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Shekhar Kapur Biography

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Birth Name: Shekhar Kapur
Born: 12/06/1951
Birth Place: India

Kapur spent the better part of the 1980s and early 90s churning out Spielbergian family films like "Mr. India" (1987). He briefly ventured before the camera again to act in "Drishti" in 1990 but he found a much more comfortable role as host of the British TV series "On the Other Hand" (Channel 4), which examined issues pertinent to the immigrant communities of the United Kingdom.

Kapur achieved international attention and courted controversy with his breakthrough feature "Bandit Queen" (1994). Based on the true story of Phoolan Devi, a female brigand who spent five years on the run from authorities and became a popular folk hero with lower-caste Indians. Devi herself was not fully appreciative of the director's take on her life and publicly disavowed the completed picture, even attempting to block its theatrical release. "Bandit Queen" was also assailed by the Indian government which objected to the frank depiction of sex and "abusive language" as well as its nudity. According to an interview with VARIETY (March 31, 1996), Kapur, a soft-spoken Hindu, had not even intended the film to be released in his homeland. As the financing came from Britain's Channel 4, the director saw the project as his opportunity to reach a wider, possibly worldwide audience. When "Bandit Queen" did play in theaters in India, it was a commercial success (over 12 million tickets sold in seven weeks) and was poised to become one of the top money-makers in Indian cinema history before the courts intervened and a judge issued an order for the film to be pulled from theaters. The courts also blocked this well-crafted, disturbing film from representing India in the annual Oscar derby as the country's entry for the Best Foreign-Language Film.

Although he has been shepherding a dream project (a biographical feature based on the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela) for several years, Kapur detoured to direct another historical feature about a strong female. When he was first announced as helmer of a biopic of Queen Elizabeth I, eyebrows were raised. Producers Alison Owen, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan opted to go with a non-English person so as to bring a fresh perspective to history. The highly visual Kapur admittedly knew little about the Tudor monarch but agreed to the film and fashioned a energetic and imaginative portrait of "Elizabeth" (1998). Once again, the director was able to educe fine characterizations from high-caliber actors like Cate Blanchett (in the title role), Geoffrey Rush (as master spy Sir Francis Walsingham) and Christopher Eccleston (as the Duke of Norfolk). While clearly a period piece (with lush costumes and finely recreated decor), "Elizabeth" played like a contemporary mystery. Despite some historical inaccuracies, it announced the arrival of a major filmmaker and made Kapur the first 'Bollywood' director to cross over to Hollywood.