I have met and spoken to Mahesh Babu quite a few times. The first time I had approached him with several preconceived notions of him being reticent, shy, not very articulate and such. But at the end of our conversation, I realised how wrong I was! Here was an actor who didn’t mince words, was deep and introspective and a person who was sorted out, easy going and lived consciously. From then on, every time I met him, I discovered different aspects of him. Like this time, I realized that Namrata and he are very kids oriented and that he is the one who plans their holidays. Basking in the success of the blockbuster Srimanthudu, the superstar reveals hitherto unknown facts about himself. His other half Namrata is an ace when it comes to handling him personally and projecting his public persona meticulously. She has brought him out of his self imposed barriers and has helped him overcome his reservations about his dressing, media interactions etc. His confession that he loves his role as a father the most speaks a lot about his family oriented attitude. I hope you have fun reading the excerpts from the cover story of Southscope August issue. For the full version, pick up a copy from the stands near you…
Telugu film industry’s all time phenomenon, Ghattamaneni Mahesh Babu, is beyond hits and flops. The sobriquet of `Prince’ bestowed upon him by his legion of fans rests firmly as his prefix when the credits roll on the screen. His recent films, 1 – Nenokkadine and Aagadu, didn’t quite hit the bull’s eye at the box office but his growth as an actor was there for all to see. On the personal front, he enjoys his role as a father of two, Gautham and Sitara; loves being Namrata’s husband and is indebted to his father, erstwhile superstar Krishna for showing him the path.
When he was a school student, summer holidays for Mahesh Babu were always special. Quite unlike anybody his age, the little boy would often be found on the sets of a film shoot, delivering dialogues and practising his steps. His father, superstar of his times, Ghattamaneni Krishna, was keen to pass on the baton. Not surprisingly, Mahesh made his first on-screen appearance at the age of four in older brother Ramesh Babu’s acting debut Needa in 1979. Now, 36 years and 30 movies later, Mahesh can’t thank his father enough for the invaluable years of training. “I consider that period as my formative years as an actor. I learnt how to face a camera, say my lines, dance, everything,” says the star, adding, “I don’t think any institute could have taught me what I learnt on the sets.”
Mahesh is stepping out of the tried-and-tested action formula but his previous blockbusters haven’t quite been accepted by his fans who were looking for Formula Mahesh. Critics were of the opinion that 1- Nenokkadine in which he essayed a psychologically scarred character, was ahead of time. What is his take on it? “Yes I think it was,” says the ace actor in a matter of fact tone, “I have said this earlier. Complicated screenplays and narratives are yet to find an audience in our industry. It will take some more time. We need simple and straight forward storytelling.”
So does that mean he will stop taking risks? “I have always made an effort to dabble in different genres of films,” he explains, “At the end of the day I want to be known as an actor. And an actor stops growing the moment he stops reinventing himself.” And the show goes on.
So how does he describe himself as an actor, “I would prefer to say I am a spontaneous actor. I am a director’s actor. I follow my director’s vision,” he says. Which role is closest to your heart in films and in personal life? “In my films it’s my role in Okkadu as Murari and now Srimanthudu. On the personal front I cherish my role as a father.”
Success has been his middle name for the longest time. Is there a Mahesh Babu formula that others could emulate? “Hard work and determination. I go on the sets everyday like a new comer. Waiting to learn and trying to do my best. Every day is a new day for me. So if this translates into success then success it is. Having said that, when it comes to films, I just become the face, the representative of a film by default, by the sheer virtue of being the hero,” he says, “On screen characters are the result of make-up men, stylists, dialogue writers, directors, producers, clap boys, choreographers… the list is endless,” he says modestly flashing the million dollar disarming smile. Any books that influenced him? “Eckhart Tolle’s `Power of Now’ and `New Earth’ influenced me a great deal.”
What does he do when he isn’t working? “I am quite happy with my own company and my family’s. Either I’m working or I’m at home. Life’s blissful this way,” says the actor who is a private person despite his stupendous following on Social Media and constantly growing popularity.
How does he rate himself as an actor, husband and father? “I am not good at rating myself,” he smiles mischievously with that famous twinkle in his eyes while suggesting, “You guys should run a poll. Think about it.” Sounds like a great idea. But the poll will have to wait; right now we need to know if there is anything about Namrata he would like to change? “Nothing comes to my mind right now. But no, I don’t think so.” Lucky him to have found a perfect partner but does she want to change anything about him? “Well, you’ll have to ask her that,” he throws a smart alecky one at us.
Looks like he has found true love. How would he describe the four letter word? “Love is very subjective for me. It’s everywhere, in everything, in everyone. You need to find it; feel it every day to be on top of the world. My family helps me do that to a large extent.” Does he like surprises? “I’m not a surprise kind of person. I like to be informed, well in advance.” What does Namrata mean to him? “She’s my best friend, wife, organiser and confidante,” Mahesh confides, “And she’s an excellent mother. She makes my life easier.”
How do they keep the spark alive in their marriage? When was the last he did something special for his wife? How often does she do anything to make you feel special? “I usually like to plan all our holidays and they are special. We are both very kids oriented but that’s what we love. That is our time together. Namrata is the surprise kind of girl. I must say she has her moments,” he says concluding our conversation. That’s Mahesh Babu for you. Charming, super talented and so very endearing! On and off screen. Now, shall we take a bow?