Prince, as he is called by his fans, Mahesh Babu, reaffirmed his position in the Telugu film Industry with the biggest hit of the summer releases this year, Pokiri. The film, directed by Puri Jagannnadh, has broken box office records in the overseas market and is still running to packed houses, well on its way to completing 50 days of successfully entertaining the audiences. At a press meet held in the city on 6th June, this media shy chocolate hero of Telugu films spoke about, what he has termed as a personal victory, the stupendously successful Pokiri and his forthcoming projects.
I like to maintain a low profile
Q: You almost never interact with the media much. Why?
A: I have never interacted with the media much till now. You must have noticed, I don’t attend many film functions either. My films are my priority. My movies should do well and that is what matters to me. I like to maintain a low profile. That’s all.
Q: Then why this press meet now? Especially when your film will be completing 50 days in another week’s time?
A: I know that it has been 5 weeks since Pokiri released. I called for a press meet now because I don’t like to talk about my film a week after it’s been released and say that this and this is nice about the movie. I don’t feel like saying such things. Now that Pokiri has been declared a hit I am more comfortable talking about it.
Q: Pokiri is the biggest hit so far. Everybody in the industry is talking about it. How are you feeling about it?
A: I am very very happy, basically. Especially when its success coincided with my sister’s wedding. It’s a very elevating feeling. It’s mind blowing.
Q: How do you feel when somebody is calling you the new super star?
A: I don’t usually listen to all that. You have to just concentrate on work.
I did not celebrate Pokiri’s Success
Q: How did you celebrate Pokiri’s success?
A: I haven’t celebrated it as yet. Did not get the time to do so. After finishing with Pokiri, I have been busy with the shooting of Sainikudu. Again from tomorrow I have a 20 day schedule in Chennai. I did not want to lose my concentration. So immediately after Pokiri, I did not waste time and got back to work. I was even shooting on the day of my sister’s wedding.
Q: For the first time you wore a lungi on screen for Pokiri. Was it because your fans requested for it?
A: That and also because there was scope for that kind of mass mannerism in Pokiri. It would not have looked right if I wore a lungi in Athadu. The situation has to be right. And in Pokiri there was such kind scope for my character and it fit well into the story.
Q: Your dialogue modulation is different in Pokiri?
A: No. If you have noticed it has been the same in all my films. I haven’t changed anything .During the dubbing Jagannadh garu, for certain scenes, said that may be I should modulate my voice in a certain way and I followed it. The characterization was different that’s all.
Q: Your pairing with Ileana has been complimented a lot?
A: Yes. She’s got a very young and fresh look. And our pairing just clicked right.
Pokiri is a personal victory for me
Q: Which is your favorite scene in Pokiri?
A: The confrontation scene between Nazar and Prakash Raj. That is one of the best scenes in the movie. I think that is the turning point in the film. It has a certain energy level which gets the audiences excited at that point in the film. Hats of to Puri Jagannadh.
A: And I like my characterization in the movie. My dialogue delivery. It was all very easy for me to perform. My character walks the right way, speaks in a normal manner. All just set well.
Q: You performance in Pokiri was very similar to the Hollywood style of acting?
A: Right from when I joined the industry I was confused as to what type of acting style I should adopt. Whether it should be the commercial or the realistic kind. It was after Okkadu that I gained confidence and decided not to listen to what other people said. I learned to follow my own instinct. I did what I believed in. Finally with Pokiri, people were able to connect with me. It is a personal victory for me.
Q: Where are you planning to celebrate the 100 days function of Pokiri?
A: Plans are going on. Let’s see. Maybe where ever it has the highest collection (Smiles).
Puri Jagannadh is responsible for Pokiri’s success
Q: Whom do you credit the success of Pokiri with?
A: Definitely Mr. Puri Jagannnadh. He is responsible for the film’s success. For the story, for the dialogues and for his direction. He is totally responsible for the film’s success.
Q: Planning to do another movie with Puri Jagannadh?
A: I just gave a blockbuster with him (laughs) lets see. But I am sure my next film with him will be hyped a lot, with a lot of expectations.
Q: What is your analysis about this success?
A: My analysis is that basically all my previous film did well in the A and B centers. There were talks that my films did not do well in the C centers. But with Pokiri, there was no talk of A, B or C centers. It did well unanimously everywhere. That is a huge plus point.
Q: And what do you think is the reason for that?
A: Basically because I did an out and out mass film, for the first time. The mass characterization. I did not think that it would turn out like this. Such things just click.
Q: Did Pokiri’s success reach your expectations?
A: Definitely. After Athadu was released people stopped comparing my films with Okkadu. They saw Athadu without any preconceived notions. Athadu set the standard for my films. After watching it people forgot Okkadu. In the same way Pokiri became a huge hit and is a huge turning point in my career. I am very lucky to have achieved such record breaking success so early in my career.
Pokiri has changed the overseas market for Telugu films
Q: The success of Pokiri has just burst the overseas market to an all time high?
A: Before Pokiri there was a market of 30 to 35 crores for Telugu films. After the first day of Pokiri those figures changed and new figures were emerging. That is a very good sign for the industry. If a film has potential it will do well.
