Dear readers far and wide and closer to home sweet home, this time I’d like to share with you my foray into Telugu filmdom and my rendezvous in Hyderabad with Vishnu Manchu, son of ‘collection king’ Padma shri Mohan Babu.
Out of the blue I got a call from Vishnu asking if I’d fly down to Hyderabad and subtitle his soon to be released film ‘Dhenikainaready’ which translates to ‘I am ready for anything’. I was on cloud 9 for his unflinching faith in me and the fact that Tollywood was getting out of its ‘frog in the well’ avatar as regards subs!
Like a mad woman I worked for 3 ½ days with Jayaram (who knew Tamil, Telugu and English, my God-send) and Santosh (asst editor) for 17 hours nonstop, to complete subtitling the film, with Raju and Bachi piling hot idlis, spicy chutneys and lime juice for sustenance through the wee hours of the night.
On the last day, Vishnu treated me to an exclusive dinner at the Hyatt and here’s what I found out about Vishnu the man, son of a celebrity star-actor, father of twin girls, husband of a wife politically connected, supportive brother, producer with a purpose and most important of all, hero with a host of dreams to change South Indian cinema.
Vishnu is tall and has the charm that can lure even anacondas out of their comfortable hide-out, from the swamps of Orinoco basin! His dimpled and winning smile can break a million hearts, am sure he has a bevy of fans making a beeline for him.
But what amazed me is, he is so ‘non-celeb’, down to earth, focused and the fact that his previous few films didn’t do well does not in the least deter him from his determined path to realizing his dreams. So I started my tirade of questions and he answered all of them with utmost patience, baring his soul, which he later accepted he rarely does!
His desire to act and capture the celluloid world seems to have been his Adam’s rib, born with him. He knew this was his calling, literally from day one…or year one! He is the middle one, sandwiched in between his siblings Lakshmi and Manoj. This reminded me of a conversation I had long ago with Karthi (of Saguni-Alex Pandian fame) whose logic was that the 1st born invariably is dad’s pride and the youngest one becomes mom’s favorite, and the middle one ends up as nobody’s pet! But Vishnu did not seem to suffer from such hypotheses.
He heads 24Frames factory, his production house that has grandiose plans of producing a film a year and gradually increasing to more, prioritizing content and quality of course.
Having studied in PSBB, Chennai he speaks Tamil fluently and knows Madras (Chennai) like the back of his hand. He plans to step into Kolly-wood and woo the fans here in a big way. He graduated from Sree Vidyanikethan Engineering College, (started by his dad in 1996 inspired by JK’s vision incorporated in Rishi valley) and is now the CEO of Sree Vidyanikethan Educational Trust as well as Mohan Babu Corporation.
Oops I almost forgot…Vishnu also heads Thinksmart, a post production set up, with CG, VFX, edit, dubbing, sound mixing! In fact his brother-in-law is in charge of an office in USA that specializes in ‘closed captioning’ and I wouldn’t be surprised if he adds subtitling to his repertoire.
Talking to him, I realized a deep streak of philanthropy runs within Vishnu’s veins. What started in 1992 as a residential school, with a strength of 215 students (and they support and sponsor 25% free education, right to this day) has now up surged to 10,000 students.
This in fact was Vishnu’s introduction, not the films he acted…but how he would like to give back to the society, for being blessed without complaints or regrets in his own life. Many people do say this for the sake of saying, but coming from Vishnu I could sense an earnestness and in his voice a genuine compassion for the under privileged.
He with full support from his dad has adopted 10 villages near Tirupathi to ensure they have proper civic amenities…he has also started a campaign ‘Army green’ and taken the effort despite his hectic schedule to talk to many college students to give him a helping hand to evolve ‘a whole new world’ in the back of beyond. This is to provide basic amenities, sanitation, school furniture, note books and other essential study materials plus teach the young ones in the villages they adopt about health, hygiene and sanitation. Though I must add he hated talking about this and I had to drag the words out of his mouth, in fact he asked me not to highlight it as he believes that what the right hand gives the left hand should not know! Least of all, the whole world!
Prior to his debut he trained himself adequately in stunt choreography from world acclaimed Tim Storms and honed his dancing skills in Millenium and The Edge, in L.A. His earliest memories of his dad is, standing out of his house waving ‘tata’ to him as he sped away for a shoot, a long stint away from home. His mom brought stability to his childhood days, though he was always in awe of his dad and wanted to emulate him a.s.a.p.
Now a dad himself, Vishnu earnestly said, ‘To Ariaana and Viviaana if I am 10% of what my dad was to us…’ and his voice trailed, the smile stretched right up to his eyes. His dad he proudly claimed was the highest paid villain (on screen) in the country! His dream is to make a deep impact in all South Indian films with the global audience.
He met Viranica in her grandfather’s birthday party and Cupid pierced his arrows into both their hearts…swish…dash…bang…and they both fell…in love :> She moved from the U.S here just for him and he said this with so much pride, so endearingly. Wedding bells rang on March 1st 2009…and the fairy tale romance still continues.
His 1st film released in 2003, named Vishnu, directed by Shaji Kailas. The day before release his dad watched the film and said, ‘remember irrespective of the film doing well or otherwise you’ve done a great debut job, I didn’t do half as well as this for my 1st film’. No wonder Vishnu idolizes his dad, I thought to myself!
It was with his 5th film Dhee (not counting his appearance as a child artiste in Ragile gundelu and his special appearance in ‘Political rowdy’) in 2007 that became the talk of the town and Vishnu knew the flavor of success! The 1st thought that flashed in his mind was ‘I don’t want to wake up from my dream’! Touched by the adulation and overwhelmed Vishnu realized on April 13th 2007 that victory produces tears too!
To 24Frames Factory goes the credit of launching Taapsee in their debut production Vastadu Naa Raju (My prince will come) in 2011 and now Dhenikainaready to be released within a few weeks, directed by G Nageshwar Reddy which Vishnu is optimistic will be the laughing riot it promises to be.
I must add, Vishnu’s strength and weakness is his forthrightness. After watching VTV, he called Simbu (his brother’s friend and they go back a long way) and said, ‘I respect you as an actor for the first time’!! And what makes him exclusive and endearing is the fact he has a bag of dreams he’s carrying on his back and he intends each and every one of them to become reality! And there’s no stopping him…’stumbling block’ are words that don’t exist in his dictionary.
Let us welcome him with open hearts and stretched out hands, to his optimism and energy, and his ‘Dhenikainaready’ let’s be ready!
And I had the pleasure of meeting his dad on the way back home and was indeed surprised to hear him speak flawless Tamil…but that’s for another ‘talkie with rekhs’
‘Ika selavu’…?! ;-)
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