Hyderabad: Standing under bright fluorescent lights, trying to perfectly crack an expression for an ad commercial was actor Mahesh Babu, supremely eager in understanding the nuance of the take.
In a career spanning over two decades as an actor, Mahesh, who made his debut as a child artist back in 1979, and emerged as a ‘superstar’, gives all credit to his father, veteran Telugu actor Krishna.
“All credit goes to my father because he made me do films during summer vacations. I became a child star before I even knew it. In a flash, I completed around 10 to 12 films, some of which were successful. Then, one day, as suddenly, my dad told me you finish your education and then come back to do films,” he said.
While talking about his iconic following, Mahesh summarised his cine persona to the work he has done, saying he takes great pride in the style and mark he has achieved. Talking about his earlier days, Mahesh revealed he felt a huge responsibility to satisfy his father superstar Krishna’s fans. Moving away from his father’s shadow to make a name for himself was a big challenge.
“I was my father’s son, who was a huge superstar. I had to satisfy his fans when I did my first film. For me to carry on that responsibility and to fulfil his fans is by itself an achievement,” he said.
Surprised when asked how different acting in movies versus doing advertisement commercials as a brand ambassador, Mahesh candidly confessed that it was the first time he was asked such a question, adding, from an actor’s perspective, both were different.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview.
You are a reserved private person, a family man. Do you watch your movies with your children? How do they respond seeing you dance with a heroine or fight with villains?
They don’t like the action part. Whenever a fight scene comes on, they just go out, especially my daughter. But they thoroughly enjoy my films. We watch it at home on the first day of release. It is an amazing experience. When you work so hard, the ultimate reward is to watch the film with your children. I am also very scared because I am very keen to know what they think of my film. So, lots of excitement and nervousness together in one day.
Your son made his debut as a child artist in Nenokkadine. Does he or your daughter aspire to be in films? Would you advise them to be?
I don’t know. My wife and I have left it to our children. They are most welcome to do what they want to. My son is in his tenth grade right now and wants to go to the UK to study. My daughter does a lot of things, so I don’t know. Movies are now a really serious profession. When I was young, it was more like a hobby. Unless my children are prepared for such hard work and commitment, I cannot really push them.
In Bharat Ane Nenu, you have played a political character. In real life you come across as apolitical. How do you prepare for such roles which are perhaps not really your type? Did you study any particular politician in preparing, for say, a role like Bharat?
I totally give credit to my director Koratala Siva because I really don’t know much about politics. I like to stay away from it. I like to just mind my own business. That said, Bharat is one of my favourite characters, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of a chief minister. The director did all the research from which I learnt a lot. But I stay far away from politics.
All your roles have you play a good person in a conventional sense; you are a ‘hero figure’. Will we see you experimenting anytime in future?
I tried to experiment with my roles in the past, but unfortunately they didn’t fare well. Stars in south Indian films have to cater to a strong audience taste. The stakes are so high and money invested is large, so one can’t really experiment much. So I figured out I have to cater to fans and audiences taste while trying to do something new. We ensure my films have the elements - action, but we have to do it in a familiar way.
In a social media era, how do you avoid controversies?
(Ha ha ha) I don’t have anything controversial to offer. I stay away from such issues and mind my own business. Even my friend circle is not too big. I prefer to go to work, then head home and spend time with my family. I stick to the basics.
Everyone wants to know this secret... of your looks and fitness? You don’t grow older than 32?
Don’t stress much. Lead life in a simple way. Diet is very important, then your lifestyle and work follow. Most important thing is to be happy. I learned that from my father. He always has a smile on his face. I have always looked up to him. No matter what happens he just takes it with a smile on his face.