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06-27-2009, 07:00 AM #1
Ultimately, we are all voyeurs: Shekhar
Shekhar Kapur does not talk about his personal life. However, the director of Mr India and Elizabeth makes up for it by talking bluntly about everything else.
He’s going to judge the Indian version of a reality show called America’s Got Talent. Its UK version turned a 40-something, virgin church volunteer called Susan Boyle into a star. Susan became so famous, even before the finals, that she had a nervous breakdown. But that’s what makes reality TV stars, Shekhar says. Read on...
You’ve been quoted as saying that you wanted to be India’s Simon Cowell (the American Idol reality show judge from hell, and the creator of Britain’s Got Talent). Why?
I didn’t want to be India’s Simon Cowell. When the channel approached me with the show, they thought I could be sort of India’s Simon Cowell. Not me. I can only be me.
On Britain’s Got Talent, Susan Boyle became a huge sensation. Was it because of the fact that she was different and that she couldn’t take the pressure? Do you think there could be someone on your show, India’s Got Talent, on Colors, who’d become famous like that, for something besides their talent?
Let me compare two people from Hollywood, both very famous, and both who buckled under pressure – Susan Boyle and Britney Spears. People say the same thing about Britney – that she became very famous, buckled under pressure, that she went into rehab and had a complete nervous breakdown, and now she’s come back out of it. Now, people are more fascinated by Britney because of the story. This is the nature of our involvement. Ultimately, we are voyeurs. Susan Boyle makes for a great story. The imperfections of a human being attract us to that person.
When someone like Susan goes up, we not only applaud and love her, but also wait for her to come down. Because we haven’t gone up. It’s human nature.
An international commentator, at the height of Susan’s popularity, said that she’s such a sensation because people enjoy seeing someone else’s distress... Will the same thing happen in India?
Of course it will. That’s what happens to all our stars. The moment you become a star, people wait for you to fall down. That’s why we’re so fascinated by imperfections – who’s sleeping with whom, who’s talking against whom – look, they’re so immoral! Please do expect that to happen in India too.
We (he, Sonali Bendre and Kirron Kher) as judges have an unwritten agreement with the channel to actually provide people like that. It is our job to provide contestants whose stories people will be attracted to.
So reality TV is all about the distress and the drama?
It is not fundamentally about just that. Susan Boyle would not have come as far as she did without her talent. But she almost won because of who she was, because of the story. The story is not separated from the talent, in our minds, in reality shows. The judges have also agreed to look for the story, because we are moved by it.
Is Danny Boyle funding Paani (Shekhar’s film on the impending global water crisis)?
Danny Boyle is not funding Paani, he never will. Danny has started a production company under which he is funded by some studios and he has promised to deliver to them a certain amount of films. Danny and I have been friends for a long time, and we talked about it. That’s where it is. Whether we do it or not, the inclusion of Danny as a creative partner is fantastic. We’ve done it before. The first person he sent the script of Slumdog Millionaire to was me, in London. And the first discussion he had when he was offered the script was with me. Now Danny’s very successful, obviously – he’s made the most successful independent film of all time. And he loves the idea of Paani. We’re looking for a way to collaborate on that – officially. Unofficially, we’d have done it anyway.
Why did he send the script to you?
He sent the script to me to understand whether the characters sounded like they could come from India.
And what did you tell him?
I told him that they would. I said that the script is touching upon reality, but has a certain magic realism to it. But magic realism is an entertaining way of telling the story of what actually does happen. And that’s why the film is so successful – in a fundamental way, the story is being told to you through the unlikely event of this boy winning all that money. It’s a unique and entertaining way of touching upon the life of people in the slums. Is it absolute reality? Of course it isn’t. But the movie has touched upon enough reality for people to see glimpses of it.
What did you think of the film when you saw it?
I loved it. All those people who came out saying, aww, it only shows Indian poverty – it’s not, it’s an amazing film. I’ve seen other movies like that – City Of God, from Brazil, is brilliant, but it’s not as entertaining as that. It did not touch those heights at the US box office. It did about 10-12 million dollars. Slumdog Millionaire did $140 million in the US alone. ‘
You’ve been in the news for working with Nicole Kidman and Ridley Scott on a commercial in Udaipur. How was that experience?
I’ve never met Ridley
Scott.Wasn’t he producing it?
Not directly. Ridley and his brother Tony Scott started making commercials about 30 years ago , and they formed a production company that not only represents directors, but also makes five-six commercials a year. I’ve never met Ridley or Tony, I’ve just been in touch with the company. What happened is that the agency, which is a French agency – and Nicole Kidman – had expressed a desire for me to shoot the film. They did not know how to get in touch with me, so they got in touch with RSA and asked if they would get in touch with me and also produce the film. I was the one who brought Arjun Rampal into it.’
One, Nicole is very tall, and Arjun is taller. Then, Arjun has a face with a lot of international appeal. Arjun has that look that could be Greek or Indian or Italian or South American.
What is Nicole like?
I’ve met Nicole before, while she was married to Tom Cruise, in Hollywood, and then on the sets of Australia, because Baz Luhrman is a good friend and when I was in Sydney I visited the sets. Both Baz and Hugh Jackman are pretty good friends of mine, and I met her there. Nicole is an ordinary human being – beautiful, dedicated. The one thing that even Arjun wondered at was that she stepped off the plane in India and went straight to the gym for three hours, and Arjun says even he couldn’t keep up with her. Her father was a marathon runner, and she trained as a marathon runner. She’s a complete athlete – that’s part of the reason she’s so well maintained. She jogs a few miles everyday.
Are foreign celebrities worried about coming to India?
When Mick Jagger and Brad Pitt came here, they had the freedom of walking around, because nobody recognised them. So when Nicole came here, all the local paparazzi was there. But probably, most of the local paparazzi had never seen a Nicole Kidman film. We put up a body double – a decoy – with a blonde wig and everything, and got her on to a boat and took her out, and of course everybody shot her, and the next day, we saw her picture in a local newspaper as Nicole’s!
What about the remake of Mr India?
I was offered the film, and I told the producers (Manmohan Shetty and Boney and Anil Kapoor) that I would not direct it, but I would help them structure the story along with another writer. I’ve structured the story – now it’s up to them. I’ve written the new villain and the new story. But I am of the opinion that they won’t make it till Anil is free again, and from what I can tell, Anil has no intention of coming back to India for the next five or ten years.
Is that your opinion or something you know for sure?
In my opinion, he’s played out what he had to do in India. Whatever else he does here will be a repetition of what he’s done already. He’s a creative man, and this is new thing. Being in 24 (US TV serial) is a new thing, doing Hollywood films is a new thing. Why would he not do it?
06-27-2009, 12:02 PM #2