Here are two modern remakes of epics we know and love: Star Wars, the epic of modern times, and the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic that has left its roots in many Southeast Asian countries.
The Ramayana is one of the two epics told in shadow puppet (‘wayang’) performances in Southeast Asian countries. It’s a traditional art form that is struggling to find its place in modern society, relegated as a sepia-tinged sideshow in tourism campaigns.
#1 – STAR WARS GETS A SHADOW PUPPET TREATMENT
Tintoy Chua, a Malaysian creative designer dreamt of reviving the wayang tradition based on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
It was three years since he had the idea, and a full year working closely with the master puppeteer Pak Dain to produce a live 15-minute preview of a Star Wars shadow puppet performance.
The team has toured the preview, workshops and exhibitions in several locations in Malaysia, with a full contingent of musicians, computer-generated visual effects, and gorgeous shadow puppets of Darth Vader, Princess Leia, C3PO, R2-D2, storm troopers and rebel troopers.
A full length performance is planned for 2014, and it promises to be truly epic, maybe even worth travelling to Malaysia to watch.
#2 – SITA SINGS THE BLUES – THE GREATEST BREAK-UP STORY EVER TOLD
The same wayang characters are used in a personal interpretation of Ramayana as “the greatest break up story ever told”, ‘Sita Sings the Blues’.
The animator Nina Paley made a full-length animated film about the plight of Rama’s wife, Sita, and the break up of her marriage.
It’s tragic, but marvellously and beautifully told by ingeniously fusing two stories of love gone wrong with dazzling animation and backed with music by the legendary 1920s jazz singer Annete Hanshaw.
It’s a real treat to be introduced to the story of Sita and Rama as told by the three narrators in a lush fantasy landscape.
Entertainment aside, it’s nothing like reading one of those e-books you bookmark with the intention to improve your general knowledge.
It’s 82 minutes in whole, but what a glorious 82 minutes it is! Bring out the popcorn.
For more on both projects: read this feature on Star Wars x Wayang Kulit, and this Wired interview with Nina about ‘Sita Sings The Blues’
Can’t get enough of epic misadventures? Watch ‘Sunshine’ by Jacky Lee, about a runaway girl and a cabbie driver who goes for a ride of his life!