Monday, 18 February 2013

Sita’s Ramayana

Sita’s Ramayana
Samhita Arni & Moyna Chitrakar

Sita’s Ramayana takes the epic hindu tale of the Ramayana and attempts to tell it through the prespective of Sita, the kidnapped princess heldcaptive by the demon Ravana awaiting rescue by her husband Rama.
I was excited to read this because I expected it to apply a modern woman’s sensibilities to an ancient and deeply sexist text. I thought it would be a feminist exploration of the tale giving insight into the subdued role of women in the past.

Sadly, it was none of this, while the book claims to be the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective, it’s really nothing more than Sita reciting the tale. You could easily swap a sentence like “And then Rama said to Sita…” with “And then Rama said to me…” and achieve the same result.
Also, as Sita is being held captive for the majority of the book (either that or simply being left behind while the men go off on the adventures) she relies on other characters coming in and explaining to her what her been happening. The end result is basically a woman telling us all the stories that she has just been told and it’s deeply unsatisfying.
The text itself feels flat too, it certainly feels like a reproduction of an ancient text, there is no flair in the writing, it feels basic, skeletal.

You could say that the issue here is with me, that I was disappointed for expecting something that the book was never meant to be, but even taking it simply as Sita reading us the Ramayana, it still fails miserably.
As I read through I suddenly noticed something, I double checked and it was definitely the case, I flicked back through the previous  twenty pages and yes, I couldn’t believe it, about two thirds of the way through the text simply stops being told from Sita’s perspective and switches to a regular third person narrative. So if it’s no longer Sita’s Ramayana then what is the point of the book?

I must say that the art is beautiful. The rich paintings that make up the panel and bold and vibrant, with the brilliant characters iconic of Patua scrolls.
The layout of the pages is rather poor however, a brief essay at the end of the book explains that the paintings were done first before any text was written and overall it feels like these weren’t intended for a graphic novel. The flow of the comic pages means the paintings must be cut up to create a flow of panels, many pages contain large blank sections where there was no art to fill the gaps and on others the same painting is reproduced two or three times in an effort to fit all the text in.

I must say I was very disappointed with this book. If you find it available for a low price then it might be worth a purchase for the art alone but in terms of story and what it sets out to achieve, it fails miserably and it should be avoided.

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