivekananda said is very true, but by no means he suggested lack of self-criticism as a mode of vitality-preservation. Vivekananda would have been the last person to advocate the dogmatic approach and the fundamentalism we have resorted to.

  27. beli says:

    The problem with fundamentalism in India has a lot to do with mob mentality and populist politics – ‘populist’ not like ‘for everyone’ but ‘for a small vote bank that’s large enough to get you an MLA or two’. The reactions to Husain’s paintings were done with political intent, as was the CPI’s decision to chuck Tasleema Nasreen out of West Bengal.
    As for freedom of expression, there may be any number of draconian laws left to rot somewhere in our Penal Code by the Brits after the Sepoy Mutiny which successive governments haven’t found the motivation to change because they’re too convenient.

  28. shreevatsa says:

    [Sorry for the somewhat long and late comment.]

    This “we are so backward” tone is annoying and fails to see that the fundamentalism in India is a modern development.

    It is *not* true that we in India are yet to gain from the West concepts of critical thinking or dissent which they have had since the Enlightenment. On the contrary, all through Europe’s darkest ages, we have had a rich tradition of disagreement and fierce debate on almost everything. The Indian tradition very much “tolerates” (actually, encourages) debate, it only insists that one learn the other side properly, and that the criticism not be mere abuse. (On the specific topic of the actions of Rama or other mythological characters, we have a significant body of arguments and counterarguments — at least in Sanskrit and Kannada, and quite probably in every major literary language of India. Some of the recent ones have even been given the country’s highest literary honour. :P) The kind of fundamentalism in question here is very much a 20th-century construction, or at any rate does not predate colonialism.

    Also, you have the luxury of dismissing from the other side these people as “religious nutjobs”, but in the US they are significant leaders with large followings: and, like all leaders, they’re mostly saying what their audience has come to expect and desire. The situation is far from harmless; factors other than legal can be just as powerful.

    Although I doubt the assertion that the creator of the cartoon “would very likely be behind bars by now” (after all, it’s just as available over the net in India too and no one’s made any fuss), I must point out that the idea of unrestricted free speech itself, while it seems like a great thing to all of us, is worth examining. As Stephen Fry and Clive James mention, the American idea of putting freedom over justice seems somewhat preposterous… as does their constitutional fundamentalism, where their constitution (like their Bible) is supposed to trump over empiricism, trying to reason about the consequences of laws in a given context. Freedom of *political* expression — or dissent against the state — is clearly something to be protected, but in India, where “mere words” and rumours can have immense effect, it is not clear that it would be wise to unfetter ‘hate speech’ and the like right now. Even the US wild West model, where speech is free and everyone’s allowed to attack unreasonably (and capricious Facebook posts about “death panels” can derail the entire national conversation), “because you can also attack in return”, seems to lead to a society of perpetual pugnaciousness, and does not seem to me any more enlightened than their ideas about guns.

  29. vijaysingh says:

    hiiii i m hindu & live in jaipur ( Raj. )

  30. Music trivia says:

    I just entered a long and comprehensive comment, but when I tried to submit it my FireFox crashed.
    Did it come though or do I need to redo it?

Leave a Reply