I had interviewed the Singapore director K Rajagopal whose film A Yellow Bird was showed at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The story was published in theSun today. Here is the full story
Headline: An Eye For Realism
By Bissme S
To have your film screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival is a great honour, and 51-year-old Singaporean director K. Rajagopal earned it last month with his first feature. A Yellow Bird, which tackles issues of racism and migrants in Singapore, was shown at Cannes under the International Critics’ Week category.
"The audience in Cannes found the film intense, and felt it showed a different side of Singapore which they were not familiar with,” says Rajagopal, in a recent interview with theSun.
A Yellow Bird centres on Siva ( played by Singaporean actor, producer and director Sivakumar Palakrishnan) who is released after eight years behind bars. But when he returns home, his mother ( Seema Biswas) does not welcome him and his wife has abandoned him, taking away their only child. While searching for his wife and daughter, Siva saves Chinese immigrant Chen (played by Chinese actress Huang Lu) from a violent man.
Chen is working as a prostitute to pay off her family’s debt. The girl begins to see Siva as a kindred spirit in a brutal world, and a relationship develops between them. But Siva’s violent past will not leave him alone. A Yellow Bird will be shown in cinemas in Singapore at the end of the year.
“I have always given voice to the minority [groups] in my short films,” Rajagopal says.
“Racism exists everywhere. In Singapore, racism is not overt but is simmering beneath the skin. The minorities shy away from discussing this issue as it can be uncomfortable to talk about it in a multiracial and modernised environment.”
Explaining the title of his film, he says: “When I was a child, my mother used to say that if you see a yellow bird, make a wish because you will meet someone nice or receive good news.
“I grew up believing this myth. I wanted to explore the idea of hope and false hope in my film.”
To get the best out of his cast, Rajagopal held vigorous rehearsals. “The characters were quite dark and intense, so the actors must be carefully handled to get the best out of them.”
Rajagopal had nothing but praise for his cast.
“They were very much an intuitive and sensitive bunch, who took on the challenge to work hard and achieve the realism that was necessary for the film.”
He even got lead actor Sivakumar to live on the streets for few days. He says:
“The film is solely dependent on his character, as we follow him from beginning to the end. He needs to be very convincing as an ex-convict and homeless person and, at the same time, displays a strong sense of loneliness and hopelessness.”
Rajagopal himself started out as a theatre actor. He has worked under renowned Singaporean directors such as William Teo, Pao Kun, Keng Sen and Ariffin Noer.
“I learnt a lot from them,” he says.
“But I wanted to be my own storyteller.”
He began writing very simple stories which he made into award-winning short films. Rajagopal’s confidence grew with each win. He then focused on making films for televisions before venturing into his first feature effort.
Rajagopal picks Adoor Gopalakrishnan as his favourite director as he admires this Indian director’s films.
“He was one of the first filmmakers of Parallel Cinema in Kerala, India.”
He also likes filmmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Francois Truffaut, the Dardenne brothers and Mike Leigh.
“They laid [open] life experiences in their films in a very realistic and lyrical manner without the frills,” he says.
One can certainly see similar elements of realism in Rajagopal’s works, too.
|A scene from the movie|