Many roles for Mohan Babu

T. Lalith Singh

HYDERABAD: With a range of roles from hero to villain on screen, and educationist to politician in real life, Mohan Babu has donned different hats in a colourful career that has spanned three decades. One of the most popular film stars in Telugu, he now looks set for more action. He says: "I might float a political outfit of my own."

Betrayals by those who were close to him forced him to stay away from politics for a brief period, but a return to active politics is certain, he says. The actor who has been in 506 films says: "I want the youth to play a more proactive role in cleansing the system of the present ills, and to activate them I am planning a new political platform."

Mohan Babu was closely associated with N.T. Rama Rao and the Telugu Desam but later distanced himself from the party. He, however, speaks of a good personal equation with Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and seeks to clarify matters by saying: "My contemplations on a new political force is not aimed against the present Congress Government." Promising to come out with his plans soon, he says: "I will consult friends, well-wishers and seniors about this."

Born in Modugulapalem across the Swarnamukhi river between Tirupati and Srikalahasti in Chittoor district, young Mohan Babu nurtured his passion for cinema in Chennai where he studied. "I would go to Pondy Bazaar in the evenings and hang around to catch a glimpse of actors."

A break into the film industry was not easy but he persevered. In a nostalgic mood he recalls the days when a car shed was his shelter in Chennai. Small offers soon came his way, and doggedness paid. The first real break came in Swargam Narakam, released on November 22, 1975. Three decades later, the moment when Dasari Narayan Rao gave him the role is fresh in Mohan Babu's memory. "He gave me a real chance to prove my talent and shape my success on the silver screen. He is my greatest mentor."

The long list of hits that the star, whose trademark mannerisms are hits with the masses, include Assembly Rowdy, Kondaveeti Simham, Major Chandrakanth and Peda Rayudu. NTR still occupies a key space in Mohan Babu's film and personal career. "Some of the best moments in my career are [of] my association with NTR," he says. The legend of the Telugu screen appeared in Mohan Babu's Major Chandrakanth after a hiatus. The movie turned out to be a hit. As a producer he rolled out 44 films, most of which succeeded at the box office.

As president of the Movie Artistes Association (MAA), he is working to turn it into a vibrant body. Mohan Babu's sons, Vishnu and Manoj, have started making waves on the screen.

Realising a long-held desire to provide education to children, Mohan Babu started the Sree Vidyaniketan group of educational institutions that offer 25 per cent seats to the poor and backward classes, and provide them free education and boarding. The Mohan Babu Charitable Foundation raises funds during natural calamities and helps the needy.