It is not often that a hero, who gets the adulation of his fans by the manner in which he reduces 20 goons to pulp on the big screen, talks of that dreaded four letter word called "fear". But Mahesh Babu, much to my surprise, did not flinch from showing a side that one does not quite expect from a superstar.
"Yes, the pressure is immense. It is nerve-racking. In Telugu cinema, the film is sold for the highest price of Rs 70 crore or so, and it rides completely on the star. You have to give a blockbuster. There is no other go," Mahesh told me. I couldn't help but marvel that this much-loved superstar had the courage to talk of extremely fragile emotions like insecurity, without bothering about how he would sound.
"Every actor is insecure. If anyone says he is very calm and confident, he is lying. Every single day I am nervous, thinking about whether I am getting the scenes right, the emotions right. And the worst part is even after the huge success of Srimanthudu, I am back to square one when I start working on my next film Brahmotsavam,'' says Mahesh.
Mahesh was conscious that his last two films had not set the box office on fire, which is why he decided to apologise to his fans for letting them down, at the audio launch function of Srimanthudu. "It was spontaneous. I saw the audience clapping, cheering enthusiastically and I felt that I had disappointed them twice. That is why I said sorry."
But Srimanthudu has left Mahesh and his team in a self-confessed daze. "It is a dream come true. People and critics are saying it is the best film of my career. They have connected to the film in a big way, loved the message." The film revolves around the subject of a billionaire's son returning to his roots and adopting a village. "People want to see Mahesh Babu, the actor, not the star, which explains the success of Srimanthudu," says Mahesh.
Mahesh is now taking the message of the film to the next level by connecting with college students and talking to them to know how they can also stay in touch with their roots.
Mahesh who turned 40 this month, feels he is in a zone - both matured and experienced - that helps him judge better. "It is the best phase to be in."
And the shy star refuses to speculate over what is it about Mahesh Babu that makes female fans go weak in the knees. "It feels good, nothing to be stressed about," he smiles.