Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley: A Delicious Outrage

Sita Sings the Blues, the French poster

When I saw the poster of this animated film in the windows of my cinema in 2009, I didn’t realize that I was missing a real little treasure! Hopefully, chance and Google led me to this sweet masterpiece again a few days ago.

When I found myself on Reel13 I was immediately attracted to the drawing of that charming Indian-Betty Boop shown on my screen.

Sita is a deity, Rama’s wife and the protagonist of one of the most sacred texts in all India: the Ramayana; but here, in Nina Paley’s cartoon, Sita can sing the blues!

 

What’s the Ramayana?

 The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic. An old wise man called Valkimi is supposed to have written the 24,000 verses and the 7 kandas ( = books ) of this holy story.

This long poem  deals with moral values, Dharma and teaches Hindus – but also Buddhists, Jainists and all the believers whose religion is based on Hinduism – what to do to be a good human being  and to maintain the great balance of the world.

All these moral rules are explained through narrative allegory. To be short, a narrative allegory is a way to avoid being deadly boring when you teach something deadly boring.

The story of Rama is more or less simple according to the versions. I will keep Nina Paley’s version. But whatever it is, it’s as exciting as a soap-opera!

Somewhere in the North of India, Bobby…well, Rama marries Sue-El…oups, Sita. One day, a villain called J.R…sorry, Ravana kidnaps Sita and takes her to his ranch in Lanka,- today known as Sri-Lanka but some scholars disagree about this place but never mind!-  Of course, Rama, who is a perfect man, goes there and frees his wife. Hanuman, the monkey-headed god and Rama’s faithful servant, helps him a lot in this mission.

(The article continues after this photo…)

Battle at Lanka (1649-1653)

When Rama and Sita come back home, things go wrong because Rama’s people consider that a woman who shared another man’s house for years can’t be pure anymore. So, Rama, who is a perfect man, banishes Sita. While she is away in Valkimi’s ashram, she gives birth to twin brothers called Luv and Kush. Valkimi writes the Ramayana song which praises Rama and he teaches it to the twins.

When Rama hears them singing, he realizes that the twins are his sons.

I don’t really understand the end of the story. Sita appears and then vanishes into Mother Earth; I don’t really know why, certainly to prove that she has never been impure.

Of course, versions differ according to religions or countries. In Buddhism, for example, Sita is not kidnapped by the villain Ravana. Too violent, maybe?

In Sita Sings the Blues, Nina Paley has chosen the simplest version. What changes is the feminist dimension of this film: indeed, the story is told from Sita’s viewpoint; that is why this cartoon is also called The Sitayana.

A bit daring, isn’t it?

 

Sita, Rama and Hanuman

The Sitayana: Sita Sings the Blues:

Sita Sings the Blues is a modern, uncommon and beautiful version of the Ramayana. And even if you can find hundreds of articles about this film, I wanted to write my own article about this marvelous piece of work. The plot is a bit the same as the original tale but Nina Paley added many new elements and added her own western-woman personality to the story:

First, Sita is not the only one to have marital problems since Nina Paley herself appears in the cartoon: she lives in San Francisco with her boyfriend but he decides to go working in India and he finally breaks up. This cameo is an interesting modern parallel. One can’t help comparing Sita’s situation and this today’s girl’s love story. In both cases, distances damage their relationship with their man.

Secondly, Sita’s story is set and narrated by three shadow puppets, two men and a woman, who speak in a quite modern manner, commenting on the story as if they were having a drink in an Internet Café, chatting about today’s relationships between men and women. This is quite funny and lively, especially to the viewers who don’t know much about the Ramayana.

Annette Hanshaw

At last, each episode in Sita’s adventure corresponds to a song by Annette Hanshaw, a singer from the 1920s. These pieces of collection taken from archives fit the film so perfectly that they seem to have been specially written and give Sita even more glamour and femininity.

What is really surprising when you start watching Sita Sings the Blues, it is the different techniques of animations. Each story line has its type of animation to make the narration clear. For example, in singing parts, the drawings are colourful, bright, the features are smooth, the characters have wide eyes and big smiles like in Japanese animated films. They are like sweet and glamorous interludes. On the contrary, the parts about Nina Paley’s sentimental problems have something less fairy-like, more contemporary; the colours are dull and the lines are brisk, irregular and plain like in a newspaper cartoon. As for the Ramayana story itself, Nina Paley has been inspired by traditional Indian painting; Moghul and Rajput Miniatures, so that the viewers immediately recognize these illustrations as the representation of ancient times.

Different animation techniques

The Controversy:

 Unfortunately, some people haven’t really appreciated the cheeky brightness of this little jewel.

Despite the numerous awards received and the enthusiasm of the viewers, some Hindu people felt offended.

According to Wikipedia, some left-wing academics accused Nina Paley of “racism” and “neocolonialism” – “neocolonialism” is really a sort of Godwin’s law in Western-Eastern discussions! – whereas right-wing Hindus declared it was an outrage and started a petition to ban the film – the goal was 500 votes and they got 488! Ah! Ah!  They did not like the jokes about Hanuman who is often referred as “the monkey”, which I can understand, in a way, and were shocked by the goddesses’ nudity and all the references to sex in general.

