Jennifer Lawrence, who turns 32 on Monday, August 15, is one of the most celebrated actors of her generation. She was only 22 when she won the Oscar for Best Actress and then went on to star in some of the most critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful films over the next few years. But did you know that very early on in her career, Jennifer was rumoured to be making her Bollywood debut, and that too opposite Sushant Singh Rajput. Also read: Sushant Singh Rajput cried a lot when he found out Paani has been shelved, says Shekhar Kapur
Remember Shekhar Kapur’s Paani? The ambitious science fiction-adventure film was conceptualised by the filmmaker years ago. By the turn of the last decade, things began moving for the film and in 2013, the director said Sushant Singh Rajput had signed on as the male lead. The following year, rumours began floating that Jennifer Lawrence, who had just won an Oscar, had been cast opposite Sushant in the film. Naturally, the news generated immense excitement in film fans.
Paani was supposed to be set in a world without water, focussing on a pair of young lovers navigating the hellish landscape. While Sushant coming on board had been confirmed by both the actor and the filmmaker, the news about the then-23-year-old Jennifer’s involvement was never confirmed. In January 2014, a Bollywood Life report cited an ‘insider’ as saying, “Paani will be an expensive film. The budget would be close to ₹150 crore. To justify that kind of a money, the film will have to do good business all around the world, and not just in India. Getting someone like Jennifer will ensure the film attracts eyeballs internationally as well.” The report added that Shekhar Kapur always wanted to cast a Hollywood actor in the film and zeroed in on Jennifer due to her popularity in India and acting skills.
However, less than a week later, Shekhar put all speculations to rest as he denied Jennifer was a part of the film. In fact, he said she hadn’t even been approached. “Jennifer Lawrence has not been approached for Paani. Just clearing out the rumors,” Shekhar tweeted on January 8, 2014.
In the end, Paani never did get made. Yash Raj Films, the film’s production house, backed out after three months of prep and pre-production work. In 2020, a month after Sushant’s death, Shekhar spoke about the film’s cancellation and Sushant’s reaction in an Instagram Live with Manoj Bajpayee. “When the film was shelved and he realised he wasn’t doing the film, he cried a lot. I cried too. I would cry every time he cried because I was also passionately and deeply involved with it,” he said.
Jennifer went on to continue appearing in the X-Men and Hunger Games franchises, which she had already starred in. She also starred in films like Joy and Mother, for which she received her third and fourth Oscar nominations. The actor took a break from acting in 2019 and returned with the satire Don’t Look Up, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio. She will be next seen in psychological drama Causeway, which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.