REEL 13

Discussion: Sita Sings the Corporate Blues

Posted: March 2, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues is the singular vision of one dedicated filmmaker. How do you think the film would be different if it had instead been produced by a big animation studio like Disney or Dreamworks? Would Sita have even survived development? Would Eddie Murphy provide the voice for a spunky dragon companion? Would Sita be the official spokesdeity of Pizza Hut?

Watch the full film online.

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  • Robert Moraes

    I have no idea how this film would have looked if it had been a studio picture. But I think there are people in Hollywood that would have tried to make it good. I have not yet given up on the movie studios.

  • Perseph

    It would have been vastly different. For starters, it most likely would have been set up as a more traditional narrative (just the story of the Ramayana without the explanatory debate between the shadow puppet characters or the autobiographical plot about Nina’s marriage), there would have been major changes to the cultural aspects that would either confuse or offend Americans not familiar with Indian religion and culture, thereby offending Hindus who hold this story to be very sacred. The Annette Hanshaw songs wouldn’t have been used, and if any musical numbers were included, they would sound more contemporary, or it wold be more like a Bollywood number. The connection between Sita and Lakshmi would have been explained more, or left out entirely, and the other gods would have been introduced in some expository way. Obviously the sex and gore would have been left out or danced around. And instead of dying at the end, Sita and Rama probably would have reunited and lived happily ever after.

    That’s the sort of thing audiences expect to see from Disney or Dreamworks because that’s been the standard for so long. Typically, when upsetting the viewers’ expectations, things don’t go well at the box office, even if the same people complain that the same formula is stale. This works because it isn’t Disney (or another big-name animation house), with a very different look and intent, so people are more free to judge it on its own merits, rather than by comparison to previous works.

    Of course, that’s just my take on it.

  • bonnie

    As Perseph said, it would’ve been a traditional narrative. Furthermore, it would’ve been entirely in one style, traditional Disney animation.

    As Perseph also pointed out, the Disney version most likely would’ve danced around the rawer elements of even the single narrative that was left.

    I went to see this at the NY International Children’s Film Festival.

    At the end, I was listening to the childrens’ voices.

    “Why did he…?”

    “Why did she…?”

    When’s the last time you heard children walking out of a Disney flick asking “Why?”

    Even in The Lion King, where the father lion dies, the why is obvious – because Scar is a bad guy. Kids don’t need it explained. The roles in Disney flicks are clearly delineated – villian, hero, and yes, spunky sidekick (that would’ve been a spunky monkey in this case).

    In Sita, roles are left a little more ambiguous, and the story is all the more interesting for it.

  • Kam

    I am not adding comments on the topic under discussion, but my comments on the airing of this film on PBS station. As a Hindu living in USA, and an ardent fan of PBS programming, I am totally shocked at PBS for airing this film, which is very offensive to the Hindu sentiment. Ramayana and its characters are held very sacred by all Hindus, and I trusted PBS to be more sensitive to religious sentiments. I am shocked and disappointed.

  • Nishendu

    “Corporate stories” can be done differently but the message of Ramayana will be the same. All these films can get a part of the message across. It does not really matter which part.
    Rama was born to live like a human and go through the sufferings. I hope who ever does it show respect of some one else’s religion. I am proud that no one is doing any thing uncivilized so far to protest Sita sings the Blues. Hindus are generally tolerant people, more so than most.

  • pramila

    Kam, I am surprised by your comment. You seem to be disconnected from a history of critique of the Ramayana that exists in India. Of couse, some religious folk would say that the Ramayana is sacred and therefore should not be questioned. But this stance has not prevented several questions being asked about this piece of literature, by literary pundits, religious scholars, feminist scholars, cultural studies experts and so on. I am confident that most Hindus, whether living in India or abraod, are not fundamentalist about Hindu literary texts and adhere to the spirit of dialogue that is true to our philosophy. So, this film joins the long tradition of Ramayana critique and is far from offensive;it highlights the woman’s plight as many Indian women have themselves pointed out in poems, songs, articles, and essays.

  • balduck walter

    hello
    I was really surprised and wish you succes in your further carier. I will donate to realise your honnest and well funded fight again the tyrannic authors right legislation and remember that many people are prepared to help you.Walt disneys prodution present a fake world,oldfashioned !!!Your productions are welcome an refresh the minds of people who are new in your spiritual world.Go on because our globalising society needs your realisations
    sincerly
    Balduck walter PH DR UNIVERSITY ghent belgium

  • Andy

    Kam & pramila

    Creatively, the film was absolutley brilliant – awesome – loved it.

    However, some aspects of the film did make me cringe (especially the sarcastic diatribe between the narraters). I agree with the principle expressed by Kam ie that this story does NOT portray Ramayana in a positive light. The way the Hindu literature (scriptures, texts, mythology etc) are written is very SYMBOLIC – ie the stories are never meant to be taken at face value – but it should be interpreted in the correct context – which obviously means that the Ramayana & Mahabharata do incorporate some poetic license (and they are classified officially also as poems). This was necessary to ensure that the larger illiterate population during the 2000-3000 BC period understand the easier and dumbed down version of the broader principles. Hence to try to make perfect sense of every aspect of the storyline or sub-plot is losing the larger picture and the broader message that it purports to convey. This is probably true of all religions and their literature & texts. So this exact movie could have been made and equally successfully without the sarcastic jibes at Ramayana – I guarantee you this movie will not be able to be released in India (there will be riots) – though without the sarcasm this could have been a model for new age creativity and interpretation of Ramayana and helped immensely in upliftment of women in India as well.

    The studios are crappy at supporting any new creative work – they want financial projections and target/focus group acceptance – they would also never have used the original music since Nina Piley has not taken copyright permission for any of the songs yet. Basically, a non formulaic movie has zero chance of being produced at studios.

    Hope everyone enjoys the movie.

  • Nikki

    If Hollywood had done this film it would have been from Rama’s POV instead of Sinta, and the actor voicing Rama would have been a name actor with billing above the title billing.

  • Raj Ravichandran

    While Nina Paley has the “author’s license” to portray Sita’s story according to her interpretation, I certainly think it hurts the sentiments of most Hindus. Also I consider it bad taste to present this story as a film for children to watch.My appeal to Channel 13 is not to raise any money from the distribution of this film.