Shekhar Kapur is back in the movie world with his Hollywood project What’s Love Got to Do with It? The filmmaker’s last full-length directorial venture was the drama Elizabeth: The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett in 2007. He claims he may have been gone, but he’s not isolated from Indian cinema.
“I haven’t made a film in India since The Bandit Queen (1994). I don’t know why people call me a Bollywood director unless you call Mr. India (1987) and Masoom (1983) as a Bollywood project. I don’t know what defines Bollywood,” Kapur tells us when asked about the long gap in an exclusive interview.
The 77-year-old continues: “It has been 30 years since I made a film in India. (In this day and age) I’ve done movies outside. I have done theater outside (of India). I did theater in Germany. I did a big series on William Shakespeare. I teach at MIT. I haven’t had time at all. I have been a member of the World Economic Forum. I am an environmentalist. So life was busy. Then I found time to make a movie, found a script and made — What’s Love Got to Do with It?”.
As for the film, the cross-cultural project is led by Emma Thompson, Lily James and Shabana Azmi, and deals with the complexities of love, marriage, relationships and intimacy.
“Working on it was another exploration… Nothing is about defining things. When you see the movie, you realize that the characters realize at the end that we have to forgive, have to be compassionate. Because relationships are not about saying ‘I love you’… Love is a mystery. It’s a matter of exploring that sense of mystery.”
The film deals with the concept of an arranged marriage in the Tinder era, and the director admits that it became a fundamental reason for him to make the film. He says, “We are all looking for intimacy in our lives. When we are born, we are placed on our mother’s breast. That’s the first act of intimacy a baby feels. When we die, we want to hold someone’s hand. In between, we complicate things, for example, if I put my hand on my boyfriend’s shoulder, you’re dating. We have developed these keywords that interfere with our desire and need to be intimate.
Explaining his thought, the filmmaker admits: “In the film, a fundamental question is: how do you know if it will work if you have not had sex before marriage? When I was 18 I was a chartered accountant. I came back to India and my mom took me to meet some girls. The question in my head was, how do I know it will work unless I’ve had sex? What is sex on the first night a disaster? We are investigating how it could work the other way around. I’ve been asking them all my life.”
He has also added his Lahore memories to the films. But border tensions continue to limit the exchange of art between the countries.
Asked about the same thing, he says, “Art always crosses international boundaries, and it should”.
Not that I can’t appreciate an artist. That is a different culture of a different people. So art certainly transcends international boundaries,” he concludes.