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Filmi Twists on Indian Classics Win Acclaim

May 2008
Filmi Twists on Indian Classics Win Acclaim

It’s not often that Indian fables involving animals are adapted for the silver screen. Dhvani Desai’s Manpasand (aka The Perfect Match) is one such film, although what’s really unusual is that it has drawn wide attention and won an award. By one count, this animated film was picked for 10 international festivals in countries ranging from China and Turkey to Greece, the Czech Republic and Canada. India-based Desai draws on Sanjhi—a folk art that was traditionally practiced by unmarried women—to tell the tale of a father’s attempts to find a “suitable boy” for his daughter. Produced by the Children’s Film Society of India, this Panchatantra-inspired film garnered a Bronze World Award at the 2008 New York Festival’s Film Video Awards.   

Also worth mentioning is Nina Paley’s Sitayana: Sita Sings the Blues, an animated film that revisits the Ramayana from Sita’s point of view. More than a retelling of the epic, it’s a feminist reinterpretation with stylish touches. The Blues in the title literally refers to the blues music featured in the film (jazz composer/player Rudresh Mahanthappa and the French band Masaladosa are among the collaborators). Paley first encountered the Ramayana while living in Kerala with her then-husband. What she saw and read there inspired her, but it was the abrupt breakup of her marriage that triggered the project. Relying on three shadow puppets for the animation, Paley inserts episodes from her own life in the narrative, giving it a darkly comic twist. It took her five years to make what she calls “the greatest break-up story ever told.” It premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival. Earlier this year, Berlin also hosted an Indian play/dance/music/video project called The Abduction of Sita.

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