With two back-to-back hits, it seems like you are finally back on familiar turf, the turf of a 'superstar'... Yes, and let me tell you, it feels great to be back. I am glad "Dookudu" happened, because it came at a time when I was going through a tough phase. I hadn't had a release for a long time. But "Dookudu" came and changed the game for me. "Businessman" followed and was equally successful. So yes, this is a sort of comeback phase for me.
On the personal front too, there's good news with the birth of your daughter... Being a father is the most important thing, if you ask me. It changed me as a person and gave me an all new life. I saw my son grow up literally, since I was on a sabbatical then. i was there when he said his first word, took his first step. all that is simply miraculous! I am glad i was there with him, and not somewhere working. A lot of people miss those stages, but I am lucky to have been there all the time. I would hardly go out, so i was always there sitting in the house. During that phase, he too became very close to me.
Now with my second baby too, I want to be part of her growing up years, as much as possible. I'll definitely make time for her and work something out, though I know it's not possible to take another two-year break like I did.
Two years is a really long time to be away from work... What really led to that meltdown, which resulted in such a long sabbatical? if I think about it, I guess it all started long ago. I was 13-14 when I first tasted stardom. in the summer holidays, my dad made me act in these films that went on to become superhits. I became a child star. At every point, conscious decisions were taken with my acting career in mind. Back in class 7, I knew I will become an actor. So when my first film was launched, i had a terrific opening. But i began to feel the pressure during my second and third projects. all that stress was bottling up. I took every failure to heart.
When my film flops, I believe it is my mistake. There have been times when i didn't come out of my house because my films didn't do well. I lock myself in for months. I don't talk to people. i feel bad for producer, director, for those who lost money. It's never about myself, or my career alone. I feel that we all messed up the film.
But "Pokiri" was a landmark film at the box office, giving you the hit you needed... Yes, it was. But after "Pokiri", I was confused. It was such a huge hit, that if someone came to me with a script, I would approach the result of the film before approaching the character. I only wanted to act in movies that were like "Pokiri", i think that was a mistake. It all got to me and I felt that i needed a break from films itself. Initially, I wanted just a seven-month break. I signed "Khaleja" after nine months, but it just kept getting delayed and the break ended up becoming a two-year-long holiday. But I didn't freak out... i relaxed for the first time in life.
Wasn't it a very a big risk to take? Yes, it was a big risk. People were laughing at me. They had written me off. They said I haven't had a release for three years. They said I will be forgotten... But I didn't care about all that. Funnily, during that phase I signed up a lot of brand endorsements... I kept shooting for ads.
So you were working... Well, like five days a year or so...(laughs).
Were people around you worried? My family was stressed out obviously, especially my dad, because he is the one who's the happiest if a film of mine does well. that period was tough for him. he was worried that i didn't have a movie... Every 10-15 days, he'd call me and ask me when the shooting was starting. I kept telling him it would start in a month or two... This went on for over a year. So more than me, I think he was worked up.
What about your wife? Was she hassled? Not really, I think... Namrata and i didn't get to spend time together after we got married, I was working all the time. so that two-year break was good for us. She'd lost both her parents, I had lost my grandmother... That time off helped us come together as a family. So we weren't complaining at all. I spent a lot of time with my son Gautam. That's what helped me in my life actually. That break gave me a new perspective and refreshed me.
Is that the reason we see a different Mahesh Babu now? whether it's your acting or your choice of roles, there seems to be a change. My sabbatical taught me to approach a film differently. I realised I need to enjoy my work, i need to enjoy my acting more. If "businessman" happened four years ago, I wouldn't have given that kind of a performance. If someone narrates a script now, I approach it as a character. I no longer say 'Mahesh Babu can't do this', 'people expect this from me' or 'how will my fans react?' I have learnt a lot from every mistake I've made.
You also seem to be a lot more social now... you make more public appearances, are open to interviews, why, you even smile more often... Is that part of some new image-building strategy? There is no strategy. I sorted myself out yaar, let's put it that way. I'm a more relaxed person now.
You are working hard on your looks and styling too, we hear... Stress and looks are directly connected as far as I am concerned. If you are happy, you look good. And I am at a happy space now.
You are much better turned out these days... There were days when you had your bleach-blonde hair, and you weren't definitely the most stylish star around. So are you concentrating on that department? Well, that was a mistake. I learnt from that mistake, so no more blonde hair! Also, as an industry, we have realised that looks are important. Earlier, you could wear something nice and be ready for the shoot. But now, we sit with the director, discuss the character and then meet the stylist to work on a look that suits the script. These days the stylists are good, trends are better. You just need to be open.
