Among a galaxy of film stars famous for their high-profile, larger-than-life and a very public persona, Mahesh Babu is known to be a very private person, to the extent of being reclusive. He doesn’t even make the effort to connect with his fans on social media. But for all his reticence the star has a soft heart when it comes to worthy causes.
He showed this on Saturday when he made an exception to his usual practice of avoiding the spotlight, by stepping out for a fund-raiser for an NGO — Heal A Child that supports the medical expenses of critically ill children.
The occasion, the Christmas Fundraiser Ball, gave 220 guests a chance to to meet and dine in the same room as the actor. The donor passes cost Rs 20,000, Rs 18,000 and Rs 14,000, based on the proximity to the star. The organisation estimated that approximately Rs 30 lakh was raised.
Mahesh Babu has been the goodwill ambassador for Heal A Child for a year, but this was the first major event that he graced with his presence. Of course, leopards don’t change their spots easily, so throughout the interaction Mahesh stuck to just one-line answers, and sometimes two when asked to elaborate. After walking in an hour late, he patiently replied to all the questions thrown at him.
When quizzed about his individual contribution to the cause, he gave a non-specific, rather confused reply. “A lot has been happening for the past year. A lot of my fans too had come forward to help the cause. This (the Christmas Fundraiser Ball) is the first big event that I am attending. In the next one or two years, we’ll make it bigger and take it to the next level. It has just been a year and it would take some time for us to reach that level.”
We wondered aloud why he’s always kept his distance from fans, even on social media, unlike other actors who are prolific on Facebook and Twitter.
Mahesh, who recently reached the one million mark on Twitter, responded to this with, “Initially, when I joined Twitter, I was active. But, later, I felt that whatever I was tweeting or saying on a social platform turned out to be a little boring. As far as my work is concerned, I do speak about it. Personal life? I’d like to keep it private. I also stay away from unnecessary things,” he added.
But didn’t he think a star, as a public figure, should take the initiative to connect with his or her fans? He pondered a while and conceded, “I’ll take that suggestion seriously. But I am a very private person.” Mahesh Babu’s last two movies, 1-Nennokadine and Aagadu, did not do well when compared to his previous releases. Before we could complete the question, he quickly interrupted with, “You are being polite. My last two movies didn’t do well at all.”
Without changing the topic, the actor continued, “I gave my best to both movies. But yes, a hit or a flop matters a lot to an actor. It does matter to me. A lot of things and a lot of money is involved in a movie. It is very upsetting when a movie doesn’t fare well at the box-office. I can only hope that my future movies will do well.” A lot of fans were disappointed with Mahesh’s last movie Aagadu, which seemed very similar to his 2011 release Dookudu. He shrugged and admitted, “Maybe it turned out like that. But in our heads, we just wanted to make a commercial movie.” He added, “We do make mistakes and we learn from them. We will make something new next time.”
Before the fundraiser dinner started, chits with 40 names were dropped in a bowl, out of which Mahesh picked 12 chits for an interactive session, “Mahesh Talks”. The questions varied from his family, favourite movies, if he ever threw any tantrums on sets and much more. When someone asked about him being so reserved, he said that was how he was brought up, in a way that stardom didn’t get to him. This was followed by a rapid-fire round, where both Mahesh and wife Namrata Shirodkar, had to answer questions about each other.