Wayang Boy Review
By Nina Syahira
November 21, 2014
Photo sourced from shaw.sg
What’s truly worth mentioning about Wayang Boy is that the star of the film is 11-year-old Denzyl Dharma who can fluently speak and sing in Mandarin. How impressive is that? The talented young actor plays a boy named Raja who moved from India to Singapore with his stepmother.
Directed by Raymond Tan, the main story revolves around him struggling to adapt to a whole new environment that initially got him into trouble at school and home. The cute silly antics of Raja and his friends make it a fun movie for parents to take their kids to watch. Plus, it teaches everyone regardless of age to appreciate our own race and culture while still maintaining acceptance for others.
Photo sourced from insing.com.sg
Reflecting this positive multiracial image is its international cast of actors hailing from our sunny shores, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We have the lovely Kym Ng, Chen Tian Wen, Chua Enlai, Suhaimi Yusof and Bobby Tonelli. Veteran actors from Hong Kong Law Kar-ying and Michelle Yim together with Taiwanese actress Chantel Liu who complete the line-up.
Alongside the film’s take on old traditions vs modern culture is the introduction of the young talents of Denzyl Dharma, Tan Wei Tian and Loh Ren Jie amidst their older co-stars.
Photo sourced from moviexclusive.com
We can’t help but chuckle along at local pop culture references like the amusing Stomp-like “MRT spitting aunty” incident after a video went viral online. But like many other local films, there’s also a sad touching story behind the jokes and it sort of snuck up on us.
Besides, it’s not always that you would come across an actor Denzyl’s age who is able to grasp the emotional conflicts his character had to go through. The Gan Eng Seng Primary School student gave a truly believable performance that had us all suddenly sniffling in the cinema. But despite his best efforts, he didn’t quite portray a foreign student well due to his true blue Singaporean accent.
Another criticism is that there seems to be gaping holes in the story when it concerns Raja’s family especially his father. While there was an interesting turn of events (albeit still predictable), we thought it lacked a proper conclusion after such a strong climax.
Photo sourced from youtube.com
On the surface, the movie is about a boy from India who moved to study at Xi Wang Primary School in Singapore, got into trouble with his classmates, forced to learn Chinese Opera and then fell in love with it. But there’s a lot more to that.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
In the beginning, the film opens with the first day of the school year and Principal Ho made a welcoming address that includes announcing the addition of Raja and a couple of other foreign students to the school. This was immediately met with mixed reactions by visiting parents of the students. Even the word “aliens” was thrown out there to describe foreigners, which accurately reflects some of the opinions in society today. When the topic of foreign talent comes up in a conversation, you know you’re in for a heated debate.
Photo sourced from youtube.com
The film shoves that social issue right into the limelight, as if forcing its audience to view themselves in harsh plain sight. The film also features adult foreigners from countries like China and Australia. The tension between locals and foreigners that no doubt exist in our society is shown in the film as well; locals who hold bad (sometimes unreasonable) grudges against them from the start and locals who can get along with foreigners but only if they’re not chasing after the same goals. Comical or not, you can bet it hits pretty close to home.
But with that said, there is something else that we just can’t shake off so easily. Is the movie also a satire on the double standard that we might have as a society? Think about it, Singaporeans don’t hesitate to unite as one community especially against foreigners or anything that’s deemed to upset the “Singaporean” balance. Yet we still let our own local cultural differences get the better of us sometimes. This is demonstrated in the minor quips scattered throughout the movie.
For example, there’s a scene of a faculty meeting where Principal Ho announced that the Queen of England would be paying the school a visit in the near future so he planned for them to put up performances for her as entertainment. He appointed the Mathematics teacher to organise a silat performance but the teacher said that just because he’s Malay, it didn’t mean that he knew anything about silat. While that may seem harmless at first, the principal quickly dismissed it as a big problem because the main performance would be the Chinese Opera anyway, so basic steps would suffice.
If that doesn’t make you raise an eyebrow and tilt your head yet, how about this next part of the scene? When asked about adding an Indian dance, the principal actually told him to “outsource it”. Ouch.
Photo sourced from channelnewsasia.com
Nevertheless, Wayang Boy is still a must-see this school holidays so bring your family to catch this! It’s funny, heart-warming and definitely a thinker. You won’t be disappointed.
Taking leave from work for some quality family time this school holidays? Why not check out Movie Max and catch a movie with us!
There are other activities you can do with your loved ones like the SAFRA Family Day Out 2014. Want more? Head over to our School Holiday Programmes page now!