Beyond Regis and Meredith, his fictional role as the edgily charming game show host took the whole Who Wants to be a Millionaire phenom to new heights with the eight Oscar-nabbing, Best Picture-winning runaway hit (out on DVD Mar. 31). Naming Robert DeNiro and Heath Ledger as actors who've "shaken him to the core," Kapoor, who'd rather call 'Bollywood' films 'Indian' films, knows one thing: It's all about onscreen happy endings -- er, the 'PG' type.
So, the meaning of Oscar -- what is it exactly?
"Anywhere, anyone remotely connected to cinema -- what is the ultimate dream? The ultimate dream is that one day, I should be on that stage, on Oscar night; and I should be in that role or attached to the film that wins Best Picture. Or I shall win some Oscar? Right? It’s the way Oscar has been marketed over the world for so many years. It has become the 'big daddy' of all awards."
Meredith Vieira -- our Millionaire hostess with the mostess -- what say you?
"I love her! I had the honor and good fortune to be interviewed by her on the Today Show in New York … It was wonderful. And not only once but twice -- that other time was when we won the Oscars .. so great ... I had the honor to meet Regis also."
In 20 seconds or less, describe the sparkle needed to be the greatest game show host ever?
"A combination of many things: projection, class, sportiness, charm, personality, persona ... I started respecting [Meredith] even more ... It's not an easy job to host a show. Because you have to sit in one position; be a good listener. And have a complete command of so many areas: academics; psychology ... be sensitive; have a sense of humor -- timing. You speak too much, you can be irritating; you speak too little, you give the contestant the feeling they’re interviewing you. It’s a balance ... You have to be sharp. And you can’t have late [tipsy] nights. You can’t just be on the set all like, 'I’m gonna take it easy.' [Emphatically] No, you can’t."
Just between us: Any pre-shoot anxiety on director Danny Boyle being Euro and non-Indian?
"Danny was open ... He was more 'a listener' than wanting to tell us what to do. He had the confidence. And that’s the hallmark of a great leader and great director ... The first thing he told me, 'You know about the cultural references more than me. Correct me if I’m going wrong.' I told him, 'I don’t speak English every day, so if there’s anything ... please correct me.' So he said, ‘OK, I correct your English; you’ll correct my cultural nuances.’"
Oh, and please translate “Bollywood” to newbies ...
"Our films, unfortunately known as “Bollywood” films -- a name which I sometimes resist but makes it easier for people to identify with ... [Viewers] should look at: the colors, music, family values. Basically, all [Bollywood] films are 'feel good' films ... Even if they’re like Slumdog and have all the hurdles, are gritty and dramatic -- ultimately, our films have a happy ending. Happy ending: happy box office. Sad ending: sad box office. [Laughs] People here say: "We have enough sadness and depression in our houses, in our real lives. So, why should we go and pay money to be sad. We pay money to get entertained -- to sing and dance. Feel rejuvenated."
*BONUS ROUND QUESTION:
So, what's the deal on the oh-so-adored Dev?
He's fantastic: a great listener; a quick learner. And he has that wonderful quality on his face in his eyes -- his intense eyes -- that your heart goes out to him. You look at him ... You want to protect him. You want to like him ... You want him to win!"
Slumdog Millionaire comes out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Mar. 31.