After winning over the West with his two Elizabethan sagas, Shekhar Kapur is back in India to "rekindle the anger" over what's happening in the world.
His next film, Paani, is set in 2025 in a city polarised by water scarcity, a world divided into the haves and have-nots - those who have water and those who don't.
Excerpts from the interview:
What made you return to Mumbai?
My life is about yearning for the impossible. It's time to ...create the intellectual property in India. Microsoft has held the copyrights for all intellectual property in Seattle. In Asia we must learn to hold on to our intellectual property. That's one of my big dreams for India.
The comic books based on Indian mythical characters that I've started in the West are all sourced back to India. It's created and implemented by Indians. Until we hold the intellectual property in Asia, we won't prosper. And to those who say Shekhar Kapur has come back home to make a million dollars, I say, I don't want a single cent. I just want to be the conduit of my dreams.
Is your next directorial venture going to be from Mumbai?
Yes, I'm finalising the script. I've been desperate to make that film for a long time. The reason I came back to India is to walk the streets of Mumbai and rekindle the anger that I feel about what's happening to the world.
<b1>Paani is not just about the water shortage. It's about the callousness of a world where about three percent of the populace are haves; the rest are have-nots. And what a wonderful way to speak of that disparity through the one resource that we're most squandering away.
My first story was about this runaway kid who sees this big van of water and is asked to pay for it. It struck me then that the first thing about city life is you've to pay for the water.
Sounds extremely socialistic.
Once Devi Lal said something about the way the privileged squander money. 'The rich flush down more water in their toilets than farmers get for a whole day of irrigation.'
Then one day I went to a producer-friend's place on the 13th floor and I was told he was bathing. Go down to the ground floor and you pass through the Dharavi slums and you see hordes of women and children queuing up for a bucket of water. I realised the poor are paying 2,000 times more money for their water than the guy who was in the shower for half an hour.
Is that where Paani was born?
Yes, to me water is the basic resource, the next thing to air. Water is already being bottled and sold. Nobody has the right to pollute our water resources. Imagine mineral water being sold at Rs.90! Water as a fashion statement!
I refuse to drink bottled water. I know it's the beginning of the process to privatise water. The ecological cost of bottled water is immense. A story developed in my mind. I had to make a film. My film deals with a city of 20 million people polarised by water scarcity.
I'll shoot it in Mumbai. But it could be any major metro - from Bangkok to New Mexico. The city would be divided into two - below and above the flyovers. The one above would be the cosmopolitan city. That's what's going to happen in the future.
And that upper city takes over the water resources in Paani. They control the water that filters down to the ghettos. I'm going to make the film contemporary and trendy. I want it to appeal to youngsters.
It's about the exploitation by the first world. And the place where the first world meets the third world is paradise. You get any kind of sexuality and thrills there. I'm setting it in 2025. That isn't so far away.
Who will pay for this dream?
The issues involved are so against what the studio style of filmmaking (of the West) represents that I don't want to make Paani with their money. They'll ask for cuts. It happened during The Four Feathers. They muzzled me. That's one of the reasons why I fled the West. In Masoom, Mr India and Bandit Queen, which I made in India, I had the freedom to say what I wanted.