A Mumbai Film Festival entry, and selection of the Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access program
OPENS IN TORONTO June 10, 2016 Carlton Cinema
Rupak Ginn (Royal Pains, The Namesake, Cheetah Girls) Stephen McHattie (A History of Violence, 300) Ravi Khanwilkar (Once Upon a Time in Mumbai) Vipin Sharma (Gangs of Wasseypur, Taare Zameen Par)
Roger Moreau (Rupak Ginn) – the hero of Sami Khan’s Khoya – is indifferent to India’s tourist attractions. The young Toronto-raised, Indian-born man is on a quest to solve the mystery of his birth.
That quest takes him to some of the country’s rougher patches, where Roger follows in the footsteps of the poor, the desperate and the borderline criminal, gradually unraveling the tangled circumstances of how he came to be adopted by a white Canadian couple.
Unable to speak Hindi, he is met with hostility by non-English speakers, by locals who may have something to hide and with chilly reluctance by Subash Uncle (Ravi Khanvilkar), the one Indian willing to offer him a mattress on a floor (“Everyone in India is either an uncle or an auntie – whether they want to be or not.”).
Writer/director Sami Khan’s tale of one man’s relentless birth-search, attracted attention even before it was complete. Its Kickstarter campaign drew donations from the likes of Spike Lee. Shot in Toronto and in India (mainly in Khan’s father’s hometown of Jabalpur), Khoya was in the making practically from the moment the filmmaker graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts from Columbia University in 2009.
The project was a personal one, inspired by Khan’s own discovery that he had a long-lost brother living far away. “When I began looking for him, I found myself struggling to deal with conflicting emotions. Khoya came out of that process.
“Khoya is really about home, and about how the spiritual feeling of it is much more powerful and important than the geographic idea of home. I grew up in Canada, the son of immigrants, and I’ve lived for many years in New York as an immigrant. So home is a complicated idea for me. I like to say home is wherever my wife is, and Khoya is about discovering that bliss.”
Bringing his passion project to his father’s hometown was another piece of the puzzle. And like Roger, Khan didn’t always find it welcoming. The first obstacle he had to overcome was a religious riot. “It was in the middle of town, we were filming at a chaat stand, and a line producer raced up and ordered us into our vehicles. Two rival religious groups had begun fighting, shops had been torched. People had guns.
“It is a town known for its toughness. I learned a lot about adapting my filmmaking to adversity. Miraculously, we made it through and the result is on the screen.”
Khoya is written, directed and edited by Sami Khan, Produced by Karen Shaw, and Director of Photography is Kevin C. W. Wong. The music is composed and performed by multi award-winning musicians Daniel Ledwell and Jenn Grant. Executive Produced by – from India – Meraj Shaikh and Guneet Monga (The Lunchbox, Gangs of Wasseypur).