FILM REVIEW: Rojak Romance
In this documentary film, a young mixed-race couple (a Malaysian Ceylonese Tamil male and a Chinese American female) interrogate differing religious backgrounds, expectations on children, and meeting each others’ family, as they speculate on how to exist as a mixed-race couple in multiracial, yet CMIO-centric Singapore.
Director: Christine Seow
Cast: Tinesh S/O Indrarajah, Jane Christine Zhang
Review by Jean Wong
Rojak Romance (2019) is an interesting look into the fabric of an interracial relationship amidst a multiracial society. Our protagonist, Tinesh S/O Indrarajah, begins by detailing to us his ethnicity. While he is a quarter Chinese and a quarter Indian, he is predominantly Ceylonese Tamil — an ethnic group native to Sri Lanka; Ceylon being Sri Lanka’s colonial name.
With Tinesh’s colourful ethnic background in mind coupled with the fact that his girlfriend, Jane Christine Zhang, is Chinese, the tone for the documentary is set. Throughout Rojak Romance, the complications of an interracial relationship is explored, not just for the couple but their family as well. As a Ceylonese Tamil, the importance of preserving a dwindling ethnicity takes on a larger precedence for Tinesh’s family.
As a documentary focused on Tinesh and Zhang, Rojak Romance offers a personal and intimate look into their relationship via anecdotes that perhaps allows viewers to relate to them a bit more. Conversations between the couple is interwoven with those of Tinesh’s family as Zhang spends a few days with them as they celebrate Deepavali. Though a serious topic, the conversations revolving around interracial relationships are kept lighthearted yet respectful.
One interesting aspect of the film is the parallel drawn between Tinesh and his father, Indrarajah. Since Tinesh’s mother is Chindian, Indrarajah inevitably faced similar challenges (and perhaps familial resistance) when the topic of marriage arose. However, Indrarajah still manages to uphold his familial and cultural traditions despite being with someone of a different race and religion, seemingly a hopeful hint of what Tinesh’s and Zhang’s relationship could be. With perspectives not just from the couple but also from the family, Rojak Romance successfully gives us food-for-thought as we explore what multiraciality might hold for the future of Singapore.
The film ends on a gratifying note as the couple enjoy a plate of rojak together. Tinesh draws an analogy of rojak to interracial relationships, where the combination of various ingredients adds to the flavour of the dish. After exploring the pros and cons of an interracial relationship with Tinesh and Zhang, one might be inclined to agree.
Catch Rojak Romance (2019) screenings on 10, 11 and 16 March at various locations. Tickets are free with registration. Visit TFOOPFest for more information.