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Birthday special: Shekhar Kapur and his shattered film dreams

Though internationally-acclaimed, the talented filmmaker, who turns 71 today (6 December), has a history of shelved projects and walkouts.

Mayur Lookhar

Shekhar Kapur has gained a reputation for being an elusive filmmaker, thanks to just 11 films in a career spanning over four decades. Of these, two were partly directed by another director after he walked out midway. It would be fair to say that Kapur has been like an enigma in the industry. He has gained notoriety for conceptualising innumerable ideas, but failing to turn those dreams into reality. On his 71st birthday today (6 December), we take a look at some of those projects:

1. Tara Rum Pum
In the late 90s, a young pretty Preity Zinta garnered attention for a chocolate commercial. She was being touted as the next beauty to join Hindi cinema. She was introduced to Kapur by a friend at an audition. So smitten was Kapur that he wanted to launch her in Tara Rum Pum, along with Hrithik Roshan. The filming was eventually cancelled, but Kapur recommended Zinta to Mani Ratnam for a cameo in the Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala-starrer Dil Se...

2. Time Machine
In 1992, Kapur was set to direct his second sci-fi flick Time Machine starring Aamir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha and Raveena Tandon. However, halfway through the production, he was hit by financial woes that eventually led to the project's cancellation. Interestingly, 80% of the shoot was completed before the filming came to a forced halt.

3. Mantra
Despite Tara Rum Pum Pum not taking off, Kapur has always remained close to Preity Zinta. The filmmaker was keen on producing Mantra, a multi-million magical FX drama to be directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, with Zinta in the lead. The project didn't even start.

4. Prem 
Make no bones about it, Kapur has nothing but admiration for Mr India producer Boney Kapoor and his family. In the early 90s, Boney was keen on launching his younger brother Sanjay. Javed Akhtar had penned a reincarnation romantic saga, which Boney had requested Kapur to direct. The latter agreed, then roped in a reluctant 16-year-old Tabu as the female lead. Remarkably, after setting things in motion, Kapur himself jumped ship. Satish Kaushik stepped in as director, but Prem turned out to be a turkey.

5. Badal and Dushmani
Like Sanjay, Kapur was also chosen to launch Dharmendra’s younger son Bobby Deol. Kapur gave his nod to Badal, which had Karisma Kapoor as the female lead. Surprisingly, he left the film after just 20 days amidst rumours of a rift with Bobby’s big brother Sunny. Kapur was simultaneously directing the Sunny-starrer revenge flick Dushmani, and had finished filming 60 per cent of it when a reported tiff with Sunny aw him walk out of both projects. Bobby would eventually do Badal with Rani Mukerji in 2000 with Raj Kanwar as director.

6. Hollywood heartbreaks
Kapur is revered internationally since he made The Bandit Queen. Shattered dreams have followed him to the West too. He was meant to direct a biopic on Mandela titled Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom, but was replaced by Justin Chadwick. He was also sounded out for an adaptation of Issac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, but the project got shelved. Similarly, he was keen to make a film on the life of Buddha, but this project, too, failed to see the light of day.

The Elizabeth director also planned to make a film on broadcast media called The Nine O’Clock war with Heath Ledger in the lead. Unfortunately, the actor’s untimely death ended that project. He was also touted to direct an adaption of Phillip Reeve’s adult novel Larknight, but later announced he was no longer associated with the project.

7. Paani
This is an idea that Kapur conceived 11 years ago, which finally took shape a few years ago. In 2013, he offered the role to Hrithik Roshan. Paani was to be a futuristc romantic saga set in times of water scarcity. Back then, Roshan had stated that it is every actor’s dream to work with Kapur. The filmmaker received a boost when Yash Raj Productions decided to produce the film. However, months passed by and Paani didn’t take off. Roshan stunned all by choosing Karan Johar's Shuddhi over Paani. However, the actor then backed out of Shuddhi, too, amidst differences over profit sharing with the producers. Kapur then roped in gen-next actor Sushant Singh Rajput and Ayesha Kapur, who played the child actor in Black. Shooting has been constantly delayed, inflating the budget to Rs220 crore. Last heard, Kapur was quoted saying that if the film is not released in 2016, he would take the project to the West. With Rajput busy with other projects, the fate of Paani hangs in balance. 

It has been over two decades since Kapur directed a Bollywood film that has been released. We hope Paani doesn’t go down the drain like all of the above.