Mahesh Babu hits the big Rs 100 crore club

The actor talks about his monster hit, surviving a lean phase and more

With Srimanthudu raking in more than Rs 150 crore at the box-office Mahesh Babu is the most successful solo star in town.

How does it feel after Srimanthudu?
The past month has been like a dream. I can’t tell you how happy all of us are. Apart from the box office numbers, the respect we got, is the ultimate. It’s really amazing.

Who from the industry congratulated you on the stupendous success of Srimanthudu?
Nobody... except Charan. Was a little surprised, but it’s not a big deal.

It is annoying when colleagues from the industry take digs at you on public platforms. The latest being Teja who said that you have adopted a village for tax benefits. Earlier, Samantha tweeted about how the One poster depicting Kriti Sanon crawling behind you was in poor taste...
It is slightly annoying but I don’t want to give it too much importance. I don’t know what he (Teja) exactly meant, but it’s okay. About Samantha, it was just an innocent tweet. I spoke to her after that. That is the problem with Twitter, you just Tweet what comes to mind. You don’t realise how powerful the Tweet can be, that’s what I was trying to tell Samantha too. It was all done in innocence and the poor girl got a lot of flak from my fans. But my next film is with her.

After Baahubali, Tollywood has realised the importance of publicising a movie. How did the publicity help Srimanthudu?
We aggressively promoted the film 10 days before release. There was an immediate buzz and when people liked the film, the numbers became magical. Usually, we big stars don’t promote films at all. We take it easy because there are only four, five big heroes and they get huge openings anyway. So people think there is no need to promote a film. But what people have started realising now is that the numbers after the opening few days —Friday, Saturday and Sunday — are very important. That is when promotion comes into play.

You took off to Koh Samui for a break with Namrata and the kids after Srimanthudu released, how was the holiday?
We needed this break. We went to a health resort called Kamalaya in Koh Samui. We did the comprehensive detox programme. More than the body, it was the mind that needed the cleanse because we were under a lot of stress before the release of Srimanthudu and my previous films had not done well. We were also producing this film, so it was crucial for me for this movie to do well. Also, we were slightly nervous as this film was releasing after Baahubali.

When a film runs like the way Baahubali did, the audience is usually not ready to watch another film. I remember when Magadheera released and it was a huge hit, for the next three-four months, no Telugu film ran. And after the release, the kind of response we got, it really didn’t sink into our heads. We were still constantly finding out how the movie was doing and what still needed to be done to publicise it. We needed that break and the spa was bliss.

But how did you calm your nerves before the release?
I thought I was going to get a heart attack. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing (laughs).

Detox programmes can be tough....
This was amazing, the food was vegan but excellent. One of the best holidays, even the kids loved it. We were there for a week.

Before Srimanthudu, your two previous films, One and Aagadu, didn’t do well. How did you handle the lean phase?

It was difficult. When a film doesn’t do well I get really upset. One was a film that was in that experimental phase and the critics loved it. Aagadu was a mistake and for the first time I got flak for my performance. It was very, very upsetting for me. I took two months off and pushed the shooting of Srimanthudu back. I wasn’t ready to start working on another film, but was confident about the film’s script.

Looking back, do you feel you now know how to choose movies that work for you?
When you make mistakes you learn from them. It’s a constant learning process, which I have learnt from my career. The good thing about me is that I select my own scripts and don’t take suggestions from anybody. There are some that work and some that don’t. And I learn from the ones that don’t. One was an amazing film, I feel we rushed with the edit. It was too confusing. If we had taken time with the edit, it would have worked.

Actors today do so much to get into character. They put on weight, lose weight, get makeovers and do so many other things to portray their role right. How taxing is all this for you?
If you are an actor, these are the basics that you need to know. You need to be fit, prepare for a role. It’s exciting. For an actor its natural.

What preparations are going in for your next film Brahmotsavam?
It’s a simple, fresh look. I am trying to look younger for this film.

Which film of yours has been physically the most taxing to do and why?
One. It was an intense role and there was a lot of action in the film. During the shoot I suffered an injury to my lower back so it was painful and the film took a bit longer to wrap up too.

When will we get to see you in a period film?
Depends on the director. When you make a period film, the vision has to be there. Need someone like Mr Rajamouli, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. If I am convinced that the director can pull it off, I will do it.

There is a lot of speculation concerning the film Thani Oruvan. Salman Khan, Ram Charan and you are said to be interested in buying the movie rights, to remake it in Hindi and Telugu…
I saw the film. It’s an amazing movie, but I don’t do remakes. They don’t excite me. Doesn’t make sense to do something, which has already been done. I just wanted to see the film simply as a member of the audience because I am a fan of cinema. I see Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films. Didn’t see the film with the intention of buying the rights or anything.

Would you be interested in working with the director of Thani Oruvan, Mohan Raja, in the future?
Raja has done Telugu movies before. He is Mr Editor Mohan’s son. He is from our Telugu industry so I sent him a message saying, “I would love to work with you if there is any script.” He was thrilled. He said he would come and meet me in a month or two.

Are there any actors with whom you started your career with, but now though they are not professionally at the same level like you, but you continue to be good friends with them?
I wouldn’t want to name them now, because it’s not fair to say they are not doing well! Everyone is in their own space. I remain close to all the directors I have worked with, even if the films didn’t do well. I am still friends with Srinu Vaitla, though Aagadu didn’t do well. All of us make mistakes and I still maintain that if a film doesn’t do well it is my responsibility. If it does well, it’s all of ours’ responsibility.

Aren’t you being a bit generous here?
No, because if I had not okayed the script, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. When you judge a story correctly, 80 per cent of the job is done. Even if it is messed up a little, the basic story is there.

When Kriti Sanon acted with you in One, she went almost unnoticed, but when she debuted opposite Tiger Shroff in B’wood, everyone took notice. Actresses complain that in Tollywood it’s always about the hero... why is that?
That’s not true. Everyone thought Kriti was great in the film. She is an amazingly talented girl. She didn’t know the language, we would give her lines in the last minute, because Suku (Sukumar, the director) improvises a lot. He would change the lines after she learnt everything. Still she would get it right in a take or two. She was noticed because of One and Sajid Nadiadwala took her in Heropanti.

Your favourite co-star?
I don’t pick up the phone and talk to my heroines, but when I meet them on sets I am friendly with them. I am friendly with Samantha, we share a good bond. Shruti Haasan is one of my favourites.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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