Sita in Popular Cinema

Sita is a part of a legend. She is a Legend herself, but that is not the point here. Any legend, and one that is as massive as the Ramayana, when told over many years, has the focus shifting to the story. The basic plot gets preserved, but the characters lose their depth. You can see this difference in the way people tell a story. When you’re watching a movie, you don’t just watch the story. You see the actor thinking, moving and feeling all the emotions that the plot puts him through. But when you hear the same story told to you second-hand, both you, the listener, and the speaker are focussing on the story being told. The minor details, the emotions that enhance the characters fall through.

Take Ramayana. We all know that Ram always sticks to his principles, duty and discipline. But we don’t know if he ever doubted himself. Or if he wished his life was different from what it was. And we may never really know. Ramayana was told so long ago that all we can do now is imagine what could have been. And we are!

Authors and film-makers are filling that gap. They use these stories as templates and give us a new version of a character never shown before. We see a Sita whose imprisonment wears down on her. We see a Rama who doubts sticking to his principles seeing the anguish it causes the people around him. They may not live on, but their character types certainly do.

So Sita isn't just a character from many ages ago, she is someone we see in movies even today!

But what kind of a character is Sita? Overall we know what she’s like. Sita is quiet, demure and above all, she is remembered and glorified for being pure and true to her husband Ram. But Ramayana does not tell us how Sita developed into such a person. But we can make a fair guess here. 

The way girls are raised into this world as women from the past until now follows a single bottom line: “Be a good girl. Don’t trouble anyone and you’ll be fine”. The way this has presented itself has changed many times throughout history but the bottom line has never changed. There are many ways women react to this and grow, but the more “traditional” women listen and stick to what their parents say and eventually, what their husbands say. These are the women who do not see much of the world outside of their husband’s house and are overall very limited.

Such an everyday character is the female protagonist of such a great epic. And Sita is an inspiring take on the quiet character type. When Rama and Lakshmana were preparing to go into the forest, she could have easily stayed back in the palace with her sister, Urmila. She put her first step of courage forward when she insisted on following Ram into the forest. This was a choice she made out of love and duty, leading her to step out of the comfort of the palace and the only life she has known so far. 

But even this choice can be chalked down to her sense of duty as Rama’s wife. But later she gets kidnapped by Raavana and has to endure him everyday for over a year. And when Rama finally rescues her, he doubts her fidelity. Not once but twice. This is when we see Sita for who she truly is. Once she walks through fire, but the second time, she asks the Earth to swallow her for the injustice she’s been facing. All her life Sita has been dutiful, loving, kind and nothing short of devoted to Rama and yet she has been slighted. And she stands up for herself. 

This is an inspiration to many characters who can quickly be seen as boring just because they’re quiet or traditional. In reality, the story you tell with them is what brings out their true colours. And we have plenty of books and movies with their own Sitas! Check them out in the video below.



Nithya Muralidharan.

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