Despite an action-hero tag, how come you've never flexed your biceps or taken off your shirt on screen? You have a personal trainer whom you pay a cool Rs 1 crore, we heard... will we see a ripped Mahesh now? Nah, that's is just because I want to stay fit. I am a shy person basically, i don't think I can take my shirt off in front of so many people. I never thought about it. No one asked me to. But i don't even know if people like it if they see me without a shirt all of a sudden. But let's see, if a film demands it, I might just do it.
You might be the only 'superstar' around with a squeaky clean image and a family man tag. There are no rumours, no link-ups, no controversies, so unlike a star's life... How do you maintain that? Because there IS nothing yaar... (laughs) I think it's probably because I am more of a home person. When I am not working, I am home. I love spending time at my house. Luckily for me, Namrata too is so unlike a 'star wife', as they like to say. She is genuine, what you see is what you get. That's why I fell in love with her. We are both very real people with simple lives. We like to hang out with each other and Gautam, doing simple things like playing video games or grabbing a quick, early dinner at our favourite restaurants, or going for holidays. We strike a balance.
You seem to go back to your family to draw strength... Yes, home is where my strength is. If you have a happy home, everything is sorted, I guess. I am very happy that way.
What about friends? I studied in Madras, I grew up there, so all my friends were there. when i started acting, I shifted to Hyderabad and lost touch with them. I do have friends in the industry here, but I can't really call them up in the middle of the night or consult them before I take decisions. So it's only me and my family... But come to think of it, even in Madras, i never had too many friends... I don't know why...
Are you a loner? No, I am not a loner. People who know me see a different side of me. A lot of people think I am an introvert, but I am not at all that. People who know me find me very funny, in fact. i can be very very funny (laughs). It's just that I don't open up easily if I don't know a person. Do you think that has helped add an aura around you? In an age where stars are everywhere making appearances, interacting with fans etc., mahesh Babu is still unattainable, unreachable...
May be yes. The thing is, I am genuine. I can't put on a show. These days audiences are very smart, they know everybody... I'd rather be myself, and feel good that I am loved for truly what I am. Even during the times when I have not had movies, my brand value and popularity didn't die down. that's not something you can achieve by putting up a facade. People love me because of the films I have done. They love me because of a "Dookudu", "Pokiri" or "Okkadu". That's how it should be actually... I should do more films and be thankful for all of them.
So you want to do more films now as opposed to your earlier stance that you'd do just one film in two years... I don't really decide these things. Now I am sure I want to work more, but it's not that I made up my mind and therefore I have so many movies lined up. In the past too, I wanted to have at least two releases a year, but things took time to fall into place. I guess this is my good phase.
You haven't exactly done anything to have a presence outside of AP. You have gone on record to say that you won't do hindi films. You don't market your movies in tamil. So, your pan india presence right now comes as a bit of a surprise. You have the most number of endorsements, you are the highest paid. You even replaced Akshay Kumar in a national ad campaign. What's the secret? I don't know, honestly. i think "dookudu" changed it all. it was such a phenomenal hit, especially overseas, so it has worked wonders for me. And if I said no to Hindi films, at least for the next three-four years, it is because of the success I got here. I want to do amazing films in telugu, give it back to my people here. there are offers from Bollywood, but telugu films are more exciting for me right now.
You are right, no one just signs you on. they do their surveys, study your impact and popularity before they bet money on you. One of these brands showed me their statistics, it's really flattering. I'm surprised myself. i am thankful for my fans.
They say Namrata, with all her Mumbai connections, has a lot to do with it. Is she the architect of your pan india image? Not really. A lot people just talk. It's just that she co-ordinates all my endorsements really well, takes care of my PR activity and that makes my life easier. Left to me, I wouldn't do a thing! (laughs).
Your father, Krishna, was Telugu cinema's original superstar. How was it growing up as his son? We were five kids at home, and my mother and grandmother ensured that we all had a very grounded upbringing in Madras. Even in school, I never used to tell anyone that my dad was an actor. I didn't like that attention, the importance that came with it. Our upbringing reflects in our lives today. we are all very grounded people.
How does your son deal with your stardom? Gautam kind of knows his dad is a star, yeah. He is in first standard now, he has friends and they too know about my movies, fans et al. He is cool with it. i think he even enjoys it a bit. he is completely the opposite of what I used to be as a child. As a father, I am a bit similar to my dad. I don't remember him scolding me ever, he was always smiling, laughing. At my house too, I am the one who spoils Gautam. The disciplining, the homework department etc., is taken care of by namrata. If it was up to me, I'd not even send Gautam to school.
Published Date: 2012-07-21 14:43:16 GMT