What is George Harrison – Living In The Material World all about?
Olivia Harrison (OH): I wanted to have an honest and accurate record of George’s life. Other people wanted to produce this sort of a documentary but I felt that since it was a family archive I had a responsibility to give it. But Marty (Martin Scorsese) was interested in who he (George Harrison) was. And how he could live a meaningful life in a material world.
Was the Harrison family consulted for approval on the project? Did the family contribute to the research?
OH: There was a head researcher. But I provided lot of family material and my son and I, obviously, both worked on it. They had a production team that researched across the world.
David Tedeschi (DT): We had lot of material. And one source of it was the production archives of movies and stuff. We had a team who explored the world, locating for new material on George. And we got stuff way back from 1963. It is amazing that we located material that everyone thought was destroyed.
OH: I started even before I was approached by David. I had been archiving material out of necessity. There was so much material – music and tapes and photos and all the movies that I felt were going to deteriorate. It took about five years and we worked harder once we decided to make this documentary.
DT: On average, we had 600 hours of material. That was good enough.
David, you have edited documentaries on Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the Osbournes. Is this one any different?
DT: It was the same team with Martin directing. But the story itself is different. In a way, Dylan’s story took place in New York. So everything was very familiar. I think George had a different world than anybody else.
A lot of Harrison’s work has been influenced by Indian culture. What do you feel about the film now being screened here?
OH: I think it’s great! I came all the way here just to see what it would be like because India had the most powerful influence on every aspect of his life. The way he lived, the food he ate, the smells he smelled, the music he made. And he took that atmosphere with him everywhere he went. For instance, if he was in some other country, he always had his incense sticks, flowers and he had the whole atmosphere and he loved that. I first came to India in 1976. He said that in Mumbai, you have to watch the Indian movies. And we watched Sholay. I remember, it was an epic cowboy movie. He immersed himself in India. He also recorded in India in 1968 at EMI recording studios. They brought a 16-track machine for him by a train from Calcutta.
He was very young and we found tapes of that session. And George conducted the great Indian musician, Hariprasad Chaurasia. Here is George, 23 years old, and having a music session! That was the best experience one can have. I think his Indian connection was destined. He wanted to go deeper and turned towards East and found more answers for himself.
Do you think the film does justice to his personality?
OH: It is a very honest film. It is a beautiful story. It’s a man’s journey. It is very yin-yang. Very dark-light. It is about a life of duality. Sadness and pain. Your higher self, everything is in it.
Since Martin Scorsese was part of the film, were you reassured it would turn out just the way you wanted it to?
OH: It did not go the way I wanted it to at all (Laughs). And that’s why I think it is a great documentary.
Was there any fear of exposing his darker side?
OH: For me, it was, like, is this being fair? But he was not afraid of his dark side. That’s the thing with George. My fear was not his fear. That’s the difference. He was much bolder and that is what made him such an interesting man because he pushed himself and discovered things.
David, you have made quite a few documentaries on music/rock icons’ lives. What attracts you to their lifestyle?
DT: (Smiles) I don’t choose the icons. Martin does. I’d say he did each movie for a reason. This is the story of a guy who got everything when he was very, very young. And he said, “This isn’t enough.” I think Martin was very successful when he was young and he is still soul-searching.
David, you have done a fair amount of work with Martin Scorsese. Can you share some insights on his style of working?
DT: He had worked a very long day and he stepped into the room, tired. But the minute you put on the music, he would wake up with much more energy. He is extremely funny and likes to laugh. Before he goes into a project, he is confident and shares his vision of the movie.
What do you think of the Mumbai Film Festival?
OH: It is a victim of its own success. It has outgrown itself already.
DT: I met a lot of young and friendly people who had a lot of questions and were filled with lots of excitement.