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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Mahesh Babu on joining politics: No way, I don’t understand politics at all

He played a chief minister in his latest superhit, but Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu says he will never join politics.

regional-movies Updated: Apr 28, 2018 17:38 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
Mahesh Babu says that after seeing so many ups and downs, he’s on his career’s biggest high right now.
Mahesh Babu says that after seeing so many ups and downs, he’s on his career’s biggest high right now.

If you pride your knowledge of stardom from seeing the adulation Bollywood actors enjoy, a visit to South of India could make you want to take a refresher course. We may know his face from the dubbed-in-Hindi movies that get telecast repeatedly on some TV channels, but Mahesh Babu’s superstardom in Telugu cinema has to be seen, to be believed. The actor’s latest film Bharat Ane Nenu, where the 42-year-old plays the Chief Minister of an undivided Andhra Pradesh has broken box office records with global collections of Rs125 crores in barely a week. The Telugu political drama has beaten Baaghi 2 to become the biggest opener among films of all languages, this year. The glow of unprecedented success is all so visible on the faces of Babu, and his wife Namrata Shirodkar — a former actor herself — as we got talking.

Most actors would think twice before agreeing to play a politician in today’s volatile climate. Did you?
To be honest, I did. I’ve never known anything about politics, I’m as far removed from all things political as one could possibly be. But this script had something magical. Siva Sir [Koratala Siva; director] took five hours to narrate this script to me. And at the end of it, I didn’t think about whether I’ll do it or not. My only worry was, how will we fit all of it in a three-hour film. I did not want even a single bit of the script to be left out from the final film.

What, in your opinion, worked so well for the audience?
I think we are just too tired of seeing negativity. Finally, a film about a politician that leaves you inspired, that leaves you with the hope that things are not all that bad, had to click with the audience. Even my earlier film, Srimanthudu, which was by the same director, was very positive and inspiring. So much so that just as my character in the film, several eminent people in real life adopted villages to make their infrastructure better. I and my wife also adopted a couple of villages, and we diligently work towards making the lives of the villagers better. To answer your question in one word, it is hope that the audience saw in Bharat Ane Nenu.

Whose critique of your films matters the most to you?
Oh, definitely my wife Namrata’s. Because she’s blunt, and totally honest. You know, two of my last films didn’t do well at all. I felt really low for a while because it seemed like I had disappointed my fans. That feeling kills you. So I was very nervous before the release of this one. And I was scared that if Namrata sees this film before the release, and I see a look of disappointment in her eyes, I would just not be able to bear it. So we decided that she’ll not watch it, till we get the audience reactions. And the first reaction came from the US, because there’s a huge Telugu community there. It was around three in the morning, when Namrata started getting calls from our friends in the US who had watched the first show. She came up to me, and without saying a word, burst into tears. I was so, so scared. And then she looked up and said, ‘They love it!’ I can’t explain that feeling to you, in words. I felt blessed again by my fans.

You’ve been known to be very private, and introvert. So recently when you instagrammed a photo of you kissing your wife, it went viral, and took many by surprise.
Yeah! That’s what genuine happiness does to you. Yes, I’m very shy. But, when the response to this film came, I felt so light, so happy. We’d invited a few friends over for dinner to celebrate the response. I’d not been this happy in a long time. And I really felt so much love for Namrata because she had gone through all that stress with me this past year. On an impulse, I kissed her. My friend Xavier was taking photos of everyone and happened to capture that kiss. I think it is the cutest photo ever, so I put it out on social media.

Thankyou my love ❤

A post shared by Mahesh Babu (@urstrulymahesh) on

With this success, would one assume that we could see you in a Bollywood film soon?
Why would I do that? You see, I’ve made a name for myself in Telugu cinema. My fans adore me. After seeing so many ups and downs, I’m on my career’s biggest high right now. Why would I want to turn myself vulnerable all over again by getting into Hindi cinema? I’m very happy in my zone here. Of course, there have been offers, all along, to do Bollywood films. But till the time there is something so perfect that I can’t resist it, I’m really happy enjoying my success here. Also with films like Bahubali, people have realized the potential that cinema from the South of India has. These boundaries of Bollywood – Tollywood etc are getting broken. We are going to dub Bharat Ane Nenu in Hindi, because I am very sure that the Hindi-speaking audience would love the film as much.

What are your thoughts, in general, about the quality of Hindi films and their actors?
Oh, some of them are superb. I love watching Hindi films. I’m a huge fan of Aamir Khan’s cinema. I’ve loved every film of his of late, whether it was 3 Idiots, or PK or Dangal, or even Secret Superstar. It’s wonderful that a small film like Secret Superstar did so phenomenally well. I’d really want us to also experiment with such films here. But then somehow the films in which I tried doing that, flopped. My fans want to see me in a larger than life portrayal. Going subtle doesn’t work here. The audience is just not ready for it, yet.

Like a lot of Tamil or Telugu filmstars, do you see politics as an eventual arena for yourself?
No way. As I said, I don’t understand politics at all. I don’t even want to keep it vague and say that this isn’t the right time. I’m saying it loud and clear — I will never enter politics.

Is there something you’d like to say to your Hindi-speaking fans who have only seen you and your work so far in dubbed films on TV?
(Quiet for a long while). I really don’t know. Can I simply say thank you? (folds his hands)

Interact with the author on Twitter/@sonalkalra

First Published: Apr 28, 2018 17:34 IST