Disaster film to be made about fight for water

Indian director to use cause he fights for as the basis for his latest movie

Shekhar Kapur, the Indian film director known for his sumptuous, Oscar-nominated period dramas, has long warned of the disasters that could be caused by future water shortages.

Now, after being encouraged by his friend and fellow film-maker Danny Boyle, Kapur is to make a science fiction disaster movie on the theme.

Kapur, who is on the 10-strong jury at the Cannes Film Festival, will direct Paani (Water), a love story set in a futuristic city where water appears almost to have run out and corporations war over its control.

Kapur spoke of his broader environmental motive in making the film, which features a city divided into conflicting halves in which the upper echelons hoard the water and drip-feed the slums of the lower city.

"We want and have to get this story out there as widely as we can ... One of the key drivers behind the project is an aim to bring the growing global issue of a world without clean drinking water, and the threat to humanity it represents, to the top of the global political agenda," he said.

Amid the deprivation in the film, a girl from the upper tier meets a boy from the lower level and falls in love. The two leading parts are to be played by Hrithik Roshan, the Bollywood star who entered Indian cinema as a child actor, and Kristen Stewart, the American actress who shot to fame as Bella Swan in the popular Twilight Trilogy.

The script is to be written by David Farr, and Boyle is likely to get a production credit, while the legendary Indian composer ARRahan, who composed the music for Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, has already written two songs for the film.

Speaking of a recent news report of water shortages in India, he reflected: "People in Bijapur were furious [because] for weeks no water was supplied to homes. When the public attacked the local water regulation body, they found there was water in the tank, but it was being supplied only to influential people like politicians and businessmen ... So this is the story of Paani. Twelve years ago when I was trying to get funding for it, everyone said I was talking about a fantasy film, that no one would identify with the problem. Today they say I must make the film because it is so relevant."

Kapur left India to study business in Britain, but soon grew bored with his accounting job and moved back to India to become an unsuccessful actor in Bollywood. He finally found a place as a director with his film debut, the coming-of-age story Masoom, in 1983. He gained international attention for his controversial Bandit Queen in 1994, a biographical portrait of a lower-caste Indian outlaw which proved to be a commercial success across the world. In 1998 he began working in Hollywood on the historical biography Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, for which he was nominated for the Best Picture Academy award.

Shooting for Paani is set to begin in November.

*David Tennant will play the lead in a sharp-tongued romantic comedy, Decoy Bride, opposite fellow Scot Kelly MacDonald, it was announced at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday. It is hoped that the former Doctor Who's role as a soon-to-be-married writer grappling with writer's block will lead to the big-screen recognition that has long evaded him.