'Independent cinema doesn't mean anything in India'

The light through the glass window falls sharply on his face, highlighting the intensity of his smiling eyes. His voice is soothing and his thoughts, crystal clear. Simply put, Shekhar Kapur sounds exactly the way he tweets. The acclaimed filmmaker is visibly happy to have finally found a backer for Paani. Moreover, he’s also collaborating with AR Rahman — not to forget Imtiaz Ali and Chetan Bhagat — on an online creative hub called Qyuki. In a tête-à-tête with us, Kapur shares his thoughts on cinema, social media and much more

Pic/Satyajit Desai

What’s the motive behind Qyuki?
We are a nation of imaginative people and we need a common platform to express our creativity. For instance, if you ask someone what they do, they’ll give you a simple answer but if you ask them what they want to do, there will be a whole new set of complicated answers. This difference lies
in imagination.

So how exactly will your web-based hub help?
It will allow people from different backgrounds to communicate freely. Like somebody from Chennai can not only share a poem with someone from Tripura but also provide music to it. Not only that, we’re also working on the synchronisation of different sections of art — be it dance, painting or storytelling with technologies that will facilitate amongst other things drawing with musical notes and vice versa.

When did AR Rahman agree to be a part of this endeavour?
Rahman and I are co-founders and we share a similar vision of unlocking the aforementioned power of imagination. Initially, I had to ideate with him and then he took his time to decide. He’s certainly a more practical person than me. I’m quite impetuous and that explains why he’s far more successful than I am!

You’re one of the few from the film industry who is quite vocal on Twitter about social issues…
One can choose to live one’s life under scrutiny or be courageous enough to express oneself. I’ve always chosen the latter. You can’t let others suppress your personality. If you’re raising a controversy for a cause you believe in, then so be it.

What are your general thoughts on social media?
One of its greatest achievements is reducing the power of the gatekeepers like governments, news channels, newspapers, music labels or Hollywood studios. Just to emphasise the height of free expression, take Gangnam Style for example. It recently crossed one billion views on YouTube. This is no mean feat. Compare it to Skyfall, the most successful Bond film of all time. But it took $300 million to make a blockbuster while that crazy Korean music video reached far more people.

Speaking of films, did the extended delays for Paani bother you?
There’s always been a gap between the kind of films I’ve done so far. Besides, people’s expectations can’t possibly match the kind of expectations I have from myself. That’s the battle I fight so I’m fine with time.

Is the sequel to Mr India happening anytime soon?
It’s in the pipeline, yes. When you’re competing with a legendary film like that, you can’t aim to be as good as the original but much better.

And what do you think about independent cinema in our country?
Independent cinema doesn’t mean anything in India. All films are independent here. ¬†However, if it’s a low-budget project and doesn’t have stars in it, we call it an independent film for our convenience.

You recently acted in two films after a gap of two decades…
(Laughs) I’m not very good at it. I just showed up in Ishkq in Paris and Vishwaroopam because people associated with these films asked me to. If I were the director, I’d think ten times before casting myself!

Among the younger lot, who are your favourite actors?
I like Nawazuddin (Siddiqui). Ranbir, too, especially, because he proves that stardom and intense performance can go hand in hand. Among actresses, Huma Qureshi and Anushka Sharma are interesting.  

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