He likes to do many things at a time — Shekhar Kapur is writing comic books, working on ‘Paani' and running a digital firm Qyuki. Sudhish Kamath talks to the internationally-acclaimed filmmaker
He's been coming to Chennai for such a long time that he does not remember when he came here first.
“Been here as a kid but film-wise, maybe the first time I came to Chennai was to meet Kamal Haasan just before I was going to do ‘Joshilay'. And then I came here for ‘Mr. India' with Sridevi. After that, Chennai trips were more because Mani Ratnam is here, Rahman is from here,” Shekhar Kapur recalls his Chennai connection during his visit to the city to inaugurate the 9th Chennai International Film Festival.
Just a fortnight ago, he was at International Film Festival of India, Goa, meeting young filmmakers at the Film Bazaar.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I found some of my international sales agent friends there and they mentioned at least three films in the Bazaar section. Then, I saw a film by Anand Gandhi and was so impressed with his first film ‘The Ship of Theseus'. I am adding myself as executive producer to that film and Anand is writing my next film. I heaved a sigh of relief because I have been carrying this burden of being the Indian filmmaker that the West has celebrated and I am just tired of being alone. And I think Anand can. I think filmmakers are getting more courageous,” Kapur believes.
About a decade ago, Shekhar had launched Digital Talkies, a banner to front independent films in India. “I tried but my partners gave up. As with everything I do, it was 10 years before its time. I keep getting asked why ‘Mr. India' has lasted till today. Because it was 10 years before its time.”
The origin of ‘Mr. India' is one of the strangest stories you will hear. “It was a script by Salim-Javed written for Amitabh Bachchan. And I suspect it was written because they thought: ‘Wow, it will be wonderful if we can do a film with Amitabh Bachchan where for 60 per cent of the time, he's invisible. So we wouldn't need that many dates.' So after Salim and Javed broke up, the scripts got divided. ‘Mr. India' went to Javed and he went to Boney Kapoor. Boney asked me if I would be interested. I suspect I was asked because I made ‘Masoom' and they said he's very good with children. Nobody knew about my interest in special effects and visual effects and that took everybody by surprise, including myself. The script was written as we were shooting the film. I remember we had shot a lot of the film even before Mogambo was written,” he recollects.
What was his approach? “I pick one member of the audience before I make a film. That member of the audience is usually me in another avatar. For ‘Mr. India', it was me when I was 11. And the 11-year-old kid would tell me what to do.”
Kapur had been a huge comic book fan and he wanted to make a superhero film when ‘Mr. India' came his way. Comic books are a passion he continues to live with. “Some of my comic books have been successful internationally. Devi, Snakewoman. I am writing this comic called The Warlord, another one called The Omega Crystal. I've written Mantra which I would like to do as a film. But I am not going to direct it. I am looking for a director,” he says.
There's “no reason” that he's cut down on films himself. “There's too much pain in making films when I make them myself. It's like giving birth to a child. I am not saying I can't make it. I'm just saying that I am much more into cinema as art. There comes a time in your life when you think that if I have been given talent and a fan following, it's not something that's given to me to create wealth. It's a responsibility. I want to be responsible and so I want to create ‘Paani' (a film he is working on). I want to create and leave behind social ideas that I care about. I want to make films that have values but I love these comic book films.”
Art of living
So how does he divide his time between Hollywood and India?
“I don't. I just let it flow. I think the best use of time is to be chaotic. An addiction to structure actually allows you to do less with your life. Because life is not defined by achievement. Life is defined by living. In the acceptance of chaos, you live more. The moment you confine yourself to structure, you may achieve more but you don't live more,” Kapur explains his philosophy.
Kapur's spends a lot of his time online. “I am obsessed with the digital world. I find it democratic, rebellious and a new way to live. I have my own company called Qyuki, a company that's developing the next phase of social networking. Facebook and Twitter are just the beginning. Ten years down the line, they will die out. New and more active forms will come out.” And there he goes again. Building bridges between life and science-fiction.