Director Huo Jianqi, winner of two Golden Rooster awards, has films such as the internationally-acclaimed Postmen in the Mountains (1999) and Life Show (2002) to his credit. Jianqi won the Best Director award at the recently concluded BRICS Film Festival in Delhi for his film Xuan Zang. It traces the 17-year-long journey of monk-scholar Xuanzang to India which took place circa 629. The film stars Huang Xiaoming as Xuanzang while Sonu Sood plays Raja Harshavardhana in the film. The 58-year-old director talks about his interpretation of the historical figure and the future of cinematic collaborations between China and India. Excerpts:
Why did you choose the story of Xuanzang for the big screen?
I decided to make this movie on Xuanzang last year. As you know he was a traveller who came to India from China. His works have had a great impact on India, China, Korea and the entire Southeast Asia. So it was very interesting to look into that aspect. That’s why the film on him.
The journey happened in the seventh century. How did you trace the life and journey of Xuanzang?
Xuan zang wrote a diary when he came to Nalanda in which he recorded everything. Apart from that diary, two of my students and disciples wrote about Xaunzang’s ideas, travels, what he felt and saw and how he interpreted it. They were of tremendous help.
How different is the historical figure Xuanzang from your interpretation of him in the film?
The story of Xuanzang is more than a thousand years old. With historical figures such as him, the colloquial terminology goes into the society. And he was kind of a saint and scholar. I didn’t think too much while taking liberties in terms of political and cinematic sense and also didn’t face much trouble regarding this.
What does Xuanzang’s journey mean to you at a personal level?
The story of Xuan zang is an extraordinary story of an individual’s calibre. It was not an easy task to roam around and spend these many years learning at that point of time. The mission of his life was to spread the knowledge that he gained over the years. This was the greatest learning for me and an inspiration to do the same thing in my field.
What are the similarities between Indian and Chinese films and what is the future of collaborations between these two countries in this particular field?
India and China are two of the four oldest civilizations in the world. In this movie, Xuanzang came to India and took Buddhist teachings with him and spread them in China. In China, Buddhism is one of the largest religions. The Chinese believe in Buddhist beliefs and teachings. There have been many cultural exchanges in the past and in the future also there is scope for this. This film is a step towards cooperation between India and China. Today there is just one film like this. I hope that in the future there are not only such types of films but many other things that will promote cooperation between the two countries. So if we start today then tomorrow will be a brighter tomorrow. It is all about world peace and about spreading peace in this region.
What is the next project that you are working on?
I have worked on Xuan Zang for very long and shot in the western parts of China and in India (Nalanda and Mumbai). I would like to rest before I start the next one.