To my European mind, I find this animated film is a cure against monotony and boredom and I wish Nina Paley could make a film about the Bible, even if it wouldn’t be as colourful and glittering as the Hindu Pantheon.

Sita Sings the Blues is like a glowing Christmas tree in the polluted forest of Hollywood, a red cherry on the heavy cake of Pixar, it is girly, feminist, poetic, humorous and glamorous. This iridescent gem and its many facets is a lovely symbol of freedom; freedom in art –– Nina Paley treated Ramayana her own way –  and freedom in the way a film can be exploited – Sita Sing the Blues is being shown for free on the web thanks to the American non-profit organization Creative Commons.

So, if you haven’t watched this film yet, but I’m sure that most of you have, take 1 hour 30 in your schedule and enjoy! The Olympics are not everything! You can go to Youtube, the screen is much bigger!

 

 

Categories: Cinema, Religion | 1 Comment

Olympics 2012: The Mysterious Lady in Red

As the Indian team was wearing yellow traditionnal clothes for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, a mysterious woman in red walked along with the Indian athletes for the whole lap. Indian organizers were puzzled and a bit angry as this woman nearly drew all the attention. According to Zeenews.com, she just had to guide the Indian contingent for a short distance but she was not supposed to march next to the flagbearer, World Champion Wrestler Shushil Kumar.

I understand the Indian organizers’ reaction.

This woman was a volunteer; she was wearing blue jeans and a casual red sweater which was eye-catching and had nothing to do with the yellow refined athletes’ garments. She wasn’t part of the team.  She was smiling proudly, she seemed to show off as if she had taken the opportunity to take part in the show and to be  on TV and other media worldwide.

Olympic Games 2012 is an important event for India, an opportunity to prove that Indian sportsmen are improving, especially in Great Britain, a country where they have historical and human  relationships. Maybe they don’t really feel like marching with badly-dressed scroungers!

Why didn’t she follow the Chinese contingent? They were dressed in red. It would have been better-matched!

The Indian Contingent London 2012

You may also like: The Olympic Lady: A Storm in a Cup of Chai.

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Olympics 2012: Opening Ceremony

Wonderful pictures! Gold medal for elegance!

Olympics Opening Ceremony

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Olympics 2012: Go for it, India!

I don’t know if India will win many medals, this time, but they have made a lot of supporting songs for the Olympics 2012.

I’ve chosen two of them. The first one is cute. It was written for Youtube by Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire.

The second one is interesting because you can see different Indian athletes; it is sung by Shanka Ehsaan Loy.

I don’t think these two songs are official but never mind, they are moving all the same.

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Krishna, Krishna, Krishna

Three pictures of Krishna. they’re made by contemporary artists. I love them!

Young Krishna, Gopal Krishna and well, Krishna made in France!

Bal Krishan by Devendra Bhardvaj

by Ajay Garg

Pierre and Gilles

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Naga Panchami: Charming snakes!

Snake doused with milk

My Hindi teacher can’t understand why the French like lizards so much but as far as I’m concerned, I can’t understand why the Indians like snakes!  Actually, I’m going to tell you a secret: I think Indians have never liked snakes!  Snakes are very poisonous and kill between 20,000 and 40,000 people each year in India, according to The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. People got used to worshipping snakes to protect themselves from their terrible fangs! Now, of course, Naga is highly respected and has many temples dedicated to him throughout India and other countries like Cambodia and Thailand.

Today, it is Naga Panchami. Hindus and others celebrate snakes. In Hindu mythology Naga has several heads to be more protective but sometimes, it does not have snake heads; it can have dog heads or human faces… They are supernatural creatures, you see!

Life is sweet for Lord Vishnu!

Vishnu is often linked to Naga because the serpent is a protector and Vishnu himself is the God of Preservation: that’s why Vishnu is often represented sheltered by Shesha NagaLord Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, is often related to Naga too; when he was a baby and had to be taken away from his evil enemy Kamsa, he was carried over the Yamuna River by his father Vasudeva, protected by a Naga. Later, he also defeated terrible Kalya Naag but this story is told by my colleague Françoise on her blog Indomaniaque , so, you can go and read this story  here.

As far as I’m concerned, I like the following legend which explains why people worship snakes: It happened a long time ago, when there were no rickshaws, no jeans, no mobile phones, no modern ploughing machines, nothing! A farmer was ploughing his field but he killed young snakes which were hidden in the earth. The mother of these serpents was very upset and she bit the farmer and all his family and everybody died except one of the daughters. The daughter had to pray and pray and pray again until the mummy serpent was satisfied and the family revived.

Today, there are still temples where you can pray and undertake rites to honor snakes. At home, different things can be done to worship the Nagas; you can draw them or stick pictures of them on your door. Unmarried women pray the Nagas to find a good husband. You can also eat food without salt for the whole day, since the snakes are said to have desalinated areas like Kerala to make them habitable and luxurious. One of the most common rites in Maharashtra is to douse a snake with milk. Milk is a symbol of purity and if the snake drinks the milk, it is a lucky sign and its poison will be less dangerous.

