The movie was announced with much fanfare during the 2010 Cannes Film Festival by Kapur himself, and shooting was to have begun at the end of that year in Dubai and Singapore. But Paani remained submerged in water all these years. Sushant Singh Rajput will play the male lead in Shekhar Kapur's much delayed film, Paani, to be set to A.R. Rahman's music.
Paani - to be produced by Yash Raj Films - has, after a good three years, still to fill in some blanks. The female lead is yet to be finalised, but all that we know today is that a leading actress from the West will be roped in.
Two years ago, when I met Kapur at a movie festival in the Gulf, he told me that Paani was a very difficult film to make. He did not spell in so many words, but he was obviously referring to funding. However, it now seems that with Yash Raj Films agreeing to take Paani under its wings, Kapur can breathe easy. Even then, the movie is slated to hit the floors only in mid-2014, which is still a good eight months away. Sushant Singh Rajput uis set to play the lead.
Incidentally, Hrithik Roshan was to have played the lead in Paani, but the star is resting after his recent brain surgery.
Kapur -- known for films such as Masoom, Mr India, Bandit Queen and the Academy Award-winning period drama, Elizabeth (with seven Oscar nods), as well as its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age (with two Oscar noms) - was once famously accused of taking an anti-British stance in his 2002 The Four Feathers. He denied this and explained that he was merely "anti-colonisation".
With Bandit Queen, he attracted criticism for portraying nudity on the screen. Interestingly, the film, inspired by the life of the notorious dacoit, Phoolan Devi, ultimately made a heroine out of her in real life. She was voted to India's Parliament, though the violence she had lived by in the Chambal Ravines got her in the end. She was shot outside her bungalow in New Delhi.
Paani, based on a book by Maude Barlow and scripted by David Farr, will tell a dark tale about the impending water crisis. The movie will dramatise how this shortage will affect relationships between individuals, cities, states and nations. The beautiful young daughter of the chairman of the world's largest water corporation arrives in the Upper City of plentiful. On a chance encounter in the impoverished Lower City, she is kidnapped by the young handsome water warrior. "It will be a love story that changes minds and methods" Kapur told the media meet at Cannes.
He added that water could well become a weapon in the future with corporates taking over its distribution. "This is what I hope my work will draw attention to, provoke a debate and hopefully help find a solution to this grave problem".
Kapur also hoped that Paani would melt hearts and move minds with its tale of young love that is unwittingly drawn into this messy revolution. "It is the story of young love caught in the flurry of conflict and war between two cities, one that is rich and waterful, and the other that is poor and waterless, where the water rats are forced steal that precious liquid."
About Rajput, Kapur said the other day that he "is one of the most inspiring young actors to emerge out of India. It's going to be an exciting director-actor collaboration with him on Paani." Rajput, who first caught the eye as Ishan in a Chetan Bhagat novel adapted to screen, Kai Po Che, was recently seen as a nervous bridegroom who runs away from his marriage in Shuddh Desi Romance.
Ayushman Khurana (L) and Sushant Singh Rajput pose as they attend a press conference ahead of The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards in Mumbai on July 1, 2013. (AFP Photo)