Shekhar Kapur at the intersection of strategy and chaos
Having acted in and directed several Hindi films, Kapur won a BAFTA and two Academy Awards for his historical biopics, Elizabeth and The Golden Age. His current project, Paani, is about Mumbai’s water shortage.
Kapur is an energetic presenter who here reveals his creative process as a mixture of preparation and the relenting to “universal forces”:
And the studio executives, they would say, “Hey, look at Shekhar. He’s so prepared.” And inside I’ve just been listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan because he’s chaotic.
I’m allowing myself to go into chaos because out of chaos, I’m hoping some moments of truth will come. All preparation is preparation. I don’t even know if it’s honest. I don’t even know if it’s truthful.
The truth of it all comes on the moment, organically, and if you get five great moments of great, organic stuff in your storytelling, in your film, your film, audiences will get it. So I’m looking for those moments, and I’m standing there and saying, “I don’t know what to say.”
He also highlights the importance of layering and subtext in the telling of stories. Good storytelling is more than just plot, it is a combination of various elements that are woven in layers:
So when I look at a film, here’s what we look for: We look for a story on the plot level, then we look for a story on the psychological level, then we look for a story on the political level, then we look at a story on a mythological level.
And I look for stories on each level. Now, it is not necessary that these stories agree with each other. What is wonderful is, at many times, the stories will contradict with each other.”
Why is Kapur passionate about story? He says in the end we are all just the stories we tell; that our very existence and being relies on how we construct the world through narratives:
A story is our — all of us — we are the stories we tell ourselves. In this universe, and this existence, where we live with this duality of whether we exist or not and who are we, the stories we tell ourselves are the stories that define the potentialities of our existence.
We are the stories we tell ourselves. So that’s as wide as we look at stories. A story is the relationship that you develop between who you are, or who you potentially are, and the infinite world, and that’s our mythology.”
So, according to Kapur, stories mediate and create realities. A powerful idea and a thought-provoking presentation.