Ahead of the film's release, the actor talks about its theme of giving back to society and why he feels the need to outdo his own expectations.
The little that's been revealed of Srimanthudu in its teaser and trailer show a well-heeled youngster, played by Mahesh, driven by the thought of giving back to his roots and adopting a village. Since then, there's been speculation if the storyline has anything to do with Mahesh adopting his ancestral village Burripalem. The actor, who has been clocking in late hours wrapping up his dubbing, takes time out to field questions on the film scheduled to release on August 7.
“The idea was told to me a year ago by my director Siva garu (Koratala Siva). I saw it as a strong story and my character is powerful, someone I haven't played yet in my films," he says, without dwelling on whether reel life imitated real.
Mahesh bills Srimanthudu as a “family entertainer with mass and class appeal" that will cut across age groups and says, “Siva is talented, hardworking and true to his craft. He has immense knowledge about filmmaking and has a great sense of music; this adds to the film."
Shot in Hyderabad, Palani, Pollachi, Pune and Malaysia, the film has him playing Jagapati Babu's son. “Initially I wasn't sure if he would agree to play my father," admits Mahesh, “but he was impressed with the story and script and agreed. During dubbing, I saw some scenes that show us together and they've turned out well. He has played his part perfectly as a father would."
Mahesh will turn 40 this August and his age-defying looks have been a talking point as much as his pairing with Shruti Haasan, with whom he earlier worked for a song in Aagadu. “Shruti is a natural when it comes to acting, dancing and singing, and is fun to work with. I feel our chemistry works well in the film," says Mahesh.
The idea of doing your bit for a village has been explored before, remarkably in K. Balachander's Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (Rudraveena in Telugu) and Ashutosh Gowarikar's Swades. Srimanthudu, says Mahesh, is an entertainer and points to a statement made by the characters in the trailer: “The film is about a youngster who feels he has taken a lot from society and it's time to give back a little, else we will become fat…. (laughs). This is told in a commercial and entertaining manner." Working on this film, says Mahesh, made him realise the importance of giving. “We usually receive but giving is equally important," he quips.
Mahesh is confident of Srimanthudu's box office prospects. The film is crucial for him, coming after the debacle of 1-Nenokkadine and Aagadu. If there's pressure to deliver a blockbuster, he downplays it. “Pressure is there with any release of mine. It's more my own as I need to surpass my own expectations. We've worked hard. I hope the audience likes the film as well."
1 might have been a BO turkey but with time, the psychological thriller earned a steady following from a discerning audience. Mahesh feels 1 was ahead of its time. “Complicated narrations and screenplays are yet to find a place among our audience. But like you said it found its own audience and was critically appreciated. And I'm happy about that."