Q: And how much do you think it should collect?
A: I think around 40 crores, that is including everything. The overseas and other areas here, everything.
Q: How are you planning to control the business of your next film after the success of Pokiri?
A: Leaving the business issue aside, my next film should definitely do well. I have no other option. My next film after Pokiri should perform at an even bigger range. My advantage is that I am already into the movie. I am completely concentrating on it. I am not concerned with the business aspect. Dutt garu will look into that. He will see that nothing is over done. I have to just maintain and gain on what ever I have achieved through Pokiri.
Q: It’s being said that because you acted in it, Pokiri became such a huge hit?
A: No. I wouldn’t say that because I acted in it the film became such a big hit. Everything just blended well. The story suited my acting style. It was the first time that I portrayed such a character. Everything went well with the film. We started the film in November and completed it by April and released it the same month. For the first time we completed a film as per the schedule. Some things just get so well.
Q: Now you are able to do films in a shorter span of time?
A: Nothing like that. It depends on each film maker. Puri Jagannadh gave me a bound script. Everything was managed very efficiently. Vijayan sir, fight master, used all his experience to shoot the fight sequences efficiently and fast. We also had to work non stop for over a month to complete the climax shot and the songs. If people work that hard, the film will finish at the expected time.
Telugu Film Industry is on the verge of changing
Q: Normally it is thought that films using a lot of guns would not do that well in the Telugu industry but both Athadu and Pokiri, where guns have been extensively used are hits, your comments?
A: Telugu film Industry in on the brink of changing. Any movie with even a remote sense of outdatedness is not doing well. The Hindi film industry has already changed. We are on the verge of change. If you see the Hindi movies their standards have changed, everything is new and fresh. And that happened because of their overseas market. Tamil Industry has always been making good films. We only have a limited market. May be because of the way we picturise our songs. And that also is changing now. Movies like 7G, though that is also a Tamil dub, and Anand did well. The audiences are looking forward for such good and intelligent films.
Q: Those films were made with new comers. Would you do such a film?
A: I don’t think I suit those roles.
Q: Are you scared of doing those roles because they might not be commercially viable?
A: It’s not that I am scared. It is a matter of each actor’s scope. Now a film like Sainikudu will be sold at a big price. And when we sell it at such a price we need to cater to all kinds of centers. If I do a film just because I want it to be intelligent, do you think a person who bought a first row ticket in a non a/c B center theater will understand the movie? So we need to balance such things, which is a difficult task. Pokiri was able to find that balance. That is why it did so well in all the centers.
Pokiri should have been given a U/A certificate
Q: Some scenes in the Pokiri are believed to be disturbing for general viewing. Your comments?
A: I agree that a few scenes are a bit uneasy to watch. But nothing as so disturbing that you will want to leave the theater. I will stand by that. There are some movies which have a far worse scenario. There is nothing of that sort in Pokiri.
Q: But what of the implication, given by the censor board, that only adults and children above 15 should be allowed to watch Pokiri?
A: Certain films which were awarded a U/A certificate, that I have seen, have such gruesome scenes that as compared to them, I feel, Pokiri should not have been given a A certificate. A U/A certificate could have been fine.
Q: What of the impact the Visuals will have on the audiences?
A: What visuals? There are movies in which people are shown playing football with a human head. Don’t you think that will have an impact on them? We were well within our limits.
Q: With Athadu you gained a foot hold in the overseas market and Pokiri fared even better. Your comments?
A: Yes. The overseas market is just opening. Telugu films have a good market over seas. I think we are exploiting it slowly. We should start promoting our films better there and make an even bigger market.
Bobby and Takkari Donga were stupid films
Q: You did experimental or rather different films like Bobby and Takkari Donga previously. Any plans to do such film in the future?
A: It was convenient to do those films at that time. But to be honest they were stupid films. That was when I newly joined the industry and was part of my learning process. Now I can confidently say that is very difficult for me to do such kind of stupid films.
Q: What kind of films are you planning to do?
A: I want to do good films. After listening to a number of scripts you can judge whether or not a script will make a good film or whether it will be boring. We need to see it from the audiences’ point of view. That kind of judgment you get with experience.
Q: And you feel you have gained that experience?
A: No. I am still in the learning process.
Post marriage my career has been very exciting
Q: Lady Luck seems to be shining on you after marriage?
A: Definitely, post marriage, I have entered a very exciting phase of my career. I have never had back to back hits before. I feel as if this is the most crucial part of my career.
Q: What are your future projects?
A: Sainikudu is coming up. Then I have a film with Krishna Productions. Another with producer K.L.Narayana for Durga Arts banner. Hare Rama Hare Krishna with M.S.Raju, Sumanth Arts and two other movies with Roja Movies and Mega Super Good Films banners.
Q: What did Chiranjeevi have to say after he saw Pokiri?
A: He liked it a lot and is happy that the film is doing is very well. He is a very genuine person and watches all films from the common man's point of view. We spoke for almost 15 minutes after he watched Pokiri and he told me what scenes he liked in the movie.