Interview : No Country Is Perfect Says Sahil Saluja

Sahil Saluja was born in a Punjabi middle class family in Chandigarh and He felt that working in cinema was looked upon with a lot of ridicule and dissent so He always hid his passion for it. Despite that He grew up as a passionate dancer and spent a lot of time alone at home (given his parents were extremely hard working doctors) watching every 90’s Bollywood film that ever came out. Watching a film in the theater was a luxury at that time, so Sahil would watch whatever he could get his hands on.

When Sahil Saluja was 18, he moved to the US to study engineering but through the second year of college he started doing Shakespeare (Measure for Measure was his first play) at University of Michigan and on the closing night of my first show his director told him to continue to pursue acting. That day Sahil  decided that this is what he wanted to spend his life learning and Sahil quit a high paying job in Chicago to come to Melbourne to train in acting. Since that day Sahil have continued to learn something new about this craft every single day and he is blessed to be pursuing it as a profession.

How did you get this film?
I had moved to Melbourne at the end of 2013 and just joined a dance company called Jalwa in Melbourne and we did our first show at the Telstra Dance Competition where Girish saw me for the first time. He called me in after that and given our common interest in music (we both play the tabla) and films, he told me about this film which we had been working on for 5 years and had me audition for it. Rest as we call is history!

What are the challenges you have faced during “The Colour of Darkness” ?
The biggest challenge for me was doing research on the historical and present conditions of the Dalit community. I wanted to play the role in the most truthful manner possible and that required sympathizing with the character and his journey in every step of the way. Given that I was born in a privileged middle class family, I felt I was so far away from the true plight of what minorities go through in India and the challenge was always to reduce the gap as much as possible.

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Share Your experience on working with Girish Makwana?
Girish’s innate ability to make the impossible possible is so admirable. Despite having worked on his script for 5 years, he gave Vidya and me the freedom to improvise under the given circumstances and explore all the directions that a scene could go in – which is always a treat for us as actors.

Additionally, Girish’s vision was so clear from the start – he knew exactly what he wanted to shoot and how, which made the filming process so smooth given that we were under a huge time crunch. Finally, I believe Girish is immensely driven by his passion for creating cinema that questions the society and its morals and I am glad I could be part of his venture.

Are you involved in any upcoming Movies? 
Currently, I am shuttling between Melbourne and Mumbai. As I speak, I am doing a play called ‘Melbourne Talam’ for the Melbourne Theatre Company (premier theatre company in Australia) as the lead character. In addition, I am part of the NCPA Theatre Company; one of the biggest theatre organizations in India. I recently shot a short film for the Majhi Metro Film Festival which bagged the second prize. Finally I have shot ads for Amazon, Zefo etc while I have been in Mumbai and also worked as a casting assistant for one of the best casting directors – Nandini Shrikent.

Do you think India is one of the most racist country in the world?
No country is perfect and I truly believe in what Aamir Khan said in RDB ‘ koi bhi country perfect nahin hoti, use perfect banana padta hai’. Given the sheer number and diversity of people that live in India, we are bound to have prejudices based on caste, creed and gender. But through this film we want the audience to question their belief systems and look within their society before they believe everything that they are exposed to.  I believe that racism is a mindset that people carry with them. So this mindset will be prevalent in every community but it’s for us as human beings to be aware of it and address it rather than figuring out who to blame for it  – because that is a battle that no one can win.

What did you want to be when you grew up, and are you surprised where you ended up?
When I first danced to ‘ Amma dekh aah dekh tera munda bigda jaaye’ as a 3 year old in my white gunji and blue shorts, I knew that arts is what I truly enjoyed. But I found it unfair to ask my parents to support me in this endeavour. Hence, I studied engineering in college and after earning some money through a consulting job in Chicago, I knew it was time to move on towards my true passion. And now, I am just happy to do what I love every day of my life and I am thankful to the universe and especially my parents for that.

Before the release “Naine Tore” & “O Piya” song is already hit on social media. What’s your opinion ?
Girish’s skill as a musician is unquestionable. He does not believe in the current trend of producing music electronically and was adamant to get the whole orchestra together and produce the most authentic classical tunes and it shows. Girish has gone through extraordinary struggles in his life and that is evident in his soulful music.

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What is the success formula for a hit  Film?
Film is a form of story telling. So telling a good story is a hit formula for me. Moreover, having complex characters that have truth and humanity to them makes them so interesting to watch and lend in to support a strong story. No matter how big or small the budget is, if it’s a compelling story – it will shape it’s own path

5 intresting things you wants to say about “The Colour of Darkness” ?
Five things I want to say:

– It is a story that gives an alternate perception of racism/discrimination

– It highlights the plight of the Dalit community that exists to this present day and is frequently forgotten

– It was a personal discovery for me to work on Giriraj. I realised how quickly we judge something without truly understanding what it means or represents

– It is an Australian film shot in India, Australia and NZ within a time span of 30 days

– Finally, the Colour of Darkness is a reflection of Girish’s life. Girish’s sheer hard work to bring this film from scratch to cinemas is a victory in itself and we look forward to more of Girish’s projects in the future.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our viewers.
I want the viewers to have an opinion once they watch the film. Whether the film works or not is besides the point, but I would like the audience to have a point of view that can hopefully spark a discussion for the future. Now that would be a win-win for me and the Colour of Darkness team.

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