Salt Bridge ”“ making it’s way to the Oscars!

Neeru - Abhijit_Miguel








Abhijit Deonath with cameraman Miguel

By Neeru Saluja

Debutant director Abhijit Deonath is on cloud nine. His Indo-Aus production Salt Bridge has been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination for all of its seven songs.

Yes, you are reading it right.

After a successful  premiere at the All Lights India International Film Festival held in Kochi, Kerala,  Abhijit is back in Canberra. The Indian Down Under talked to him at length in an interview where he talks about his passion for literature, music and how he made his film.

How do you feel about being shortlisted for an Oscar nomination?

I was over the moon! I’m very excited to hear this news. There is always some optimism when you apply for Oscars and I thought even if one song is shortlisted, then it’s worth it. From the whole world, 74 songs are selected. All of the seven songs from my film have been shortlisted for nominations! This is a big achievement for this film. For days I couldn’t believe my luck. This is truly a brilliantly surprisingl news!

Coming from a non-filmi background, what inspired you to make the film? How did you make your journey from India, Australia and to the Oscars?

I  was very passionate about music and literature from an early age. In high school I used to read a lot about Hindi literature. Our main source was the radio and I never used to miss any radio programme from old to contemporary music. In my school time I always thought if I do something significant it would be to publish one book and create one album. Though I’m a qualified geologist and work with the government in IT, I never gave up my love for creative art and continued to enrich myself by becoming a keen participant in community activities.

About three years ago I started writing a novel”“ I used to write poems and have a blog. The novel was based on my experiences with the Indian community. When I came close to the end, I realised the novel would be better off presented as a film. Then I started learning the art of filmmaking. There is always a first time for everything. I don’t believe in courses. Creativity can’t be learnt ”“ that’s what I believe in. You can learn how to play an instrument, but you can’t learn how to compose a song. You cannot learn how to direct a film, it’s just an art. It has to come from within you.

Once I had the story, I made it into a script. Then I started casting my actors. Filmmaking is one project that runs like a pilot till the end of the project. You have a story to begin with but after the cast comes, your story changes, when you start shooting, it changes again. And in the final stage when it is edited, it evolves again. Salt Bridge has made it’s way through continuous evolvement and the journey of myself and the actors.

As a first timer, would you consider filmmaking a tough task?

Filmmaking is a very tough job. When I think about it now, I have goosebumps. I spent a month without sleeping. It’s tough but very rewarding.

You have not only directed the film but you are also the man behind the music which is creating waves. The songs have a melodious touch and take us to the golden era.

I’ve been listening to all kinds of music from an early age. When you are looking for treasure, you are looking into many prospects. I have listened to RD Burman, Shankar Jaikishen, Lata, Asha, Hemant Kumar and that is why my music is good. I write poems and that’s why words are important to me. They need to be meaningful. Words have to come out with strong emotions.

I have written the songs and composed the songs. My singers are from India, America and Australia. The songs range in different emotions and types ranging from ghazals, classical, sad songs and contemporary style of song. The classical song ”˜Bachpana Tha’ has really good praise from Pandit Vishwanath Bhatt. The voice is good and nicely portrays the emotions.

You can listen to the songs at

Tell us about story of the film. Is it based on the love between an Indian and an Australian?

The film revolves around relationships. There are relationships and as human beings we evolve. In smaller towns in Australia, we are missing something so we try to compensate by looking for connections in the same community and meeting during festivals. Also remember, migrants are frozen in time. In this situation comes my hero who is a recent Indian immigrant. He connects to a lady who is non-Indian and then the society reacts to their relationship.

How was the shooting experience and working with the lead actors?

The experience was very intense. We shot the film in one month due to the availability of the stars. It was a challenge to get the supporting cast from Australia. I needed Indian actors in Australia, and had to look for them in the Indian community. In Canberra that was an issue. But In the end we got some good talent. The performances were exceptional in the end. The outcome was quite positive.

Rajeev is a gentleman and a soft-spoken person who mixed well with the crew. Usha is a very good actress. People will talk about her acting and the lead actress Chelsie is brilliant. I was initially very worried that a girl who doesn’t know a single word of Hindi how will she react to this film where she is surrounded by Hindi dialogues. She pulled it off very well. She was so much into the character. She lived the character.

The film’s title is quite unique. What is the importance of the title of the film ”“ Salt Bridge?

Does it evoke curiosity? If yes, then that is my aim. Well, the film is about relationships but this relationship is a bit strange. Between the two characters there is an attraction, and the society reacts to their relationship. There is a scientific term called ”˜Salt Bridge’ and that is where I picked up the title. In scientific terminology, Salt bridge is when the electricity flows but there is no chemical mix.

Amongst all cities in Australia, why did you choose Canberra to shoot the film?

My main reason was becaue I live in Canberra. I was also working at the time I started making the film. During pre-production, I had to check local locations. Living in the same city was practical. The city has an urban atmosphere and has inature reserves closeby. I shot most of the film in the University campus. And above all, Canberra hasn’t been shown much and explored in an Indian film.

It is amazing really for a first timer like Abhijit Deonath, not only has he made a movie, written it, directed it someone who  has also written all its seven songs. And the most delightful yet surprising news is that having entered them for Oscar nomination all seven of them have made it to the short list. This itself is great news. We sincerely wish Abhijit best of luck!


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