Mahesh Babu on Sarileru Neekevvaru: Had to unlearn a lot initially as I was doing comedy after a long time
Mahesh Babu discusses why he signed a full-blown entertainer like Sarileru Neekevvaru, opening a new movie hall in AMB Cinemas, and his issue with bilinguals.
For outsiders, Telugu Superstar Mahesh Babu is someone who prefers to talk less and believe in the motto that his work should speak for himself. “It’s a common misconception. Those who know me personally are aware of my humorous side. I would crack jokes, laugh out loud, and chat about a lot of things within my closed circle”, says Mahesh in an exclusive interview to Firstpost.
Mahesh is not the same calm and composed person on screen. He throws amazing energy when it comes to action sequences and comedy scenes. “Something happens when they switch on the camera. I’m sure a lot of actors go through this switch off-switch on transformation. I can’t explain the process in words," he says.
Mahesh’s recent blockbusters, including Maharshi, Bharat Ane Nenu, and Srimanthudu, depicted him as a serious guy with a meaningful mission to accomplish something but the trailer of Sarileru Neekevvaru tells us the film will be a trademark commercial action potboiler with all necessary ingredients.
“I feel proud of all these serious message-oriented films. Glad that all of them also did well at the box office. Especially, after watching Maharshi, school students are involving themselves in weekend farming. But somewhere, I felt that I have started telling too many messages to my fans (laughs), and it’s time to give them a full-fledged entertainer. Sarileru Neekevvaru was supposed to happen next year but suddenly, I took a call, and my director Anil Ravipudi finished the script in four months. We started the film in July, and completed it in December. Now, after watching the film, I’m super excited about the output. Glad that I took the call to start the film immediately, and didn’t postpone it to next year," reveals Mahesh on how Sarlieru Neekevvaru shaped up.
Mahesh says as an actor, Sarileru Neekevvaru gave him a lot of options to explore.
“In serious films, there is a boundary so I can only work within the limitation. But with Sarileru Neekevvaru, I got a lot of options to explore. Though the film has got a lot of comedy scenes, I can’t repeat what I did in Dookudu in 2011. For me, retaining elements from Dookudu, and bringing in a fresh angle to the comic treatment was challenging. The first few days were difficult because I had to unlearn a lot of things. But after three days, I got into the world of Anil Ravipudi. He added all the necessary ingredients needed for a star film, and did a brilliant job”.
The trailer of the film begins with Rashmika’s dialogue, which is a big surprise because normally, the first shot of the trailer of any mass entertainer would begin with the hero’s entry. “It was Anil’s decision. Today, with the trailer and teaser, we have to prepare the audiences, and convey to them the overall flavour of the film. Guess our trailer has conveyed the mood perfectly. It will be a trademark Sankranti entertainer," says Mahesh.
Despite the festival entertainment mood, Sarileru Neekevvaru also got an important message, says Mahesh. When asked whether it was a conscious decision to take up films conveying a message to society, Mahesh says “No, you can’t plan it that way. I was lucky to get scripts that were topical and relevant to the current generation”.
Talking about his process of signing films, Mahesh says, “The first and foremost thing is I should get excited by the narration. Yes, I have done a lot of mistakes in the past. But moving forward, I cut down the errors. Now, I may go for a second opinion because of the risk factor involved in each film. It’s not about me anymore. There is a huge investment involved so I have to discuss a lot of things before taking the final call. The bottom line is the content should excite me."
Mahesh has done a Tamil-Telugu bilingual Spyder with AR Murugadoss but the film did not perform well at the box office. “I had a great time working with Murugadoss sir. He is still one of the best directors in India. The problem with the film is I’m a star in Telugu but at the same time, I’m a newcomer to the Tamil audiences. When we cut down the heroism, audiences in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana got upset while Tamil fans were fine with the final product. Also, with bilinguals, spontaneity and creativity go for a toss as we have to shoot each scene twice, and reduce a lot of things to please the moviegoers from an unknown territory," explains Mahesh. “Telugu market is my home ground. If my film turns out to be great, it will work in other territories like how (SS) Rajamouli’s Baahubali series and Yash’s KGF (Chapter One) have become pan-Indian films. You don’t have to act in a Hindi film to create a pan-Indian market. Now, Rajamouli sir is making another Telugu film but from the business point of view, it’s a pan-India film”, says the actor.
Mahesh has also recently ventured into the theatrical business with his state-of-the-art AMB Cinemas. “It was a dream project for me. I always wanted to build a theater, and thought that it should be the best in the country. I'm thankful to Narayan Das Garu of Asian Cinemas. His team fulfilled my dream. Today, whenever I enter into AMB Cinemas, I feel proud”, says Mahesh who is also planning to expand AMB Cinemas as a multiplex chain in other regions as well.
As an investor and owner of a multiplex, Mahesh says the arrival of OTT platforms will not affect the theater-going culture in India. “Theater going is a part of the Indian people’s culture. On a festival day, Telugu and Tamil audiences wouldn’t prefer watching films with subtitles on their television sets. They would rather go to the theater, and enjoy the festival day releases with a large crowd. For our audiences, films are not just films. They go to theaters for the festival experience. Fortunately, people in India have got this mindset," says Mahesh.
Is there a particular dream director for Mahesh? “As I said, I loved working with Murugadoss sir. Mani Ratnam sir is my dream director. We were supposed to join hands but it didn’t materialise. Now, he is making Ponniyin Selvan with a different cast and crew. I would also love to work with Shankar sir," says Mahesh.
When this reporter said the titular role in Ponniyin Selvan would have suited him more, considering his handsome look, Mahesh replies with a gentle smile and signs off.
All images from YouTube.
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