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Friday July 21, 2017
Face Time:
10 Questions for Harish Saluja
Vol: 1 Num: 1    Winter 2006
Director and radio host talks about his movies, his paintings, Saeed Jaffery and Roshan Seth

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 friend.

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 emotional reaction.

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 sea level. §

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