The whole of India wants to know, what was it like walking that red carpet at the BAFTA's?
It was phenomenal and an absolutely fantastic experience. It was raining heavily, the weather was damn cold but the entire team of Slumdog Millionaire was feeling warm (laughs).
We also hear that you met and chatted quite a lot with Hollywood's great Clint Eastwood. Brief us a bit about that experience.
Yes, that's true. We had dinner together and were discussing films till we finished our meal. Clint Eastwood is the most respected man in Hollywood today. He is a combination of everybody put together. What I liked about his work is that he does things on his own terms. All the actors in Hollywood want to work with him. We both shared with each other our experiences on how we started our career in films and so on. He is a great listener too. I spent a lot of time with him on the dinner table which will always remain special.
Any comments from Clint on your film or on your performance in Slumdog Millionaire?
He loved the film and the performances. But what he did mention to me was that a film like Slumdog Millionaire has split wide opened the doors for the actors in the East to come join the West. There was a time during his peak when they had to rely heavily on the actors only from Hollywood but he feels that even Bollywood has now made its big leap with such a film, thanks to Danny Boyle. He knows that Indian actors can act and win awards at the worlds biggest award functions. He also predicted that Slumdog Millionaire might do $300 million worth of collection at the box office.
Do you think that Slumdog Millionaire is a Bollywood film then?
It is completely a Bollywood film. The story is very Indian and so are all the actors. Hence I was offered to do Slumdog Millionaire I didn't know who Danny Boyle was. For me, he was just a filmmaker who made films. People go to see people in films. So you tell me who were the people in this film? They were Indians. Some like me were professional actors, others were new comers, and some were completely raw in their performances. But all had one thing in common - They were somehow connected to the Indian roots. Indian cinema should be very proud of Slumdog Millionaire.
While all the guests and nominees were escorted under the huge umbrella, you went for the role reversal by holding your own umbrella on the wet red carpet. Why?
(Laughs) I had an escort with an umbrella but the way he was holding the umbrella was getting me wet. I got hold of the umbrella myself so at least I could protect my suit and my hair (laughs).
Oscar night is almost ten days away. Any designers who are trying to dress you up for your biggest awards night ever?
There are loads but I'll be sticking to ready made suits. Like the one I was wearing at the BAFTA's was a creation by Armani. I will again go with the best in the business, Armani, for the Oscars.
Did you get emotional when A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty walked on the stage to collect their BAFTAs?
We were all sitting together with all of us feeling excited, thrilled and at the same time, a bit emotional. I met both of them during dinner where I showered my emotions on them by hugging them tight. It was a proud moment for all three of us who represent the Indian Film Industry popularly known as Bollywood. Resul had earlier worked on my film Gandhi My Father for which, I think, he should've won an Oscar for the kind of work he had done in the film. But sometimes there is something better and bigger installed for you. You have to be aligned doing consistently good work and that's what Rahman and Resul have done. So when you're consistent about your work, not thinking what the result is going to be, and you keep on doing good work, someday you will be awarded.
Will Slumdog Millionaire's success change the fate of Bollywood and Hollywood for good?
A hopeful change, I must say. Everybody has to take a broad minded and a positive attitude towards what has happened with Slumdog and embrace its success. If people, and by that I mean, everyone connected to filmmaking try to put the film down or condemn it, then they will miss this golden opportunity.
Any Hollywood celebrity you met and mingled with inside the famous Royal Opera House in Convent Garden?
Now this has been one of my big moments in life. I met most of the Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Mickey Rourke and Kate Winslet. I also congratulated Penelope Cruz. It was just a quick introduction to them. But what I found was so touching about all the names I've just mentioned is, the bigger and richer you get as an actor, the more humble and down to earth you are. Everybody connected with films all over the world knows everybody connected with Slumdog Millionaire. But I'd like to mention that the one person who was dearly missed at last nights BAFTAs was the Late Heath Ledger. I would've loved to meet him.
Slumdog Millionaire led the BAFTAs with seven awards followed by three awards for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Are you guys ready to sweep the Oscars too?
We are not thinking too much about the Oscars. At the moment, we are only going to celebrate our BAFTA success. Come February 22, things will again get serious (laughs).