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‘We are born with spiritual understanding’

Film-maker Shekhar Kapur looks deep into his inner self, saying he can detach himself and question everything he does

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Gayatri Jayaraman

Updated: Nov 21, 2013, 01:44 PM IST

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Film-maker Shekhar Kapur looks deep into his inner self, saying he can detach himself and question everything he does

You have become increasingly spiritual after Bandit Queen. Was there a turning point in your life?

I believe we are all born with a spiritual understanding. As children, we see the universe is born of Leela, and is at play. In order to comprehend society, we begin to edit out things that become confusing, and when the consciousness comes into conflict with the individual, ego is born.

Children are born into consciousness because their sense of the imaginary and the real is not distinct. Spirituality is as much a path of unlearning as it is of learning.

As a child I would sleep on my terrace in Delhi and, looking at the infiniteness of the stars my consciousness was split into a schizophrenic understanding of the dual—finite and infinite realities. I have always had to contend with the imagined. At 26, I wrote a half-novel that was never quite published on the theme. I have written short stories and poems to express it. All my films are linked by the theme of loss of innocence. It is a sense that has been accelerated because I don’t quite understand the society in which I live.

Your spiritual poetry and writings reflect thoughts on your daughter. What’s been her impact on you?

As a father, I have come to recognise the unconditional love I feel for my daughter. It expands beyond her and in the process it de-crusts my soul.

When you experience love like that, your soul becomes flexible. It begins to shake and dance and flow and the crust that has formed over it through time begins to crumble. The debris shakes off. Maybe I want to leave her something to know me by when she grows up.

What do you live by? What spiritual urges channel your creativity?

What has shaped me is agony. You agonise, you act, you succeed, you fail, and through that agony you question the existence of reality, of desire, of joy. For me, it is necessary to drop individuality.

I find my individuality is my greatest prison. Who I am is shaped by the context in which I am placed. I question who I am when pulled out of context. The answer to that is out of context, I’m not.

Are you running from the context in which you were—Bollywood?

No, I will not, have not withdrawn. At the end of the day we all need that context to be. I am human, not a saint. I live in a way that many would term ‘immoral’.

The difference is that I am able to detach myself and question everything that I do. Spirituality does not make one a better person. The assumption of one being a better person is in itself a victory of the ego. 

And how does this newfound understanding of consciousness impact you?

Consciousness is nothing more than a state of being. It has no purpose, unlike everything we imbibe with it. 

Do you separate you, the director from you, the self, and your achievements?

People talk of the Big Bang. If there was a beginning, there must be an end. But there is no linear time, so where is the end? I call it the Big Laugh. Someone laughed ‘ha, ha ha’ And between the first and the second ‘ha’s, came a few billion years.

What I create has an identity that is separate from what I am. There are some who, instead of creating, block creation by their being. I find it important to allow creation to flow through me. Masoom, Bandit Queen, Mr India, they all exist with identities of their own.

How big an influence is Deepak Chopra?
I read no books, I follow no gurus, I visit no temples. Deepak Chopra is a friend, but I’ve never read a book of his.

He’s an amazing guy, he can quote you masters on any subject. He gave me the confidence that I was not mad. That it wasn’t me. It was others who didn’t get it.

Have you found a path that works best?
I have no answers. All I have are questions, and more questions, and more questions. This universe is Shiv’s tandav, the dance of unorganised chaos-spewing creation and destruction randomly as it is danced.

When you give in to the chaos, maybe, just maybe, you bring yourself into harmony with the unpredictable.
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