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Roots & Shoots: Interview with Shekhar Kapur

david@khaleejtimes.com (David Light) / 26 December 2013

Shekhar Kapur tells us how culture and identity shape one’s vision as a filmmaker

 

Cooler Shekhar

FROM HOLLYWOOD EPICS including Elizabeth, to sci-fi classics like Mr. India, director Shekhar Kapur, has tackled most filmmaking tasks with a unique take on bringing a story to the screen.

His current project Paani looks set to be a more unusual direction after his last outing with the Elizabeth sequel, The Golden Age. Set in the year 2040, Paani will see an evil multinational company holding a city’s water supply to ransom. In a bid to survive, the two upper and lower class sections of the conurbation must come together to take back the most precious commodity.

Whilst at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, Shekhar sat down with City Times at Kouba Bar in the Al Qasr hotel (sans refreshments, much to the man’s disappointment) to talk about filmmaking and plans for the third Elizabeth instalment.   

You’re a dab hand at film festivals. What do they represent in the moviemaking community?

I’m surprised by how international this Dubai one is. I think they are invaluable in bringing together real lovers of film and industry experts. Dubai in particular is very interesting. The Academy wants to be here. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone wants to be at the birth of a cultural phenomenon. Films reflect what is going on in the culture – culture turns into markets and markets turn into business. Everyone, at the end of the day for better or worse, wants to make a profitable film.

What are your thoughts on the Emirati emerging talent at the moment?

I haven’t spent a lot of time with Emirati filmmakers. I need to see a lot more. What I will say is common for all aspiring filmmakers. If you just take a script and put it on screen, you are not a storyteller. You are a gifted technician. If you are an artist, your own mind has to digest the words and spit them out in your vision. Your culture and experiences shape that vision. Young Emirati filmmakers are the Ibn Battutas of their craft. They will take their vision to the world.

What would be your one bit of advice?

I would say it’s very easy to fall into the trap of caring a lot about the grammar of filmmaking. The grammar should follow the storytelling, not the other way round. I have never been one to get bogged down in technicalities.

Would you therefore agree that you have learnt on the job? Is that the best way to get noticed?

People say my first film is best film. I had never entered an editing studio at that point! I knew nothing. The morning I started to shoot, my editors were educating me about optical prints. I went with a naivety and that came through. It was good for me. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I enjoy that frontier spirit. The best way to get noticed is to know yourself and stay true to what you believe is the right way to portray the story.

Do you feel you know yourself?

When I made Elizabeth, I had to accept that I am an Asian filmmaker and I believe the success of that film came from the fact it had Asian roots. Even if I go on making many more Hollywood films, they will always have an Asian soul.

What can you tell us about the third Elizabeth film?

I knew Cate (Blanchett) was here in Dubai and was desperate to talk to her about it. The films have always been about the conflict between being human and being divine. I touched on it in the first, went further in the second and the third will be all about it. It will be about how does one reconcile being divine when you are approaching death? That is when we explore our own divinity. For a queen it is even more apparent. As she gets closer to death, she becomes more human.    

 

 
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