Hi and welcome to Pop and Culture! In this series, we are going to see how historical and mythological characters.. have evolved beyond their plotlines and are being represented in cinema today. The topic for this episode is going to be Sita So Sita is a part of a legend. She herself can be called a legend.. but that’s not the point here. When an epic like Ramayana is spoken about for years and generations.. the focus tends to shift to the story. As in.. not enough importance is given to the characters. For example, We all know Rama as someone who always sticks to his principles, duty and discipline. But we never know if he ever doubted himself. Or why did he behave the way he did. Questions like these often remain unanswered. And we may never really know. But authors and film-makers are filling that gap. They use the stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana as templates, to give us their version of these characters. So Sita doesn’t just become a character from that period. She is someone we can see in movies even today! Hi this is Nithya! Today we’re going to see some of the most memorable Sitas of our time. The first reference we are going to be seeing today is the book.. The Forest of Enchantment by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Sita portrayed in this book is very unique as she is shown as a very.. well rounded and a more human character. Well rounded as in.. The character’s motivations and back story line up perfectly with her actions in the story. More Human as in, they shows the toll of imprisonment on Sita. There are a lot of shows and movies like.. Clockwork Orange, Orange is the New Black where they show how imprisonment can leave a lasting impact on you. or can be a traumatic experience in general. So why shouldn’t it be the same for Sita? The Ashokavana may be more comfortable than a prison cell, but they still take away the one thing that all humans crave for. To be with our loved ones. The first ref could have been a little far because it’s from a book. But the second reference now is going to be a movie. The movie Raavanan by Mani Ratnam The heroine of the films is Ragini She is bold and draws on her inner strength to get through the 14 days she was with Veera (Raavanan). When Inner strength is portrayed in movies.. or strength in general is portrayed as they lose a lot of the compassion or kindness or any other similar quality that’s more gentle in nature. But Ragini isn’t like that. She still has a lot of these characteristics. She also understands why Veera’s actions seems justified from his point. One more amazing thing about this movie is that. From the title, although it is perceived that Veera is the central character.. It is Ragini’s actions that takes the story ahead. Storytelling wise, this is a very strong character to have because.. Veera and Ragini have a power imbalance. Yet despite being the one kidnapped, she shifts that power imbalance to favor her. Strength however doesn’t have a particular form. What if Sita hadn’t married Ram? We’ve always seen her as the quiet and devoted wife. Who would a Sita be without Ram? This brings us to our third reference, the movie Queen. For those of you who haven’t watched the film, This movie is about a woman called Rani who gets abandoned the night before her wedding by her fiancé. While this might seem like a sad story, Rani decides to not let it the end of her story. She goes to her honeymoon by herself, to new places, meets new people.. and has fun discovering herself! She goes far out of her comfort zone to define who she is without her fiancé. Without her Ram. And I’ve always felt that this is perfect example of.. how there’s more to a quiet person than what one sees. This last reference we have, mirrors one admirable aspect of Sita Knowing where to draw the line. Let’s quickly recap the Epic. After being rescued from Lanka, Sita was asked to undergo a test of purity by Ram. Sita had to go through the trial of fire. Although in the epics this is described as purifying and holy, which is partially true. But it was humiliating for Sita to have to prove herself. Think about it. She was imprisoned for 14 years. All this while she was eagerly waiting for her Ram to come rescue her. And the first question he asks her is if she has been touched by Raavanan. He wanted her to prove her purity to him. This can be very frustrating but she still agrees. After which they leave to Ayodhya to lead a happy life. This should have been a happy ending but Valmiki didn’t leave it there. In Uttara Kanda (an addition to the original Ramayana),Valmiki takes this a step ahead. He writes that the Ayodhyan citizens didn’t believe that she was pure. Ram instead of convincing his citizens about his trust on her, sends Sita to the forest despite the fact that she was pregnant. Seeing no way out of it,Sita raises both her sons in the forest. Several years later, the sons were brought back to the palace. Rama whole heartedly accepts both his sons. He doesn’t do so with Sita. He tells her that the trial of fire isn’t enough. He asks her to take another test of purity Sita feels very insulted hearing this. She says that if I am pure, then the earth will split into two to accept me. And that’s what happens. She goes back into the earth. This sure is a sad ending. Ram and Sita couldn’t accept each other. But from Sita’s point of view.. this is a bold step for her! She agreed to go through the trial of fire when Ram asked her to. When asked to leave to the forest, she did just that. But towards the end she felt really insulted and decided to stand up for herself. So who is similar to this aspect of Sita? Dr. Leela from Kaatru Veliyidai. KV was a stunning visual and romantic experience. But that doesn’t mean VC treated Leela right. He even says out loud that women are made for a different purpose than men and that there is no need for Leela to have an opinion on worldly matters. Mani Ratnam wrote VC’s character in a manner where he understands his mistakes and corrects himself. On the other hand, there is no need for a woman to wait for a man expecting him to change. Hoping that even if he ill treats her now, he’ll change later. But overall if we had to draw a conclusion from the film, it would be that You can draw your boundaries when and where you see fit. For Leela, just because she put up with VC’s actions and irresponsibilities once.. it wasn’t necessary for her to to so again. For Sita, because she had to go through the trial once, there was no need for her to do it again. One thing to note here is that, Leela accepted VC again. But it was her own choice.. and after confirming that VC was a new man. Characters like Sita and Leela are very soft and gentle women, and can even be classified as ‘pushovers’. But they can also adapt themselves based on situations. They know where to draw the line and stand their ground. Cinema portrays an independent or a bold woman as someone.. who can physically show it on-screen. For example Captain Marvel. No matter how many times she’s thrown down, she’ll boldly rise up. Harley Quinn! Who is her wild and unabashed self in the recent Birds of Prey movie. But Sita, who is quietly defining herself in her world, she is criticized for her silence. In fact she is only praised for being quiet, gentle, devoted and pure. One thing we need to understand is that, independence rises from a character’s situtation. Sita’s arc ends with her taking a stance for herself. For someone raised to believe that, the sole purpose of their life is to be a loyal daughter, wife and mother.. to be able to adapt themselves to their surroundings and take a stand for by bravely defining themselves is the most amazing thing here. This we believe is more powerful than any physical display of rebellion.