Rajput is star of Yash Raj Films' "Random Desi Romance" (aka "Shuddh Desi Romance") which is currently making waves at the Indian box office and was a gala premiere last week at the Toronto festival. His only other major film credit was in Disney UTV's "Kai Po Che," which played in Berlin earlier this year.
Kapur gave "Paani" an international launch at Cannes in 2010 in an attempt to attract overseas investors and co-producers on board the $30 million plus project. After languishing a further couple of years, the film was picked up in November 2012 by Yash Raj Films. The privately-owned Indian major will provide the full finance.
The film is to be produced by YRF boss Aditya Chopra with multi-Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman tuning the musical score. Further casting is expected to include a Western female lead and a mixed Asian and Western supporting talent.
"Sushant is one of the most inspiring young actors to emerge out of India. It's going to be an exciting director-actor collaboration with him on Paani," said Kapur in a prepared statement.
Hrithik Roshan was widely tipped for the role, though the Indian superstar is currently resting after brain surgery.
The film will shoot in India and overseas locations from mid-2014. Under a deal signed in March this year YRF announced that "Paani" will be one of India's first to be presented as an IMAX film.
Reviewing "Desi Romance" Variety critic David Chute wrote: "After off-Bollywood indie hit 'Kai Po Che,' Rajput was already earmarked as a rising star. He may want to weed a few of those winsome gestures out of his box of tricks, if he's really serious about pursuing mega-fame."
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