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Is Shekhar Kapoor Really 78?!



Shekhar Kapoor

It is hard to believe  Shekhar Kapur is  78  now.  There is a quality of uninterrupted  youthfulness  about him. Shekhar is naturally friendly. He  doesn’t have  to make  an effort to be gregarious. Like his  uncle  Dev Anand, he is  curious  about other  people’s lives. He asks  a  million questions. He wants to know about what you read, what you eat,which are  your favourite  films,what you think of his rather  slender  oeuvre, do you  like Mr India  more than Masoom, how many times  have you seen Bandit Queen, etc etc.

In  1983 after  a dodgy  stint  as  an actor(Toote KhiloneJaan Haazir Hai, UdaanSwayamsiddha)  Shekhar Kapoor turned  director  with Masoom a  stellar  adaptation of Erich Segal’s Man Woman  & Child, which immediately  established  Shekhar as one of the foremost  filmmaking voices in  India. Erich Segal’s tearjerker  novel  about a family man who brings home his illegitimate  child  was made into an insipid  Hollywood film featuring the distinguished  Blythe Danner and  Martin Sheen as  a  happily married couple who  face rocky weather when he  brings home a son from another mom.   Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah were  better .And  Shekhar kapoor’s Masoom is  far far better work than  the original.

He  followed it  up  four years later  with the crazily endearing  Mr India .As a director the most overpowering film Shekhar  made was Bandit Queen. But it’s Mr India  he is most known for  in India. And it has grown in popularity over time.When Shekhar   made Mr  India he  wanted to make sure that the audience remained glued to the seats for two and a half hours.To keep up that momentum for so long was tough.Even when the kids in the film were eating they were tapping the tables with spoons. It’s a very agile livewire film. Everyone is super-energetic.It’s a hyper film.

In  forty years Shekhar  Kapur has  directed  only  seven  feature films. Why?  Because, as Sanjay  Kapoor once put it rather  bluntly, Shekhar is  a  “lazy guy”. Lazy or  restless, Shekhar is now   back with his first feature film in thirteen  years. What’s Love Got To Do With It  which  reunites him with Shabana  Azmi  after Masoom, is Shekhar’s most charming  film to  date. It  eschews a complicated  narration in what  is an essentially complicated  Indo-Pak romance.

At the least, Shekhar’s fans can breathe a  sigh of relief. He is  not done as  yet.

His dream  project remains Paani  which he  prepped for Yash Raj films  for four years with  Sushant Singh Rajput and  then abandoned. Shekhar was  planning Paani for decades. In the period he has made only one feature film,two short films, a segment of New York, I Love You the film paying  a homage to New York city in 2008, and Passage another short film for the Sarovsky company in 2009.He also directed some episodes for a series on  William Shakespeare.

He is  hopeful about reviving  Paani  soon. The theme   of water shortage  is so against what the studio style of filmmaking   in  the West  that  Shekhar   doesn’t want to make it with their money.

Looking back during the lockdown in  2020 Shekhar told  me he had no  regrets  about his sparse output. “I just want to be the conduit of my dreams.I have had a brilliant life. Couldn’t have asked for more.People don’t know 20% of what I did. From films to musical stage shows all over the world to being at MIT to do  a  series of lectures   all over the world , to tech start-ups before the word start-up became popular .I’ve been  an   accountant, a   management consultant .. . I’ve been so busy doing things .And this is the  time to reflect . What is that I have not done ? What did all of that mean ? This is  the time for me think about  my life.Have I  achieved  what I wanted to?”

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