Shot in Toronto and Jabalpur, India, writer-director Sami Khan’s Khoya, was inspired by his own personal discovery of 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, says Khan.
“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.”
The film tells the tale of Roger Moreau, an Indian-born man adopted by a white Canadian couple, who is on a quest to solve the mystery of his birth.
This quest takes him to some of India’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.
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 the one Indian willing to offer him a mattress on a floor.
Bringing his passion project to his father’s hometown of Jabalpur 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,” Khan recollects.