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Sunday, September 26, 2010


When I got back from spending Saturday with my squeeze, the lovely Sweet Tea, I opened my mailbox in anticipation of SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND. Well, that didn't show, but the copy of SITA SINGS THE BLUES I ordered was there instead. I ordered it sight unseen due to the universal acclaim it received over the past year, and I'm dying to watch it. It's a supposedly oddball animated take on the RAMAYANA, the classic Hindu epic that's loaded to the rafters with heroism, monsters, gods, and all the other stuff that I just eat up, and I'm curious to compare and contrast it against the ultra-cheesy Indian-made, 78-episode live action TV version from 1987/1988.

When I was living with my excellent roommates Mark and Patrick on Manhattan's Upper West Side during the early 1990's, I used to wake up every Saturday morning, get blazed, and tune in to the week's installment of RAMAYAN (as the show was titled; all other versions I've encountered are spelled RAMAYANA) and groove on its heady mythology, kickass music and narration that was nasally sung in Hindi (a sound that I love, but that drives most people I know insane), and special effects so cheapjack that they made the pre-reboot DOCTOR WHO look like AVATAR by comparison. I never saw the whole series, but what I saw stuck with me, leading me to read a translation of the work. It's a rich and genuinely vast tale that held me riveted throughout, and it displays none of the often dull text found in Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda (the most extensive source for what we know of Norse mythology), so I urge you to give it a shot.

Anyway, I'm psyched for the animated version, so has anyone out there seen it? Please write in with your thoughts.


Scott Koblish said...

It's Nina Paley's Flash movie. It's got some boring parts, but it's got some inspired animation done in Macromedia Flash. For her to have squeezed out that much out of that program on her own is a herculean achievement, trust me. I've worked with that program and I couldn't have come up with half the stuff she managed.

It's not like the stuff you were referencing, so be warned ahead of time and be gentle with a review - she did the whole thing on her own over a period of years. I've always loved her comics and I don't know why, but she's always hit a sweet spot with me. When watching, keep an eye on the design, the story isn't where my interest was, it was on the absolutely stunning design and the choices she made with the animation. Very few animators are as bold as she is to completely dispense with the narrative in sections and focus on a love of just pure design in movement. Great stuff, but definitely a movie to see with a particular approach in mind.

Kevie said...

I saw a bit of it at an animation festival awhile back. Inspired choice to pair the Hindu source material with old school blues music. And, as Scott says, she pulled off an amazing accomplishment with simple animation tools, purely through awesomely strong design. I think it took her something like ten years to complete.

Paley's back story is what really fascinated me. As I recall, she moved to India with her businessman husband--no small challenge in itself--and shortly found herself ditched and alone, in an alien land halfway around the world. But to live in India is to absorb its spiritual heritage, and she found solace in the story of Sita, which led to the movie project.