His schooling was at the Modern School, New Delhi and Doon school. He did his economics course at St. Stephen's College. At 22, Kapur became a chartered accountant, having studied accountancy to please his parents.
He started his career as actor in the movie' 'tute khilone' in Bollywood and then directing the Hindi films Masoom (1983) and the 1987 science-fiction film Mr India. Both films were hugely successful and critically acclaimed.
In 1994 he directed the critically acclaimed Bandit Queen. Kapur played a cameo in Bandit Queen, as a truck driver, and has appeared in several Hindi TV serials and films, but his career never took off as an actor.
Some scenes of the movie Joshilay (1989) which starred Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor, Sridevi and Meenakshi Sheshadri were directed by Kapur and he also directed the incomplete 1992 Hindi film Time Machine. In 1996, he partly directed Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Manisha Koirala starrer Dushmani.
In 1998, he got international recognition for directing the Academy Award-winning period film Elizabeth. He was accused of being anti-British by British tabloids, for the way he portrayed the British Army and the Empire in the 2002 movie The Four Feathers. This was heightened by the fact that during an interview for the DVD release of the Four Feathers, he spoke favorably of the fanatical religious leader depicted in the film (the Mahdi). His works include Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), both fictionalized accounts of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; the 1998 movie was nominated for 7 Oscars and the sequel has been nominated for 2 Oscars.
In 2000, he was awarded the state honour, Padma Shri.
Kapur was the executive producer of the film The Guru. He also established an Indian talkies film company with Ram Gopal Verma and Mani Ratnam. This company has thus far produced only one film, Dil Se (1998) starring Shahrukh Khan & Manisha Koirala.
Kapur was also executive producer of the Bollywood-themed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams, which has been running in the West End, London since 2002, and on Broadway in New York City since 2004.
In 2006, Kapur formed Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation an entertainment company focused on creating new stories and characters for a global audience. The Company was founded with Richard Branson and his Virgin Group, author Deepak Chopra and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan, Suresh Seetharaman and Gotham Chopra.
In an unusual role, Kapur provided the voice of Mahatma Gandhi in the Charkha Audio books title of "The Story of My Experiments with Truth -autobiography of M.K. Gandhi", alongside Nandita Das as narrator.
His future projects include Long Walk to Freedom, Paani, The Last Full Measure. A third episode in the Queen Elizabeth series 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 also tentatively planned to helm a motion picture account of the life of the Buddha, entitled Buddha, but the plans were later dropped for unstated reasons.
|Year||Title||Oscar nominations||Oscar wins|
|2002||The Four Feathers|
|2007||Elizabeth: The Golden Age||2||1|
|2008||New York, I Love You|