Reigning supreme

Reigning supreme

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Krishna was one of the very few heroes who could hold his own in Telugu cinema when the likes of N T Rama Rao and A Nageswara Rao held sway. Today, years after the veteran called it a day, his son Mahesh Babu has taken over his father’s mantle and is one of the most sought after actors in Tollywood.

Mahesh is known by the sobriquet Prince after the title of his first release Rajakumarudu. His latest film, Dookudu, has recently been declared as a blockbuster. The action-cum-comedy thriller has not only encroached on the record collections registered by Ramcharan Teja’s Maghadeera but has gone on to create new records by registering huge profits in India and abroad. Dookudu, which saw the megastar being directed by successful auteur Srini Vaitla, had Mahesh playing a tough cop.

With an ensemble cast including veteran actors like Nasser, Prakash Raj, Brahmanandam and the new glamour girl, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, the project had all ingredients to make for an entertaining film. Mahesh Babu was the perfect symbol of desirability in the film — he had power-packed dialogues, stunt sequences to perform, coupled with his gravitas as an actor — that made the film a must-watch.

Reinventing himself, constantly
Babu, who acted in seven films (starring his father) as a child artiste before being launched as the leading man in Rajakumarudu by director Raghavendra Rao opposite Preity Zinta, has been hailed as a chip off the old block. If the box office collections of some of his films are any indication, he might have even gone a step ahead of his father in terms of success and popularity. Mahesh has consciously made an effort to avoid being stereotyped as an actor. In the course of his eventful career, he has played different characters on screen.

Mahesh Babu followed up his maiden success in Rajakumaradu with films like Yuvaraj and Vamsi and it was while working on the latter film that he and his co-star, Namrata Shirodkar, embarked on a fairy tale romance that later sublimated in wedding bliss.

Murari, helmed by Krishna Vamsi, where he was paired with another Bollywood star, Sonali Bendre, fetched him a state award. Murari had a silver jubilee run, established Krishna Vamsi as a commercially successful director and made Mahesh popular among the masses.

Mahesh took a leaf from his father’s book (Krishna has played a cowboy in films like Mosagallaku Mosagadu) and in Takkari Donga he gave audiences a taste of the wild west with Lisa Ray and Bipasha Basu giving him company. Among the actor’s prominent films, Athidi and Khaleja made money, but films like Bobby bit the dust.

Okkadu, directed by Gunasekhar and set in a different milieu, presented Babu in an entirely different light and along with praise, he also won the best actor Filmfare Award. But it was left to Tollywood’s most enterprising director Puri Jagannath to extract one of the most memorable performances from the actor. The blockbuster film Pokkiri, where Babu played a one man army taking on the realty mafia, broke several box office records and became the highest grosser Telugu film ever. The film was a classy entertainer and was remade in Tamil and Hindi.

Mahesh Babu is perhaps one of the few stars who has acted with many actresses from Bollywood — from Preity Zinta to Amrita Rao, Sonali Bendre, Bipasha Basu, Lisa Ray and Amisha Patel. However, he has also been successfully paired with other stars like Ileana D’Cruz and Trisha to name a few. Mahesh and Ileana set the screen on fire with their sizzling chemistry in Pokkiri and they might work together again to create box office magic. Trisha, the toast of the Tamil film industry, has also featured in a couple of films with Mahesh Babu like Athadu, directed by Trivikram Srinivas, and Sainikudu.

Babu is now busy with his next assignment, The Businessman, with Kajal Agarwal in the lead. Babu plays the role of a business tycoon and the film is being directed by the man who gave him Pokkiri — Puri Jagannath. The director, who has given a string of hits, might have another winner on his hands. Also, with the kind of success that Mahesh Babu has tasted with Dookudu, this film too might take the box office by storm. The actor, who has a massive fan following, has often confided that his topmost priority is to entertain the audiences and this perhaps is one reason why he chooses to stay away from parallel cinema.

The other film Babu is working on is Seethamma Vakitlo Sinimalle Chettu directed by Srikanth Addale where he will share screen space with another popular actor, Venkatesh. Although Mahesh has already established himself as a solo hero with numerous hits to his credit, he has not been averse to working in two-hero subjects as he is confident that he would be saddled with an equally meaty, if not a better role than the other actor in question.

Mahesh Babu, who has now been around for well over a decade in the Telugu film industry, discounting his innings as a child star, now, has to vie for honours with a number of new heroes who are giving him stiff competition. The list includes Junior NTR, Prabhas, Ravi Teja, Ram and matinee idol Chiranjeevi’s son Ramcharan Teja. Mahesh has however remained unfazed where competition is concerned and with almost all topnotch directors keen to work with him, his slot at the top remains secure. Mahesh Babu will continue to be in demand as long as he has the audience rooting for him.

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