Sita Sings the Blues: 3 of 5 stars

Sentinel Staff Writer

Director Nina Paley’s whimsical spin on Indian history and folklore, Sita Sings the Blues, may run out of whimsy a half hour before it’s over. But she still manages to dazzle with the simple invention of this animated take on the Sanskrit epic The Ramayana.

Modern-day Indian ex-pats living in San Francisco (animated as cut-out gods from India’s past) relate their lives to the “greatest break-up story ever told,” that of the heroic, noble Rama and his ill-used wife, Sita.

Paley’s most ingenious touch here was in underlaying certain moments in the story with the “wah ¡Vwah-wah” 1930s jazz-blues stylings of singer Annette Hanshaw. No, I’ve never herd of her either, but no matter. The lady sings the blues, and as she does (animated as Sita in ancient India), the modern San Franciscans -- two men and a woman -- tell of Rama’s feats, his life and all the bum deals Sita got out of the relationship.

“What wouldn’t I do for that man?”

It’s irreverent, hip and a very cool way to use limited animation and found recordings to tell a story of “He Done Her Wrong” from the ancient past. This too-long feature would have made the best animated short ever.

Screening at: 4:15 p.m. Sat., Mar. 28, Regal, 9 p.m. Tue. Mar. 31, Regal.ƒz