You would expect Hollywood actor Cate Blanchett to be gorgeous. And she is! At a seminar in the city she defines classy casual with a sneakers-paired-with-blazer look and Lennon glasses. But she bowls you over with her witty straight talk. And of the half-hour talk session in which she speaks of her journey as an actor, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur remains at the centre of her conversation.
“Meeting and working with Shekhar was the turning point in my career,” she says, when asked to list her favourite directors. The 46-year-old actor worked with Kapur in his period film Elizabeth (1998) that became her big ticket entry into Hollywood, and got her noticed. “I was just doing a play in Australia when he found me and got me to play the role. He fought for me throughout... Sometimes all you need is for one person to believe in you, to give you a beginning, Shekhar was that person in my life,” she says.
Asked if it was tough for her to get into the character of the 16th century Queen of England for the film, she says, “I am a passionate lover of history and was passionate about the history of Elizabeth. Shekhar couldn’t care less. He was just so excited that India and Australia (where Cate comes from) were both colonised by the British, and we were recreating their history.” But recreating history on celluloid wasn’t easy, she says, “We fought the whole way while making the film, but those were healthy fights.”
Cate’s last film, Carol, spoke of a relationship between two women in the 1950s. Talking about the film, she says, “Yes, it’s like Fire (1996 film that starred Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das).” Clearly, her knowledge of Indian films is not restricted to Kapur and his works alone.