A YELLOW BIRD (2016)
Casts: Sivakumar Palakrishnan, Huang Lu, Seema Biswas,Udaya Soundari, Indra Chandran, Nithya Rao
Plot: An ex-convict who sets on a quest to reunite with his family forms a complex bond with an illegal Chinese sex worker while serving as her bodyguard.
Right from the first frame, K.Rajagopal’s ‘A Yellow Bird’ flows like a silent symphony and sets off deeper as a character study of the protagonist, Siva as it progresses. We get to see the frustration of a man who is walking on a thin line between his unaccepting family and the shunning society. We also get to see a sign of his past that he is seeking for, through his mother, crude sister-in-law and his new friend, Chen Chen (Huang Lu).
The film is more visual if we minus away the over the top swearing at times. The bond between the two ‘trapped’ souls like Chen Chen and Siva is beautifully portrayed on screen transcending the language barrier. More of the emotions are shared, understood and supported rather than the words. This episode somehow gives more heart to the film than the main plot. The symbolic storytelling and the way Rajagopal sets his situations to address the racial tension in the society are quite interesting. As a minority, we see the filmmaker’s voice of frustration in the film in of course a foreshadowed fashion very relevantly weaved in the narrative.
Among the performances, Huang scores the best by holding such a complex character in hand. Siva displays a mixed bag of anger, sadness, alienation and disappointment quite excellently. Not a straightforward likable character but Siva’s objective gradually grows on us. Biswas who plays Siva’s mother, talks very little throughout the film. While she says plenty through her nuanced expressions, we wish the veteran actress had has a bigger part in this.
Technically ‘A Yellow Bird’ is presented in a gloomy and murky way as the characters. Micheal Zaw’s handheld cinematography brings us closer towards each characters and their agony. Most of the time the scenes are dark and Siva is often placed behind metal bars windows. The juxtaposition that life is still constrained and depressing outside the prison is beautifully portrayed here. The natural sound design and subtle score also aids the sombre mood as well.
Despite the beautiful monotony and mood, the film lacks the essential pace needed for a film that focuses on redemption. The high moments are often muted by a following dreary scene. For the amount of artistic splendour these could have been ignored but the baffling way the story ends, gives us no reason to disregard its minor shortcomings.
'A Yellow Bird' is an engaging, beautiful drama about alienation, redemption and hidden racial tensions that is intense but also self indulgent at parts.
CELLULOID METER- 3.5/5: