For the past two weeks, Tamil-Telugu film Baahubali, dubbed into Malayalam and Hindi, has been scorching the box office all over the country. But director SS Rajamouli’s product is not the only much-awaited offering from the Telugu film stable this year. ‘Prince’ Mahesh Babu’s Srimanthudu, which means a billionaire, is releasing on August 7, and if the first look is anything to go by, it promises to be strong both on content and the style quotient. Srimanthudu also stars Shruti Haasan and Jagapathi Babu.
Without giving away anything about Srimanthudu, Mahesh Babu promises that it is a film that everyone, from kids to elders, will like. The media-shy star opened up in this exclusive interview to India Today, and spoke about Srimanthudu to Rajamouli’s Baahubali, to how he chooses his movies and whether Andhra Pradesh will ever see him as a real-life politician.
This is an exciting time to be a member of the Telugu film fraternity, isn’t it? Baahubali has just become the highest grosser ever and suddenly everyone is looking at the Telugu film space and south Indian cinema with newfound awe. Wondering where did this come from.
It is a proud moment for all of us. It just goes on to show that a director-driven film with content will surely work.
And at such a time, you arrive on the screen with Srimanthudu on August 7. Do you feel the scale of expectations has gone up?
Fortunately or not, expectations are always high for all my films. Having said that, I, above all, need to surpass my own expectations with each film that I do.
You have an amazing fan following, that swears by you. I am sure you must be interacting with quite a few of them for feedback. Are the expectations from `Srimanthudu humongous and almost unreal?
I truly believe I am here because of all the love from all my fans. Each of them surely do have expectations from every film of mine, and I try very hard to give them something that they will like each time. Talking about Srimanthudu, it is a very strong story and my character is very new, so I’m hoping they will like it.
What is the kind of Mahesh Babu we are likely to see in Srimanthudu? How different from say a Businessman or a Dookudu?
My character is very different from my roles in Businessman or Dookudu. He is a very strong character in body and mind.
The trailers, the songs have created quite a buzz. You are also making quite a style statement. And moving forward from Pokiri days, you don’t seem to have aged at all. Has the body clock stopped?!
Thank you. The trailer has created quite a buzz. The songs are rocking as well. It, by far, has been my best album after Dookudu, and I have to thank music composer Devi Sri Prasad for it. On another note, yes, I try to take care of myself. I eat right and stay healthy as much as possible.
Since 1999, when you made your debut as a lead actor, you have roughly done some 20-odd movies. That is a slow pace, right, for a star who is at the peak of his career and whose fans simply cannot get enough of him?
I try to do as much as I can, but I simply can’t shoot two films at a time. Getting in and out of a character takes its own time for me. I am making a conscious effort to do two films a year. Hope it works out.
You have seen success of the kind of Pokiri in 2006 (remade into Hindi as Wanted with Salman Khan). Does Pokiri therefore remain some kind of a benchmark for you when you listen to scripts? Whether a script has the potential to be another Pokiri?
I treat each film differently. Be it Okkadu, Pokiri, Dookudu, Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, Businessman. All happened at their right time. I simply need to get excited about my character in the film I choose, after which I give it my best shot and try to enjoy the process. The result I leave to God.
Then again, success is not something that is alien to you. You have seen it in your growing up years with your father, Krishna, who is a superstar. Did you grow up in awe of his on-screen persona and fame?
My father is my idol and I have grown up watching his films. He is my biggest influence and inspiration. I have learnt a lot from him, and I am who I am because of him. I’m extremely grateful to him for that.
Do you discuss your projects with your dad or wife Namrata before signing on the dotted line? How does the process of deciding ‘I will or I will not do this movie’ take place? Is it a quick decision or do you mull over it?
My decisions are totally mine. They purely depend on the script, sometimes instant and sometimes I take a while. Pokiri and Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu were instant decisions, if I remember correctly.
How important is your on-screen image to you? Like for instance, some stars have their dos and don’ts: ‘My fans won’t like me being beaten up by the villain’, ‘I won’t kiss on screen’, etc. Do you have anything like that?
I do what is expected of me from my director and script. My director is usually aware of what works for me and what doesn’t. For Srimanthudu, I have to give full credit to director Koratala Sivagaru for handling my character the way he did.
Does the list of dont’s include not taking off your shirt, too, given that it is quite a fad in Bollywood?
I will, when I am convinced that it is a requirement for my character and script (smiles).
Given that you are a constant fixture in the list of desirable men that publications put out every year, do you like what you see in the mirror? Do you experiment a lot with your hair, your styling, etc?
I am assuming that what I see in the mirror is not that bad (laughs)! I used to experiment earlier, but now I like to keep it simple. I have a hairstylist who takes care. On the clothes’ front, I have a designer who sits with the director for each film to chalk out a look for me based on the script.
Your movie Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu with Venkatesh in 2013, in a way, started the trend of multi-starrers in Telugu cinema, something that does not quite happen often. Do you think more such multi-starrers should be made?
Of course, multi-starrers should be made. I had a great time on Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu and I enjoyed every moment. I have a fabulous off-screen rapport with Venkateshgaru as well.
I return to Rajamouli. Believe you too are doing a movie with Rajamouli soon, after he winds up the second part of Baahubali next year. Is the script ready? What kind of a film is that?
Yes, we are scheduled to do a film together. The script is yet to be finalised. I am looking forward to it.
Mahesh Babu plus Rajamouli will equal what?
You tell me (smiles)!
To me and to most fans, it will mean an awesome combination. Tell me, why the decision to stick to Telugu cinema and not dabble in Tamil? You are a Madras boy, aren’t you?
Telugu cinema is the cinema that I know and I am happy working here. Very happy. Having said that, I was born in Chennai and I speak Tamil fluently. For now, we will be releasing Srimanthudu in Tamil (dubbed version) simultaneously for the first time.
Being a political journalist, I must ask you this. Your father has dabbled in politics, your brother-in-law Jaydev Galla is now a Lok Sabha MP from the Telugu Desam. Do we see Mahesh Babu ever entering politics?
Never. I have never known or understood that space at all.
TS Sudhir is Editor (South), India Today TV.
Source :: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/mahesh-babu-telugu-superstar-srimanthudu-trailer-baahubali-release-and-how-he-chooses-his-films-andhra-pradesh-mahesh-babu-politics-exclusive-interview/1/453206.html