Gregarious and charismatic Harish Saluja is a multi-faceted
man who has blended art and science, East and West. A graduate of IIT Kharagpur,
Harish found his calling as a movie director, producer, painter and radio-host.
Not only that he is also a publisher of magazines. We recently spoke to him.
You are an engineer so how come you became a producer,
director, radio-host and painter? I wanted to make movies, write and paint
since childhood. But in my generation to get into IIT or medical college was
considered such a wonderful opportunity that nobody would allow you to go to
Bombay and make movies. It took me a while to get to this point.
How did you prepare for movie-making? I took a
project implementation approach as I would do for an engineering project – do
due diligence, research, assemble team and raise money. I prepared by reading
books, magazines and attending seminars. Even after that I could not get
practical experience so I bought my way into an associate producer’s job with a
How did you get the idea for your first film, “The
Journey”? I have had ideas since childhood for stories. They come to me
floating in hundreds and dozens. I have a file with about 200 or so ideas for
movies. It was one of them.
During filming you had difference of opinion with Roshan
Seth. Why? Roshan confused, in my opinion, the job with his own individual
ego. He felt that a man as cultured and knowledgeable from India would be much
more savvy and sophisticated. I was trying to explain that I know people who
know five languages [but] are not savvy with technical things. It doesn’t make
them idiots. He was not revolting in any way. We would have a discussion and in
the end he would say fine we would do it your way.
How was it to work with Saeed Jaffrey? He is
unbelievably wonderful. We had assigned rooms so that they could have their
privacy. Everybody would go to their rooms while we spend 3-4 hours putting
cables and fixing things and Saeed would keep on following me. I would ask Saeed
do you need something, he would say, ‘No’. So why are you following me around.
He would say what else would I do sitting in my room. I want to see what you
guys are doing and have some fun. It was absolutely wonderful to work with him.
Many of your paintings are based upon ragas. Why? I
have been listening to ragas for 40 years and have a strong emotional connection
with them. I actually visualize abstract things. When I listen to ragas, I
actually see images, colors, patterns and things. I am trying to portray my
You are hosting a radio program since 1972. How would
you describe that experience? Absolutely fantastic. I am one of those people
who somehow got convinced that it is their responsibility to make the World a
better place. I think that if more music, art, movies and cultures are shared
then it would make the World a better place. When I first came here, there were
no radio stations playing Indian music. So I developed huge collection just to
share it with fellow Indians who had been here for 10-20 years and had not heard
Sehgal or Lataji or Mukesh for a longtime.
You are also involved with TiE. What initiatives are you
working on? TiE’s main aim is to promote entrepreneurship. Although we
welcome everybody, we are particularly happy when a person of Indus origin comes
to us. We are also working on a project called I-Port. We want it to be the
first place people go to if they want to do business in India.
You are from Punjab known for agriculture and settled in
Pittsburgh known for steel. Is there any connection? [Laughs] We lived in
cities in Punjab and in Delhi, so you know, I have exposure to both city and
rural life and then in Nainital, which is in the mountains. I spent five years
in Kharagpur doing engineering and four in Dhanbad in coal mines. So the only
connection is that Pittsburgh is a steel city with coal mines.
What is your next project? I am working on a film
festival called Silk Screen – www.silkscreenfestival.org. We are organizing a
high profile Asian film festival, bringing in 30-40 films from India, China and
Japan along with directors and actors to come and spend ten days in Pittsburgh,
show their movies and meet local population. I am also working on two movies;
one is called Chasing Windmills, set in Nainital, in my school, 7,000 ft above