2001 The Weekly Voice, Toronto
Author: Preeti Thandi
Hunt Hoe was awarded the Best Director for "Seducing Maarya" at the Newport International Beach Festival. Hoe connected with Preeti to talk about his controversial film.
V: What inspired you to do this film?
HH: I was always fascinated and disturbed by the ideas of arranged marriage, inter generational love, same sex, love, & the real definition of family.
On Arranged marriage- "the best bride/groom for the family is really decided first by the parents or elder members of the family.'
On Inter-generational love- "at the right time, the right place, anything can happen between a man and a woman..."
On Same sex love- "...can we ignore the "sex" thing and accept the "love" thing?!"
On Family - "...if family is true love, can the rest be insignificant?!"
V: Why did you choose to explore these issues in an Indian context?
HH: I suppose, first and foremost, I am from Malaysia - a multi-cultural country with a funky mix of Malays (Muslims), Indians and Chinese. I grew up with Indians as neighbours and some of my favourite teachers were Indians. So, I never considered "why not" tell a story in an Indian context. The "Chatterjee" family in the film could well be the "Chan" family. However, it is rare that the contemporary Chinese immigrants would practice official 'arranged marriage.'
And another point, though more vain than significant, is that I detest Chinese but love Indian cuisine. So, it would be hard for me to change the "Delhi" restaurant in the film to a "Beijing" restaurant without losing the flavour...
V: Is there something you noticed specifically about Indian culture- about chaos and issues of confused identity specific to this generation?
HH: I can say that I'm not trying to condemn the Indian culture as chaotic and confused. My Indian associates and actors would never permit that. As a matter of fact, I like what has been said in the Vancouver Sun,
"...the intriguing characters were handled tastefully."
I guess I'm just looking at "life" as "messy/ complicated/ confused" but "beautiful". The more we "live" the more it's so. Like the old saying about knowledge "the more we know, the less we know". It is so in young societies like North America. So if we compound the "old societies" with centuries of old culture and tradition. The chaos is a way of life... Maybe that's why we become spiritual. Maybe that's why we always look to India for spiritual enlightenment. Maybe that's why we go to the river to cleanse our souls.
V: It almost seems like the film is not about seduction but more so about an inane indulgence to set things in order - would you agree?
HH: I think setting things in order is quite seductive too. Won't you agree?!
V: There is also a level of acceptance, which seems to form a connecting link between age old values and new sensibilities - what is your perspective?
HH: I think there are two ways to deal with things - to try to understand them or destroy them. Very often, men take the easy way out and go ballistic...not unlike the 3 men in the staircase scene. Women, in general, I'm generalizing here, tend to think and feel 'em... like our "Maarya" Maybe that's why there are more female smokers than male...I know, I'm generalizing again.
V: What is the trickling blood in water symbolic of?
HH: Does blood mix in the water?!
V: Could you talk a little bit about the concept of water - interestingly 'Maarya' means water as well. Why did you choose that name?
HH: This question is linked to the earlier one. I have already touched upon the "water" significance.
Water - river - flowing - cleansing - camouflaging Blood - DNA -
Link - red - joy
V: How would you describe the experience of making the film?
HH: Trying at times. Rewarding most of the time. The cast and crew and everyone involved made me a believer.
V: What are your other films besides 'Foreign Ghosts'?
HH: I just completed a NFB documentary on the search of the ultimate Asian Male Role Model which includes Jackie Chan and Dr Agashe. The documentary is called WHO'S ALBERT WOO? It is doing the festival circuit and will be telecast on TVO March 14 at 10pm.
V: When and how did start your career and that do you plan to do next?
HH: I decided to bang my head on the wall about 10 years ago. I've been bleeding since. What I plan to do next? More bleeding. Actually, what I wish I would do next is to become a full-fledged professional musician. That is of course dreaming... Perhaps one day when I go blind.
V: What fascinates you most about India?
HH: My love/hate relationship with Mother India.
V: How was it working with a newcomer in Nandana Sen and veteran in Mohan Agashev?
HH: As a newcomer, Nandana had a lot of trying moments. But she told me right at the beginning that she might not get a chance to play a more complex character. In the end, her intelligence helped her through the toughest moments and I'd like to go on record saying that not that many 'pretty' newcomers would accept to actually take a dip in the Ganga. I have names to back that up but of course, I won't.
The 'Dr.', as you well know, is a real pro. We can him 'Dr- one take'. The toughest thing about working with him was scheduling him. But when the film was shown in India, he saved my life. The critics were ready to jump at me but the 'Dr' taught them how to appreciate the complexity and the beauty of the film. And that's a beautiful thing!
© 2001 The Weekly Voice.
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