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'I'd like to give up films and teach'

Shekhar Kapur sees 3D emerging as the medium of the future but laments the star dominance in contemporary films. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Reena Amos Dyes

One of the most well-respected Indian film directors and producers, Shekhar Kapur, who has made a mark not only in the Hindi film industry but in Hollywood as well, says he would like to give it all up one of these days, and teach.

Chatting with Emirates Business during a recent visit to Dubai, the critically-acclaimed film director and producer, who rose to fame with his brilliant and sensitive portrayal of the life of Indian woman dacoit, Phoolan Devi, in the pathbreaking movie Bandit Queen, said: "I want to study physics and then teach both physics and philosophy as they are coming together.

"They are the key to questions that bother everyone: 'Who are we, what is the purpose of our existence and where do we come from?' I have already given lectures on these subjects both in India and abroad, but I would like to give it all up one day and just concentrate on teaching these subjects, as I enjoy teaching."

Talking about his work these days, Kapur, who successfully made the crossover from the Indian film industry to Hollywood in 1998 – when he got international recognition for directing the Academy Award-winning period film, Elizabeth, said: "I will begin shooting for my forthcoming movie Paani at the end of this year.

"It is an English film but I have named it Paani, which means water in Hindi, as an Indian movie called Water has already been made in recent years. I have not chosen the cast of the movie as yet. I don't usually work with big stars. I am looking for the cast."

The movie is set in the future and portrays the water wars that would likely plague the world when the earth runs out of the precious resource. It shows how one rich city controls the water because it has the money while the ones without funds, suffer.

Kapur says the film will be dubbed in Hindi as the subject is very relevant to everyone, but is not so sure about dubbing in other languages, at the moment.

Asked if finance was available for movies with good storylines and those that are not made using computer graphics or are franchised, Kapur, who himself used technology extensively while making the Hindi science-fiction blockbuster, Mr India – about an invisible man taking on the bad guys to solve the problems of society – said: "Sadly, today, in Hollywood, no one is interested in funding a good drama."

Dwelling on the use of technology in recent blockbuster films, Kapur said: "These days, there is a lot of concentration on the use of technology as it's the latest toy that filmmakers have got. It's like when they first started making colour films. At that time, the storyline went for a toss and all the emphasis was on colour.

"Now again, there is an overemphasis on the use of technology in films. These days, the films we are getting are like a joyride in a theme park. But it will all come back to the good old storyline as soon as people get used to it all. For example, Avatar, which was an out-and-out high-tech movie, did have a decent storyline."

However, Kapur thinks that 3D is here to stay, and as companies around the world begin to launch 3D televisions etc, 3D will be the way of the future, with one day all movies being watched in this way, both in homes around the world and in theatres as well.

"If they discover a way of getting rid of the glasses that one needs to wear while watching 3D movies, it will be a major leap and all movies will be made in 3D one day. It's the medium of the future and it is here to stay," he said.

Talking about the lack of Oscar awards for Indian filmmakers, Kapur, whose movie Elizabeth and its sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age won an Oscar each, said: "It's a cultural thing. I put it down to a different culture of filmmaking. That's all. Indian culture is not something that they understand or tune in to.

"For example, one of India's leading playback singers, Lata Mangeshkar, who is considered the Nightingale of India, does not find favour in the West as they consider her voice too high-pitched. So, I think it's just a cultural thing."

Asked if the string of Hindi movies in recent times, that have been widely appreciated by Indian cinema-goers because of their different and brilliant storylines, such as the Shahrukh Khan starrers, Chakh De, My name is Khan, and the Aamir Khan starrers, Taare Zameen Par and Three Idiots, means that Indian cinema has come of age, Kapur said: "Good movies with fantastic storylines are not new to the Indian film industry.

"Brilliant movies were being made by directors of yore like Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray, Mehboob Khan and Rishikesh Mukherjee too. But once the stars became bigger than the directors, quality started falling.

"You will always get good movies as long as the director remains the boss and movie-goers go to watch a film made by a certain director. But when the audience goes to watch a film because it has a certain star in it, then the quality of films will always take a dip."


Born to a doctor-father and a journalist-mother, Shekhar Kapur started his career with a multinational oil company as he had studied accountancy to please his parents. However, encouraged by his film director uncle, Vijay Anand, he launched out as an actor in 1975. He also appeared in several Hindi TV serials, including Udaan opposite Kavita Chaudhary, and Hindi films, but his career never took off.

He turned director with the portrayal of an illegitimate son gaining family acceptance in Masoom in 1983. He then directed the 1987 science-fiction film Mr India. In 1994, he directed the critically acclaimed Bandit Queen.

In 1998, he got international recognition for directing the Academy Award-winning period film Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), both fictionalised accounts of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

He was also executive producer of the Bollywood-themed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams, which has been running at the West End, London since 2002, and on Broadway, New York City since 2004.

In 2006, Kapur formed Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, an entertainment company, with Richard Branson and his Virgin Group, author Deepak Chopra and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan, Suresh Seetharaman and Gotham Chopra.

Currently, he judges the reality TV series, India's Got Talent, which airs on Colors.


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