881 – Papaya Sisters (Singapore Film)

September 3, 2007 · Posted in Films 

881 (2007)
木瓜姐妹 881 歌台 (Mu Gua Jie Mei 881 GeTai)

881 Promotional Poster

I was never a fan of movies produced by Singapore; but somehow every single one of these productions never fail to make me laugh. I watched 881, a Singaporean production, over the weekend, just to show my support for the country with a less-than-enthusiastic feeling before watching. But at the end of the show, I was ecstatic and I felt that the show is really worth watching. In fact, it has been statistically proven that this show actually tops the Singapore film chart.

Directed and written by Royston Tan, the show circled around the Singapore Getai scene over the last few decades. One may see it as a form of a musical film, rather than any other normal action-and-talk movie. It does not have famous actors or actresses – but what made this successful, in my opinion, is the impressive number of beautiful and lovely clothings that are being showcased in the film.

Despite some real-life scenario, some parts of the show are doubtful. Particularly, when it comes to magical power and stage fighting. Well, before I jump to that part, perhaps I should provide a short synopsis of what the show is about, just like the previous two films, Rush Hour 3 and Secrets.

Papaya Sister 1
One of the Papaya Sister

Papaya Sister 2
The other Papaya Sister


It began with two Singaporean girls, initially strangers, who met each other and form a getai group, known as The Papaya Sisters (given the Chinese translation, “Papaya” sounds like 881, and hence the name of the show). The sisters have passionate interest to sing and perform in a getai, which only occurs during the seventh lunar month of every year.

The elder sister is known as Big Papaya (Da Mu Gua) and the younger sister is known as Small Papaya (Xiao Mu Gua). Both sisters have different family backgrounds. Their passion for singing is not matched by their vocal capability, and thus they seek help from their Auntie Ling’s sister, the Goddess of Getai. Blessed by her magical power to perform at the top, they are required to adhere strictly to a set of rules, which includes staying chaste.

The fame has also brought along jealousy from their rivals, known as the Durian Sisters. Their rivalry eventually ended with a Getai showdown. During the final showdown, the girls from each group pulled off a strings of marvellous performances. (Up till now, nothing is really impressive, except their clothings. They’re simply gorgeous!)

Unfortunately, Little Papaya, who is suffering from cancer, was unable to complete the contest, and eventually passed away shortly after. Well, I am not too good at narrating what the story is about, but I would greatly recommend you, especially SINGAPOREANS, to go and watch it. The language is full of mixtures, as the local here calls it Singlish. There is no shortage of Hokkien, Mandarin and a fair bit of English.

Durian Sisters
The Durian Sisters and Guan Yin (Auntie Ling’s son)

Anyway, below are my thoughts.


  • * Recommendation 7/10 – it is typically hard to catch the joke if you do not understand the language (but if you are a Singaporean, I would say this show is rated 9/10 for you).
  • * Comedy – the film has its equal share of comedy. The best part is when Auntie Ling starts to use English (and slipper) to “hit the small people” at a temple (again, probably only Singaporean will understand this scene).
  • * Scene Analysis – the storyline is simple, and as according to Royston, he merely took 2 weeks to come up with the script and 22 days to shoot the film. In my opinion, the strongest part of the movie is still the costume. The weakest part is when the story starts to include magic, especially at the ending during the showdown between the two groups.
  • * Costume – one word “Fantastic“! The costume alone costs the production company up to S$100,000.
  • * Ending – the ending is very emotional. I would have preferred the Small Papaya not to die (due to illness). However, it also easily summarised the purpose of Getai, a time when “Good Brothers” come together to celebrate during the seventh lunar month.

Good show to watch. Catch the Preview Below:

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