If you ever discuss about some of the top directors and producers in Indian cinema, the name of Shekhar Kapur will definitely popup. He is one of those actors, directors, and producers in the country who is popular for his contribution to Hindi movies. Shekhar is a part of the Dev Anand family and he soon became a household name in India due to his recurring role in the television series, Khandan that released in the mid-1980s. He gained popularity as a director with the movie Masoom that released in the year 1983. The movie went on to win the Filmfare Award in the Best Movie-Critics category. Shekhar managed to witness his popularity soar to an all new height with the movie Mr. India that released in the year 1987.
Shekhar Kapur was born on the 6th of December, 1945 in Lahore, Punjab, which was a part of British India during that time. His father, Kulbhushan Kapur, was a famous doctor, whereas, his mother, Sheel Kanta Kapur, was a housewife. When Shekhar was young, he was traveling by train with his mother and sister from the newly created Pakistan to India. A massacre took place during the journey in which his mother acted dead and hid both Shekhar and his sister under herself. This incident has made Shekhar state repeatedly that the partition of India took place through “the blood of one people”.
Shekhar Kapur is the nephew of the famous Indian cinema actor Dev Anand. However, he was not encouraged by his father to pursue movies. His mother, Sheel Kanta, was the sister of the famous Dev and Vijay Anand. Shekhar has 3 sisters of which Neelu was the first wife of Navin Nischol and his second sister, Aruna, is the wife of the famous actor Parikshit Sahni. Shekhar’s third sister is Sohaila Kapur.
Shekhar completed his school education from Modern School in New Delhi and his graduation from St. Stephen’s College. He graduated in economics. At a young age of 22 years Shekhar became a Chartered Accountant from the ICAEW in England. He studied accountancy after his parents literally forced him to do so. He started his work life working with a multinational oil company. He later shifted to the United Kingdom in the year 1970 and spent several years working as a management and accountant consultant.
Shekhar Kapur started working in the movie industry as an actor in the movie Jaan Hazir Hai that released in the year 1975. Later he also worked in the movie Toote Khilone. However, none of his movies did well at the box office. He also worked in several television dramas such as Udaan opposite Kavita Chaudhary on Doordarshan, Upanyaas opposite Nisha Singh also on Doordarshan, and Masoom opposite Neena Gupta.
He started as a director with the movie Masoom. The movie was a family drama that also featured Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Jugal Hansraj and Urmila Matondkar both at a very young age. The story of the movie revolved around an illegitimate child who struggles to find acceptance from his stepmother. Masoom released in the year 1983. His next major movie was Mr. India. This movie was basically a science-fiction and it featured Anil Kapoor, Amrish Puri, and Sridevi. The movie went on to become the second highest grossing movie of that year. Amrish Puri, who played the popular role of Mogambo, used to say “Mogambo Khush Hua”, which is still remembered. His next big project was Bandit Queen, which was a critically acclaimed movie. It featured Seema Biswas as the popular female bandit Phoolan Devi of India.
Shekhar Kapur is rather infamous in the Bollywood industry for abandoning many movies of which he was the original director. For example, he was the original director of the movie Joshilaay, which featured Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Meenakshi Sheshadri, and Sridevi. He left the movie halfway and the producer of the movie, Sibti Hassn Rizvi, had to complete it. The movie released in the year 1989. Again in the year 1992, he shot a few scenes from the movie Barsaat, which was titled as Champion originally. However, he left the production midway and it was fulfilled by Rajkumar Santoshi. The movie was the debut movie for Bobby Deol. That same year, he was all set to direct a science-fiction movie named as Time Machine and featuring Aamir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha, and Raveena Tandon. However, he left the project incomplete due to some financial problems. Although the movie was left incomplete during that time, there were rumors that Shekhar would revive the movie with an all new cast. However, that never happened in reality. He also directed the movie Dushmani and left it midway before it was completed by the producer Bunty Soorma. The movie was released in the year 1995 and it featured Jackie Shroff, Sunny Deol, and Manisha Koirala.
Apart from Bollywood, Shekhar has also displayed his directing skills in Hollywood. After getting international recognition for his movie Bandit Queen, Shekhar directed Elizabeth, which was a, Academy Award winning movie. The movie was all about the reign of the British Queen Elizabeth I. The movie went on to get nominated in 7 different Oscars. He came up with the sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age in the year 2007, which also went on to get nominated in 2 Oscars. Shekhar was also accused of being anti-British by several British tabloids, especially for his portrayal of the British Empire and Army in the movie The Four Feathers that released in 2002.
Shekhar Kapur was the executive producer of the movie The Guru. He also established an Indian movie company along with Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Verma. However, they have produced just one movie, Dil Se, till date. The movie released in the year 1998 and it featured Manisha Koirala and Shah Rukh Khan. Shekhar was also the executive producer of the musical Bombay Dreams, which was a Bollywood themed movie. The movie was made by Andrew Webber and it has been running successfully in London’s The West End since the year 2002, as well as, in New York City since the year 2004.
In the year 2005, Shekhar worked along with Okan Quail on the project Hunji, which was about an Indian maid, who idolized Sachin Tendulkar. The movie gained several acclaims as being one of Shekhar’s finest movies. However, there were critics across Indian and the UK who labelled the movie as a major flop.
In the year 2006, Shekhar formed an entertainment company by the name of Liquid Comics and Virgin Animation. The company mainly focused on coming up with new characters and stories for the global audience. The Shakti titles of Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur’s company made its debut with The Sadhu and Devi. The latter is all about a fierce feminine warrior who is stronger than the gods themselves. Devi is also the protector of man and the champion of the heavens. On the other hand, the former, is all about a man’s choice between his human instincts and his spiritual oath.
The third of the Queen Elizabeth series, Elizabeth: The Dark Age, has been planned. John Rogers will be the screenwriter and he has said that the success of Elizabeth has made Shekhar getting tapped to work on an adaptation named Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. However, the project was shelved due to some reason. In the meanwhile, Shekhar decided to take control of a motion picture that will be based on the life of the Buddha. The name of the movie was also to be Buddha. However, even this plan had to be dropped. One of his past projects that got shelved was The Nine O’clock War, which he had planned with Heath Ledger, his longtime friend. However, due to the untimely demise of Ledger in the year 2008, Shekhar had to drop the idea.
Awards and Recognition
Shekhar Kapur has won several awards during his career. He was awarded with Padma Shri in the year 2000, which is the fourth highest civilian award in the country. For his movie Elizabeth, Shekhar won the BAFTA Award in the Best Film category. He also won the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards for the same movie in the Best Director category. His movie Bandit Queen, fetched him the National Film Award in the Best Feature Film in Hindi category and Filmfare Critics’ Awards in the Best Movie category.
Although he was not allowed by his father to pursue a life in the movie industry, fate had different plans for Shekhar. He started off as an actor in Bollywood and worked in several movies and television shows. However, none of his movies made a mark at the box office. Luck changed for the man when he shifted his attention to directing movies. With movies like Masoom, Mr. India, and Elizabeth in his kitty, there was no looking back for Shekhar Kapur. These movies helped him get a worldwide recognition and also make a mark in Hollywood.