Mahesh Babu
Mahesh Babu in ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' Image Credit: Phars Films

Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu, who’s riding high after the stupendous box office success of his new film ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata’ (‘SVP’) shot partly in Dubai, believes that a story that “entertains and resonates with the audience” can never fail.

“Interesting characters, screenplay along with great music and background score, is also a huge factor,” said Babu in an email interview with Gulf News.

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Mahesh Babu in ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' Image Credit: Phars Films

Babu plays Mahesh, a ruthless loan shark who meets his equal in Kalaavathi (Keerthy Suresh). He’s a self-made billionaire who came up the hard way in life after his debt-ridden parents took their own lives leaving him an orphan. Money makes his world go around in this film, directed and written by Parasuram.

A week after its release, the action drama has been minting money at the box office and has already entered the Rs1 billion club.

“It has all the elements of an entertainer … just the right amount of action, comedy, romance, music, and emotion. Its script and the hero’s characterisation drew me to this film,” pointed out Babu. The actor, who’s one of Telugu cinema’s most bankable faces, shot this film in the UAE during the pandemic.

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Keerthy Suresh and Mahesh Babu in ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' Image Credit: Phars Films

“It was shot over a period of two years due to the pandemic and it brought along a string of challenges. But Dubai is my home away from home. I travel there often since my sister-in-law lives there,” said Babu, adding that during his work trip he found UAE’s ‘rich culture and hospitality’ admirable.

While he enjoyed his fruitful stay in the UAE filming ‘SVP’ at Dubai’s iconic landmarks and desert landscapes, he was keenly aware that the viewing patterns of audiences had shifted drastically and that as an industry they would have to pull up their socks and deliver strong stories.

“Due to the rise of OTT [web streaming] platforms during the pandemic, I think the audience now is more picky about the kind of content they want to watch and filmmakers need to ensure the content is packaged right. Speaking of me, I am keen to explore any genre if the script is exciting,” said Babu.

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Keerthy Suresh and Mahesh Babu in ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' Image Credit: Phars Films

Recently, he waded into controversy when he claimed that Bollywood couldn’t afford him and that he preferred to stick to the South Indian entertainment industry.

His remark ignited debates on whether it came from a place of arrogance or not. He later clarified that his remarks weren’t meant to rub anyone the wrong way, but he skipped a follow-up question with Gulf News and chose to keep his answers strictly vanilla. He claimed he looked back on his career with ‘nothing but gratitude’.

“Both my successes and failures have taught me a lesson. My choice of films in the past few years have been calculated,” he said.

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Mahesh Babu in ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' Image Credit: Phars Films

Babu is one of South Indian cinema’s leading actors and has rightfully earned the label ‘Prince of Telugu Industry’. The age-defying talent, who has acted in blockbusters including ‘Pokiri’, ‘Businessman’, ‘1: Nenokkadine’, and ‘Spyder’, claims it’s his inner happiness that reflects on his life and career. And the secret to his looks and his blazing career?

“I have a strict diet and I hardly ever miss a workout. But above all, I’m a happy man and it reflects on the outside,” said Babu. While he’s usually found in a great mood, reviews often dampen his good mood. Asked if he takes trolls or reviews that slate his film seriously, and he goes: “It’s only human to be affected by failure/negative reviews. I’m no exception, but I don’t let it bog me down. There’s always something to learn from every experience.”

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Mahesh Babu and Keerthy Suresh in '‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' Image Credit: Phars Films

I love the cuisine. Dubai has some great restaurants to offer. Going to theme parks and watersports is my favourite thing to do with my kids. We visited the IMG Worlds Adventure on our last Dubai trip. It was really fun

- Mahesh Babu speaks about his filming experience in Dubai and beyond
Keerthy Suresh talks about working with Mahesh Babu and more:
National Award-winning Indian actress Keerthy Suresh, who shares screen space with Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu in ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata’, was drawn to the star-studded film because it was an out-and-out entertainer with a strong female presence. “It will be a feast for everyone’s eyes. It has action, songs, masala … Everyone is going to enjoy this film. And I am glad that my role isn’t a side-track element at any point,” said Suresh in an interview with Gulf News. The actress was acutely aware that bombastic films with a larger-than-hero like Babu could have insignificant roles for women.
“It’s the first time in my career that I am getting to play an important role in a commercial film like ‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata’ … My character is a part of this story. It starts with me and Mahesh sir … I am not just playing a love interest,” said Suresh. She describes her role as someone who’s wicked.
“I am naughty and bratty in this one ... I am just so excited to be a part of a masala film but honestly I just choose films based on what comes along. I am choosing the best from what comes along my way,” said Suresh. In her new film, she plays a woman who takes on a loan shark played by Babu and makes him bend his trade rules.
The daughter of legendary actress Menaka and acclaimed film producer Suresh Kumar claims she’s in a great spot in her career now. Their dinner table conversations are mostly around the world of films and it’s only natural that she wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps.
“I have always wanted to act and I am so happy that I am here today. I feel blessed to be doing what I love to do … My dream is to do all kinds of films in all languages and genres,” said Suresh.
Very soon, she will also be seen in a Malayalam court-room drama ‘Vaashi’ starring Tovino Thomas.
“It’s like my full-fledged role in a Malayalam film and I am very excited about my role,” said Suresh.
She made her debut in a lead role in 2018 hit ‘Mahanati’ which won her the prestigious National Film Award for Best Actress along with other significant honours such as the Filmfare Award South and two Zee Cine Awards Telugu.
“I am very happy with the way my career is shaping up, but my best is yet to come,” said Suresh.
Did you know?
The UAE was dressed up as Los Angeles in 'Sarkaru Vaari Paata'

"They shot for 24 days straight in locations across Dubai and Sharjah in February 2021, followed by a two-day shoot this April. Since it was filmed right after the COVID-19 wave dissipated, the sets were heavy on protocols such as regular PCR testing. It was a new reality, but Mahesh Babu and Keerthy Suresh were all such fun to work with,” Keshav Purushot, Line Producer, 7Media, a company based in Dubai. He has worked on projects including 'Vikram Vedha'.

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‘Sarkaru Vaari Paata' is out in the UAE cinemas now