Shekhar Kapur was born in Lahore, Punjab, British India to Kulbhushan Kapur, a doctor with a flourishing practice, and his wife Sheel Kanta Kapur. The nephew of famous Indian actor Dev Anand, he was discouraged from getting into films by his father. Sheel Kanta was the sister of actors Chetan, Dev and Vijay Anand. Shekhar is the only son of his parents and he has three sisters. One of his sisters, Neelu, was the first wife of actor Navin Nischol, while another sister, Aruna, is the wife of actor Parikshit Sahni. His third and youngest sister is Sohaila Kapur.
Kapur's schooling was at Modern School, New Delhi. He studied economics at St. Stephen's College. At 22, Kapur became a Chartered Accountant with the ICAEW in England, having studied accountancy at the behest of his parents.
Shekhar Kapur started his career working with a multinational oil company. He moved to United Kingdom in 1970, and spent several years working as an accountant and management consultant.
He was married to Medha Gujral, niece of former Indian Prime Minister I. K. Gujral. They split in 1994. Medha later married popular bhajan singer Anup Jalota (she was his third wife). She died on November 25, 2014 at a hospital in New York City of liver failure following a second heart and first kidney transplant.
Kapur then married Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, an Indian actress, writer, painter and singer in 1997. They are divorced. They have a daughter named Kaveri Kapur.
Shekhar Kapur started his career as an actor in the movie Jaan Hazir Hai (1975) and later in Toote Khilone, in Bollywood. He appeared in several Hindi television dramas, like Udaan (Doordarshan) opposite Kavita Chaudhary, Upanyaas (Doordarshan) opposite Nisha Singh, and Masoom opposite Neena Gupta.
He turned director with the family drama Masoom (1983) starring Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and a young Jugal Hansraj. The plot followed the story of an illegitimate boy who struggles to find acceptance from his stepmother. He then directed the 1987 science-fiction film Mr. India starring Anil Kapoor, Sridevi and Amrish Puri in his most famous role as the villain Mogambo. Puri's most famous dialogue in this film "Mogambo Khush Hua" is still remembered. In 1994 he directed the critically acclaimed Bandit Queen and played a cameo in the film as a truck driver.
Kapur was involved in the production of several Bollywood films before he abandoned them. He was originally the director of 1989's Joshilaay, which starred Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor, Sridevi and Meenakshi Sheshadri before leaving the production halfway and its producer stepped in to complete the film. In 1991 he had shot some scenes for Barsaat which was originally titled Champion and was going to be the debut film of Bobby Deol but left the production and was replaced by Rajkumar Santoshi. In 1992 he was set to direct another science-fiction film titled Time Machine, which was to star Aamir Khan, Raveena Tandon, Naseeruddin Shah and Rekha, but abandoned the project halfway through due to financial problems. The film was left incomplete although there were talks many years later that Kapur would revive the project with a new cast which never happened. He partly directed Dushmani, starring Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Manisha Koirala before its producer Bunty Soorma stepped in to complete the film.
In an unusual role for him, Kapur provided the voice of Mohandas Gandhi in the Charkha Audiobooks title of The Story of My Experiments with Truth, alongside Nandita Das as narrator.
In 2013, Shekhar Kapur hosted the TV show Pradhanmantri on ABP News. On the show, which aims to bring never-seen-before facets of Indian history, he was the narrator.
He served as judge on a reality TV series, India's Got Talent, aired on Colors.
In 2016 Shekhar Kapur delivers an autobiographical film and documentary about Amma well known as Mata Amritanandamayi Devi called "The Science of Compassion".
In 1998, he received international recognition for the second time after Bandit Queen, when he directed the Academy Award-winning period film Elizabeth, a fictional account of the reign of British Queen Elizabeth I nominated for seven Oscars. The 2007 sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, was nominated for two Oscars. He was accused of being anti-British by British tabloids for his portrayal of the British Army and the Empire in the 2002 movie The Four Feathers. However, he denied being anti-British and stated that he was merely "anti-colonisation".
Kapur was the executive producer of the film The Guru. He established an Indian film company with Ram Gopal Verma and Mani Ratnam, though the group has thus far produced only one film, Dil Se.. (1998), starring Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala. Kapur executive-produced the Bollywood-themed musical Bombay Dreams by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which has been running in London's the West End since 2002 and on Broadway in New York City since 2004.
In 2005, Kapur worked with Okan Quail on Hunji!, a story of a young Indian maid who idolised Sachin Tendulkar. Although it gained some acclaim as one of his finest films, critics across the UK and India called it a flop.
In 2006, Kapur formed Liquid Comics and Virgin Animation, an entertainment company focused on creating new stories and characters for a global audience. The Shakti titles of Kapur and Deepak Chopra's company debuted with Devi and The Sadhu. Devi is about "a fierce feminine warrior, stronger than the Gods themselves ... a champion of the heavens, and the protector of man", while The Sadhu is about one man's choice between his spiritual oath and his human instinct."
He was a member of the jury at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in May 2010.
He has announced that he will direct Little Dragon, an authorized biopic of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
A third episode in the Queen Elizabeth series, Elizabeth: The Dark Age, is planned. According to screenwriter John Rogers, the success of Elizabeth led to Kapur being tapped to work on an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, but the project was eventually shelved. Kapur tentatively planned to helm a motion picture account of the life of the Buddha, titled Buddha, but the plans were dropped for unstated reasons. He planned to adapt Larklight, a book by Philip Reeve. Kapur traveled to Yerevan, Armenia to explore the possibility of making a film about the Armenian Genocide.
In an interview with Associated Content, Kapur announced he is no longer attached to Larklight.
He is set to direct Paani. The film is reported to star Sushant Singh Rajput and will be produced by Aditya Chopra. Its music will be composed by A. R. Rahman. The announcement was made at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
One of his shelved projects was a film tentatively titled The Nine o'Clock War, which he had planned with his longtime friend and previous collaborator, the Australian actor Heath Ledger in the role of a popular television news anchor. It never happened, as a result of the actor's unexpected death in 2008.
Kapur is set to write and direct a series titled Cleopatra about the famous queen Cleopatra of ancient Egypt, being developed by David Ellender's Slingshot Global Media.Civilian honor
Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2000
British Academy Film Awards
BAFTA Award for Best Film – (director) – Elizabeth (1998)
National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards
Best Director – Elizabeth (1998)
National Film Awards (India)
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi (director) – Bandit Queen (1994)
Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie – Masoom (1983)
Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie – Bandit Queen (1994)
Filmfare Award for Best Director – Bandit Queen (1994)