FilmKaravan Celebrates Sita’s DVD Release at Intérieurs, NYC

This past Tuesday evening, on a hot and humid day in the city, I was at the Sita DVD launch party downtown but could have sworn I was in Bombay! That is always a great feeling for me and typically means I am having such a good time I forget my troubled relationship with the Big Apple. Just like a tumultuously heated relationship, where you love each other, then hate each other, then love each other again with even more passion, NYC and I have a special connection. Right now, during the typically rough, smelly and noisy summer here, I am thankfully escaping my temporary dislike of the city through great cinema, inspiring museum visits and fantastic events such as the FilmKaravan one. So, back to the party! 

Inside the balmy Intérieurs, a beautiful interior design and furniture shop just a hop away from Tribeca Film Center, the Who’s Who of Indian cinema and media in NYC all came together to celebrate the illustrator-slash-cartoonist-slash-screenwriter-slash-director Nina Paley, the talented filmmaker behind ‘Sita Sings the Blues’. Complete with a superb exhibition of Paley’s original character illustrations for the film titled ‘Elements of Blue’ and curated by Priyanka Mathew, the DVD launch party was a resounding success.

Of course, it’s never anything short of fabulous when the duo behind FilmKaravan and Karavan Kollective — Pooja Kohli and Payal Sethi — are organizing the event. Which reminds me, before I get carried away with Sita mania, sign up for their Film Club immediately and don’t miss out on any of their impossible to find titles and coveted soirees. Just as a teaser, in attendance on Tuesday were actor Samrat Chakrabarti, upcoming ‘Road, Movie’ director Dev Benegal and of course, Nina Paley and journalist Aseem Chhabra.

Now a bit about Sita: Why you should get yourself a copy of the DVD and while you’re at it, share the wealth and buy one for each of your loved ones. I am not alone in this, but ever since I first laid eyes upon ‘Sita Sings the Blues’ at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008, I have been fascinated with Nina Paley’s animated, modernized and personalized version of the Sanskrit epic The Ramayama. Is it because it so eloquently and beautifully tells the tale of doubtful Rama, his wonderfully fatalistic wife Sita, the courageous monkey-god Hanuman and the evil, multi-headed demon Ravana? YES. Is it because I recognize two of the voices for the shadow puppets — those magical figures who help to explain some of the more confusing points in the story, but also add comic relief with their comfortable, familiar tone and combative banter — as my world-renowned friends Aseem Chhabra and Manish Acharya? YES. Is it because I can relate to the personal story of Nina Paley and her relationship woes — mirroring the heroic Sita’s troubles — dealing with her husband’s cowardice, which in turn closely resembles Rama’s own ‘What will people think’ antics? YES. And is it because of the beautiful artwork by Paley, the stunning soundtrack courtesy of Annette Hanshaw’s torch songs from 20′s and 30′s and the great interaction of differing forms of animation, to distinguish between the various subplots within the film? YES, YES and then YES!

As you can see from the photos of the evening, including this one at right of yours truly with my beautiful friend Tara, the launch was a resounding success. Indian fashions abounded, while libations and finger foods delighted. And now you can pick up the torch of this great project and buy Sita merchandise online and Sita DVDs on Amazon. Oh, and if you really don’t want to take my word for it, rent if first on Netflix. You’ll see, you’ll adore it. I’m hardly ever wrong!

Images courtesy of FilmKaravan, except middle photo of Nina Paley and Pooja Kohli – ©2009 E. Nina Rothe

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