A yellow bird- A different world

The protagonist, an ex-convict, Siva moves out of his one-room flat because of the bitter relationship that he has, with his mother who refuses to talk to him. Not even a word. He is left into the society on his own. He has a mission of finding his wife and kid. But he is lost. In the scene next, after he moves out of the house where the National Environment Agency officer looks up at the tree, shoots the birds, forcing the birds to be flown away, to an unknown territory. What a beautiful metaphor! This film is peppered with several metaphors, that offers a soul-stirring visual feast.

‘A Yellow Bird’ is a feature film, locally filmed. A proud moment for all Singaporeans indeed. A local film to have made several rounds in the world festival circuit and other film festivals, the film strikes a fine balance between airbrushing reality and rubbing our face in it. It paints the portraits of people, the society who aren’t necessarily bad. They’re just human. A film that screams the message – “The law is not kind to repeat offenders’. So how does Siva's life unfolds in front of him after his jail term and the struggles he goes through, have been aesthetically presented on the celluloid screen.

The strength of this film, I would say, is the cast! Either it be the devastated-looking, confused and angry Siva or the mother who utters monosyllabic replies or the group of blue-collar workers from China, staying in Siva's house as tenants in that cramped one room flat- every actor and actress has nailed it! 

During one of the interviews, the director mentioned that Siva was made to sleep at void decks and streets for 2 days to dredge up real, powerful emotions in order to breathe life into the character. And he has proven that he would do anything to be the best he can.  The surprise or rather the pleasant shocking package is of course, Indra Chandran. She appears for only one scene but what she has done in this film, is definitely her career-best. Her body language, her dialogues that were mostly crude language, the way she delivered those lines in the most persuasive manner- a delight to watch!

In one of the panel discussions during the Writers festival 2016, a question was raised among the participants- Why aren’t many people writing local stories? Was it because everything is well settled in our nation that we don’t see a need to express our hardships, if any? In a nation like Singapore, it may seem everything is going well. Searching for that heart-wrenching tale to be told, is a real challenge. However, Director K Rajagopal has arduously worked for years- for that untold tale to be voiced. Kudos, Director!

There were attempts of bold cinema on the screen- pushing the boundaries of a relatively conservative society. That kind of guts deserve an applause. But the question that kept bombarding my mind was "is nudity necessary for this story or does it help me to understand the character better or sympathize the character?” In this narrative, certain bold scenes was more on the lines of showing how the director was daring enough to film nude scenes and it didn’t really elevate the storytelling nature.

The protagonist is shown behind gates many times—highlighting how he is in fact imprisoned in reality too.  Many efforts have been taken to ‘imprison’ the audience in Siva’s world. To feel for Siva’s character.  I can’t say enough how unusual it is in Singapore film to experience time this way, at a crawl bordering on a standstill. The silence is heavy, ominous. And that I feel, is the drawback of this film. As much as I want to feel, show empathy for the characters, the extremely long silences in every scene, can be unintentionally painful for the audience.

In a 112-minute, the entire film dialogues might be less than 3 pages. Lengthy scenes are stretched with silence, with characters not saying anything, not moving in fact, only to be filled with sighs and breathing as the only sound from the audience. There is a scene where the reluctant mum opens the door and Siva stands outside the house. And there is no movement. As an audience, I was waiting for some movement to happen like as though I was holding on to a fishing rod for 2 hours.

Singaporeans who press their car horns to signal their unhappiness on roads for no reason, are a bunch of people whose level of patience aren’t as high and strong as it should. Thus, how much of patience would Singaporeans have, to appreciate and enjoy ‘a yellow bird’ is a big question! Its gloomy sombreness makes it a challenge until the viewer recalibrates their expectations of rhythm and tempo; you must readjust to something slow and silent.

 Other than the most important fact, our duty and entitlement to support local talent, if you want to be hit hard with truths and if you want to immerse yourself in a world that most of us are not aware of, then catch ‘a yellow bird’! 

In theatres now: GV suntec/ GV vivo


  1. Lovely write-up Thala! I have been thinking of watching this film for some time. Will watch it soon!


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