Actor–producer Vishnu Manchu has been named the new president of the Movie Artists Association (MAA) after defeating rival Prakash Raj. It was clearly double celebration for his family not only because he won but also because his family celebrates Dasara in a big way,” says Vishnu, who sworn in as President, MAA, on Saturday.
Here are excerpts of his conversation with us on what lies ahead.
Q How does it feel to have won as you did?
I am overwhelmed. Actually it feels surreal as it’s the same office my dad Mohan Babu held. But while he was given that position out of respect, I had to fight for it. And I gave a fight that nobody will forget for many years to come.
Q How does it feel to prove people wrong?
Oh, it feels wonderful though it hasn’t donned on me yet that I won the elections. The only thing I regret is that my diet and my shooting went for a toss, although my shooting will start soon.
Q Who rooted for you and helped in your campaign?
Dad was constantly there, whom I kept updated, and we kept taking suggestions from him. But throughout the elections, I understood who my friends in the film fraternity were and who didn’t support me.
Q Winning moments must have been emotional?
On the day of the elections, we were very cordial and forgot everything, letting bygones be bygones. We were all talking and joking. When the counting started, we knew that people didn’t vote for the full panel and had cross-voted. That’s when we knew one of us was going to win by a 30 or 40 majority.
Prakash Raj came to me and said, “Vishnu, you seem to have an edge over it.” I said, “If I win, Uncle, then I am calling you for dinner.” Later, he came over and said, “Yes, you won. Congratulations!” I couldn’t take it as it was very emotional for me. It was a wow moment. After so much negativity, so much drama and the trauma I had put my family through! My father had gone through the agony, for he’d watched the industry taking sides. But ultimately, we’re all together today.
Q How does it feel that Chiranjeevi is not with you? Did he congratulate you? Do you think your family’s equation with Chiranjeevi will change?
He’s still close to Dad. It did pinch me a little. But in my mind, I’ve been like ‘Probably, I’ll win it and be appreciated for the work I do’. And I am meeting him soon. As for the equation our families share, I am sure it’ll be stronger now.
Q This presidency is said to be a tough, thankless job. What made you want it?
I want to change that mind-set and I hope to make it a prestigious post. I also hope to do so much as president that I set a high bar for whoever comes next.
Q As MAA President, what is the first thing you did resuming the office?
The first file I signed was to sanction the pension of `6,000 per month per elderly actor. A lady popularly known as “Bombay Padma” was the first to receive it. We still need to revise the entire policy to see who is deserving and otherwise.
Q But that process of knowing who deserves a pension has to be impartial. How will you keep a tab on this?
Indeed, but we have to set some parameters first. My whole aim is to first reach out to most of the people who have been availing of the pension and see if they’re ready to work again. If they’re ready to work, they’d not want a pension. The idea is to create more employment across various organisations in the industry.
Q Recently in Bollywood, there was a discussion that actors at and over the age of 65 can’t work.
We don’t have any such rule here. Come on! If after 65 years most actors today have to retire, then my dad, Mr Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchanji has to retire. To whomever trying to implement this rule, I have only a very polite reply, “Bull crap!”
If elderly actors retire, who are going to play some great mature role? I also believe that’s the age actors evolve to another level.
Q Did the election further widened the battle between the Kamma and Kapu communities?
Most of the media got it wrongly, saying it’s a community war. For one, members of my panel are not of the same cast or community. So I think a few channels pushed this news just to grab headlines.
Q Mohan Babu silently proved that he’s not inefficient. Your comments….
Dad knows when to step back. He’s like a great leader, who has a clear vision and knows where he has to act. If you noticed, through the entire campaign, I was the only one talking; Dad never spoke though he helped me in the background.
Q Do you think the MAA elections smelt of insider–outsider conflicts?
I believe that the insider–outsider theory never existed for all those who’d held the post earlier. Now, it has boiled down to the question of who’d do better work. Personally, I am disappointed that the opposition panel members resigned after contesting. I think it’s purely letting down the people who believed in you. I believe that in any sport, winning and losing are like two sides of the same coin. So also, I think it’s sad that they’re not going to be a part of empowering MAA.
Q Do you think Prakash Raj will join hands with you?
He will definitely join hands with me because he gave that clarity in the media saying that, “If they do not change the bye-laws I am always the part of MAA.” Funnily, I don’t know from where he got the idea that I’d change the bye-laws. It was never and will never be on my agenda....