With the 2021–’23 elections of the Movie Artists Association (MAA) set for 10 October, actor and filmmaker Vishnu Manchu was expected to be unanimously elected as President, MAA. But quite like the twists in movie scripts, actor Prakash Raj declared his candidature for the post, too. With that, now Tollywood seems to be standing divided.
Excerpts from an interview:
QWhat is your election manifesto?
I can talk about my manifesto only after my nomination is in, which is on Wednesday. But my agenda is going to be mostly on securing the future of the senior actors, getting life insurance for every member, etc.
We’re one of the most influential bodies of actors’ association in both the Telugu states and the unofficial ambassadors of Telugu culture across the world, connecting Telugus around the world to their roots and Telugu culture through our films.
We actors are just as we were 100 years ago. We head to the sets in the morning — wear our makeup, play our part, get done with the shoot for the day, take off the clothes we wore on set and return it to the production, get back home and sleep. But who’s going to take care of our fellow actors?
QWhy do you want to become MAA president?
I believe there is nobody else better than me to do this.
When I was asked to be the association’s president, I was also told I’d be unanimously elected, just as it was three terms ago with the MAA elections, which had started only 6 years ago. They told me they wanted to bring back the old glory and to show that we’re all one family. I was told I was wanted as president especially because I represented this generation of actors as well as I get along well with everyone in the older generation. I could build a bridge between both the generations and take it forward energetically. So I said okay because when the family’s elders ask something of you, you do nothing but act on it. But suddenly it all stands divided. And once I’ve put in my candidature I can’t go back on my word.
QBut everyone has a right to throw their names in, right?
Of course, they do. In fact, there were a few who wanted to contest for the president post although ultimately there are only 2 of us now. What happened to the rest of them? It is one big family — the Movie Artist Association — and I just think it could’ve been done amicably so that it wouldn’t have ruptured into media circles.
QWhat change do you want to bring about?
It’s more about the challenges we face today. After 25 years of MAA’s existence, I feel it needs young blood and a new energy force, both of which I think I qualify for. I can take care of our elders as well as the future of hundreds of fellow actors. I’d become an elderly some day and I’d like the younger generation to look after me too. So what I am offering is not a promise but more a responsibility of mine.
QAccording to reports, your father Mohan Babu’s close friend Chiranjeevi did not wish to support you?
Anything between Dad and Uncle Chiranjeevi, I always refrain from answering. Simply because they are very good friends and if there’s anything to do with both of them, they’d be the right ones to answer — not me. They share a love–hate relationship. That’s an open secret.
QHas this episode shown you who your true friends in the film fraternity are?
Yes. What’s worse, the entire film fraternity is, unfortunately, divided now. Half of them are scared. They say, “Our vote is for you. But we won’t be able to come out in the open and support. We don’t want to rupture any friendships by coming out in the open by voting for you.”
But the fact is that all I need is their vote; I don’t need them to campaign for me!
QWill it be awkward now meeting Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan socially?
Never! I’m like a son to uncle Chiru. I was born in front of him. I used to loiter on the sets when he was acting. We are just kids to these huge, legendary people we respect.
QWho are you most disappointed by? And who are your biggest supporters?
My family, my friends and my fellow actors and co-stars have been my biggest supporters, as also all the lead stars from my generation. And while I don’t wish to take names, I’ve had even the top stars of Tollywood extend their support to me, asking me to go ahead. Unfortunately, though, it has now come up to this state.
QIs it true that Tollywood bigwigs take a stand and the lesser known just follow them?
I agree and think it is true 99% of the time. Especially this time, it’s a rare case for MAA elections, where everybody is not on the same platform.
QHow confident are you about the results?
(Laughs out loud) I am going to win; there are no two ways about it.
QYour dad’s advice?
Dad has advised me to always be true to who I’m, not to get hurt by what people might say. He has told me to do whatever it is I believe in and to stay original, and that’s what I’m.
QHow do you take on social-media comments like “Don’t spend money when you know you won’t win?
Firstly, there is no money being spent in this election. Secondly, I don’t read the comments on social media. If anyone really wishes to comment, they should leave their names and address — that would be a logical and ethical thing to do. But these people are veiled behind the Internet as they write! I don’t take any of the social-mafia comments seriously.
QIn the panel you announced recently, there’s a generation gap between all the members! How will you handle them?
I requested them to join because I need their experience. Babu Mohan was a politician and has a clean chit. Raghu Babu works very hard and is a peoples’ person. Siva Balaji is yet another very hard working person. He’d also done a phenomenal job in the earlier term, and that’s why I requested him on board.
I need their experience to implement our ideas. They all know what my dream is and what agenda we have lined up.