It's not secret that 'Yamaleela' (1994), which was one of the first films in which Ali played a lead role, was first pitched to Superstar Krishna with the intention of introducing Mahesh Babu as the hero. The legendary actor loved the script but since Mahesh was still doing his studies, director SV Krishna Reddy was told to wait.
There is a belief that Superstar Krishna actually preferred that SV Krishna Reddy wait for his son Mahesh for 3 years. But the director was not ready. He was impressed with Ali's on-stage performance at the 100-days event of 'Mayalodu'. SV Krishna Reddy decided to give a cheque to Ali and book his dates.
At first, Ali thought that the remuneration was for an important role in 'Yamaleela'. He didn't know that he would be cast as the lead actor.