Monday, July 19, 2010

ramayana . . . with popcorn

Has reading the Ramayana been on your bucket list, but realistically, you have as little hope of getting around to it as you have of reading The Canterbury Tales in Middle-English?

If so, you will enjoy today's post, offering the brunch-menu version of the classic Indian epic, "Ramayana Three Ways."

First, there is the 1988 Indian television series, created, written, and directed by Ramanand Sagar, with all 111 30-minute episodes available for viewing here. You may find there are occasional blackouts that last for 30 seconds or so (where I assume that commercials were originally inserted). Just be patient, and the episode will continue.

According to Wikipedia:
"During its original broadcast, Ramayan was enormously popular, drawing over 100 million viewers. Although rising slowly at first, its popularity reached a point where the entire nation of India came to a virtual stop as nearly everyone who could gain access to a television stopped what he was doing to watch the televised adventures of Rama. In a phenomenon that the newsmagazine India Today dubbed 'Ramayan fever', religious services (Hindu and non-Hindu) were rescheduled to accommodate the show's broadcast; trains, buses, and inner-city trucks stopped running when the show was on; and, in villages, hundreds of people would gather around a single television set to watch the show."

Second, for a feminist take on the story of Rama and Sita, if you haven't already seen Nina Paley's 2008 animated film "Sita Sings the Blues," watch it here. Billed as "the greatest break-up story ever told," the soundtrack features the songs of 1920s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw, including "What Wouldn't I Do for That Man," "Mean to Me," "Moanin' Low," "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling," and others. A beautiful, quirky, and ultimately uplifting film in which Sita/Lakshmi gets her own back in the end.

Third, the Ramayana in (gasp!) book form. It's the incomparable William Buck translation that makes accessible and eminently readable this exciting story of love, loyalty, honor and duty (yes, it really is exciting, despite these currently unfashionable virtues). Read it and weep -- in a good way!

As an aside, William Buck made beautiful translations of both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, preceded by (as told in the publisher's preface to the Ramayana) "years of reading and rereading the translations, studying Sanskrit, planning, and writing."
He completed both translations before an early death at the age of 37. I've searched to find more about the life of this amazing author/translator, but have found little. If anyone has more information about him, please comment.

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