Despite all that, I think I finally prefer the rats in Karni Mata Temple!

Krishna dancing over Kaliyaa Naag near the Yamuna

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In India, I’m a Sex Fantasy; What About You?

(Click here for French)

You won’t believe it, but it is stormy in Corsica! The weather is usually so good in summer! So I surfed on the web instead of surfing on the sea. This morning, I stumbled upon a funny article and I wanted to share this incredible piece of news with you! In India, English teachers are men’s sex fantasies!

 The Indian respect for education

Indian Teacher

 I had already noticed that teachers had more of an aura and were a bit more respected in India. When you say you are a teacher to Indian people, they often look at you with admiration!

In France, when you reveal the taboo, some rude people sometimes look at you with a little smile or a little resentment and tell you something like: “It must be great to be on holidays all the time! And you only work 18 hours a week! Plus the strikes and sick leave! Ah! Ah! Ah!”

Fortunately, – well, the word “fortunately” is not the right word, maybe – these years, the French media have been disclosing the problems that teachers really have to face in some schools, especially violence and insults from unmanageable pupils, so now, we are still “lazy and privileged” but we are “offended and beaten” so, people are less critical and ask questions like “Isn’t it too difficult? Can you control your students?”

But in India, although my colleagues must encounter many difficulties too, they are still acknowledged this quality that is actually our main quality and which is sometimes forgotten in France: education. In India, a teacher is considered as having a significant role in children’s future. Knowledge is still respected especially in areas where some children can’t go to school.  I’ve read on Wikipedia – Wiki is my middle name! – that many countries in Asia, South America and so on, celebrate Teacher’s Day! Teacher’s Day! I didn’t even know such a day could exist! In my country, we celebrate mothers, fathers, grandmothers and lovers! But teachers! No way! I’m sure it would be almost considered as corruption! Or at least as boot-licking!

In India, not only do people celebrate their teachers but they celebrate them twice a year; Guru Purnima in July (which is more a Hindu and Buddhist celebration) and Teacher’s Day on the 5th of September (the secular celebration) – the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a former President of India and a great scholar.

But in India, ladies and gentlemen, surveys have shown that teachers, and especially English teachers have another quality; sex attraction!!!

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the teachers’ master

English Teacher Fantasy

 According to an article on Indiatimes.com the English Teacher is Indian men’s Number One Sex Fantasy, even before Nurses!

 “It is the most commonly found pinup poster in a man’s room. Women dressed as teachers holding a stick and ready to spank a petulant boy is the favourite dream act for a man. Be it the adolescent Rishi Kapoor in Mera Naam Joker or the Summer of ’69, men have always fantasised about their gorgeous high school English teachers. “In your teens, if a man gets to meet a hot and experienced woman it’s a major testosterone boost. Moreover English teachers are the ones who are best dressed, and most of the times in saucy Western outfits,” says art designer, 25-year-old Kamlesh.

“It’s in their adolescence that a man experiences attraction towards an elder woman. In between the age group of 12-16 years they face a psychological connection towards their teachers. It’s like the first taste of the secrets tucked away in the adult world,” opines Dr. Samir Parekh, a psychologist. Dr. Singh adds, “This kind of behaviour is very colonial in nature. People in India always think that a person who can speak English properly is superior to them. So if this quality is present in a woman she will obviously become desirable to her beau.”

( “Men prefer English teachers, nurses, for sex” The Times of  India 23rd of July 2012)

    The other winners from the list are:

 2- Nurses

3- Playmates

4- Boss’s wife

5- A virgin

6- A dominating woman

7- A celebrity (A Bollywood or Hollywood actress)

8- Blondes

9- Dancers (belly dancers or pole dancers)

10- An air-hostess

 Are you in the list? If you aren’t, it is time for you to start belly dancing or to bleach your hair!

Antoine Doinel and his boss’s wife

Nurses, airhostesses: international fantasy…

  Of course, if I compare this list to French surveys like this one on topito.com, there is no teacher at all! In France, English teachers are far less exotic and don’t have this colonial touch that Doctor Samir Pakesh talks about in The Times of India.

  Despite their cultural differences, Indian and French men have tastes in common: thus, the grandes gagnantes in both countries are nurses (# 1 in France), air hostesses ( #3 in France), which I can understand easily since men love feeling they are safe, served and pampered! But both Indian and French men dream of their bosses’ wives! Their bosses’ wives! What does that mean? Is that a way to take their revenge on their bosses’ authority? I would call that the Antoine Doinel syndrome!

   At last, I wanted to remark a charming difference between the two countries; French men admit their favourite fantasy is their own partner. It is so sweet, isn’t it? The French are so romantic…unless they are great liars!

Bon Voyage!

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A Feeling of Déjà Vu!

Even in Corsica, India is not far! Can you make the difference?

(Unfortunately, I did not take the pictures myself, so click to know where they are from)

 

 

 

 

 

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