So my cousin, also one of my best friends, sent me a link to a brilliant animated project, Sita sings the blues by Nina Paley. This is based on Ramayana, yes, the epic. It is simply clever. My favorite element of this film are the three narrator shadow puppets, which look like Indonesian shadow puppets of the Rama Lila tradition. Paley has chosen to tell the Ramayana with Sita as the protagonist, an endearing character who bursts into the Blues in the voice of Annette Hanshaw, the Jazz singer from the 1920's.
I tell everyone that my favorite epic of all time is the Mahabharat, but lately, it seems Ramayana is speaking a bit too loudly to ignore. The themes it explores are just as valid, morally complex, and contemporary as the ones the Mahabharat addresses, and the characters just as unapologetic about their choices and contradictions. In fact, sometimes I think that Rama, the protagonist, evokes strong, mixed responses from his audience; he gets a great deal of criticism about his treatment of his wife, and this treatment raises interesting questions about gender politics. And Sita? I remember my friends getting angry with her: is she for real?
Paley's film reminds me of those responses.
So I guess it is time to visit the epics again; like going into the woods, one has to do this every so often or one loses touch with all that makes reality tolerable and beautiful.