Possessed of boho chic, he can walk into a near stranger's home and raid the fridge when he's hungry, which is very often. He can borrow petrol from another stranger's car tank because he doesn't have enough fuel to drive back from Churchgate to Juhu. Shekhar Kapur talks, Khalid Mohamed asks.
And I've seen grown-up men and women fall into deep slumber when he narrates story ideas a la Aesop's fables. Shekhar Kapur hasn't lost the plot ever. He may have lost touch with some of his friend types – your humble self included. Yup, we do go back a long way his smile of acknowledgement at a kabab kocktail party last weekend, suggests that.
He's holding forth, presumably on what ails cinema and society he can't tear himself away So, I stroke his beard and mutter, "See you around maaan."
No use detailing his incipient Bollywood days, when Masoom and Mr India made him hot property. Joshilaay and Dushman didn't. The chartered accountant-turned-filmmaker lost contact with the Bombay world at large, renewing ties when he was back with the superlative Bandit Queen.
I felt dizzily privileged to know this was the Kapur whose toasted chicken sandwiches I had often paid for. Yup, somewhere in the mothballed recesses, I even have pix of us hugging after he won the Critics' Award for BQ.
Next: Shekhu conducted screen tests with the magazine I worked for – newcomers would be cast in his Tara Rum Pum Pum. He discovered Preity Zinta but never made the film. Like he never made Bardasht, a story he would narrate about a jailbird who breaks out to bash up.. you're right.. the Establishment.
<b1>Then it was his shot at big time with Elizabeth. He was with Cate Blanchett at the Taj Mahal Hotel, rat-a-tatting interviews out for the promotional pitch. In the suite, he was the stranger whose mini-fridge I didn't dare raid.
In the UK, every Indian I'd meet would speak about Shekhar Kapur, not always complimentarily. Why's he gone so scruffy? What's bugging him? I avoided a Shekharin-England encounter like one avoids the London tube at peak hour. It was nice knowing him, keep it that way ole KM.
Now jump-cut to Goa airport's bhajia scented lounge. Not possible to avoid Shekhar Kapur at a distance of six feet. Pleasantries are exchanged like visiting cards. In flight, he's scattering newspapers around his seat, as if it were a lazy Sunday morning with so many entertainment sections to scan.
Call it my interviewholism, I slide over to the empty seat next to his, gulp dry air, and stammer Shh. Shekhar, how about a q and a? The coal black-bearded face crinkles boyishly, "Haaaaaa haaaaaa, you're incorrigible. Let's do a serious one."
Serious? You bet. So I ask:
Do you still feel sexy at 62 Shekhar?
(Pleased) Yes, yes, yes and thank god for that. Sex has nothing to do with age. Why do you want to give out my age anyway heyyyy? ..
It's there on Google.
(Worried) Google got it wrong there.
Your age is on your passport.
(Cleverly) My passport is out of date. Ha ha!
Ha ha! How can you even go around making statements like "I'm not the father of Cate Blanchett's child"?
You think I would say that? I was asked about some rumours and said, of course not. Cate's having her third kid with her husband.. they're very happy .. how could anyone think that there are any rumours?
Has she seen the blaring headline?
I hope she hasn't. She hasn't called.
Who's on your girlfriend wishlist now?
Any girl I could chat with.. someone intelligent with a personality.
(Digging into a platter of salmon sandwichlets) Naaah, we've been friends for far too long.
Are you still married to, estranged or divorced from Suchitra Krishnamurthy?
We're divorced, we're still friends, we live in the same house at Juhu.
That's really nosey. Same house, same house.
This is your second divorce. Was it very heart-wrenching?
Yes, it was. Try a sandwich.
No thanks. Would you be open to the idea of marrying again?
To the right person, yes. That's so tough to tell. Not knowing whom to fall in love with is like not knowing which film to make next. Life is pretty chaotic, it's just an illusion that one has control over one's life.
<b3>Are you a control freak?
Not at all.. quite the opposite. Maybe if I'd gone the corporate way as a chartered accountant, I'd have been a millionaire many times over now.
But filmmaking is a great adventure. I'm as excited as a kid to be given tickets to fly suddenly to England, South Africa, America, everywhere. I'm still a 13-year-old kid, flying.
You couldn't make your films the way you wanted to – like Dushman produced by the Moranis. Is that why you packed up from here?
I wanted to explore the edges, climb the Himalayas, but the producers here didn't want to join me in that adventure. No problems! I ran into the Moranis at the 50 Cent concert, it was fine.
I just didn't want to do compromised cinema. As a director, my job is to spend money and the producer's is to save money Masoom, Bandit Queen and the first Queen Elizabeth have been my most uncompromised films.
Hasn't Boney Kapoor approached you to do a Mr India sequel?
(Sandwiches done, no coffee, airhostess smiles happily) Yes, there was some talk. But I can't do it. More than anyone else, Mogambo cannot be replaced.
What has made you return to India, as I gather, permanently? You still stay at the place you used to?
Yes. Exactly, I want to be at home too.. most of all for my daughter Kaveri. And I want to film Paani here.
You announced Paani some years ago. Nothing happened.
Sure, it may not happen even now. I don't announce projects, the producers do.. the way it happened with Mandela and Buddha. Paani really needs a budget of $ 30 million and it'll be with newcomers.
Not Viveik Oberoi?
Are you a rich man?
Everyone has money today. Being rich is such a relative thing.
Can you afford to buy another house in Juhu?
Probably not.. the property prices have shot up way beyond my imagination.
Ever bought a solitaire ring?
Heyyyy how much does that cost? Never been down that road.
Weren't you developing a project with Antonio Banderas in the lead?
He was interested in a script on Benini (the violinist) but it didn't concretise. Heath Ledger is someone I know and would like to do a film with.
Elizabeth: The Golden Agehas received mixed reviews.
In Europe, it's been terrific. In America, it has picked after a slow start. In India, I'd be surprised if it runs more than a week.
The buzz is that Cate Blanchett will be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar but you'll be omitted.
(Wryly) But that happened with the first Elizabeth too. I don't expect a nomination.
Okay so before the plane lands, tell me were you surprised by the media's coverage of your divorce?
I was shooting in London then. The media reports came to me in driblets. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset. I was. But I can be pretty fatalistic.. what has to happen will.
And how did you react when Preity Zinta's name was dragged in?
(Silence) You heard me. I heard about it. But that's it.. I heard about it and left it there.
When you get home now, what do you expect?
For Kaveri to give me one big hug. A father and daughter share a much more cuddly relationship than a father and son do.
Finally, what's Kaveri like?
Like me, always protesting and fiercely independent. Have you seen her? She looks completely like Suchitra – the same face, the same smile.
The post-airplane landing is quintessential Shekhar Kapur. His car hasn't arrived.. He asks me for a ride home. I have a nostalgia-plated affection for the man. But that's not sufficient nowadays to brave the evening traffic crush.. and lose an hour of my life. Aah, always better to be a q and a man than a Bandit Friend. Maybe.