Mahesh has been cited in the media as one of the most attractive male celebrities in India. His accomplishments have established him as a leading actor in Telugu cinema. Referred In the media as the Prince of Tollywood he is one of the most popular and influential actors of Telugu Cinema.
Mahesh was born on 9 August 1975 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. He was the fourth of the five children of Telugu actor Krishna and Indira, succeeding Ghattamaneni Ramesh Babu, Padmavathi and Manjula Swaroop and preceding Priyadarshini. Mahesh's childhood was spent mostly in Chennai under the care of his maternal grandmother Durgamma and the rest of his family. Since Krishna was busy with his film commitments, Ramesh used to look after Mahesh's academic performance. Along with his siblings, Mahesh used to play cricket regularly at the VGP Golden beach in Chennai. To spend time with him, Krishna used to make sure that his films' shoots would be conducted at the VGP Universal Kingdom during the weekends.
Krishna also made sure that none of his children would reveal his name during their schooling to ensure a peaceful environment. He was educated at St. Bede's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School in Chennai where actor Karthi was his schoolmate. Mahesh was an above average student. He obtained a bachelor's degree in commerce from Loyola College in Chennai. After graduating, he met with director L. Satyanand in Vishakhapatnam for further training in acting which went on for three to four months. Being unable to read and write Telugu, he used to memorise the dialogues given by his directors during the dubbing phase of his films.
At the age of four, Mahesh visited the sets of the Telugu film Needa (1979) where its director Dasari Narayana Rao shot a few sequences of his as a part of the narrative in the presence of the former's brother Ramesh. Needa marked his debut as a child actor. During the shoot of Poratam (1983) at Vauhini Studios, after watching Mahesh on the sets director Kodi Ramakrishna suggested to Krishna that he cast Mahesh in the role of the protagonist's brother. Initially terrified, Mahesh agreed to act in the film after being persuaded by the film's crew. He went on to act as a child artist in the films Shankharavam (1987), Bazaar Rowdy (1988), Mugguru Kodukulu (1988) and Gudachari 117 (1989). He played a dual role in the film Koduku Diddina Kapuram (1989). Mahesh then appeared in Bala Chandrudu (1990), and Anna Thammudu (1990). Later, Mahesh continued his college studies.
In 1999, Mahesh made his debut as a lead actor with the film Raja Kumarudu, directed by K. Raghavendra Rao and co-starring Priety Zinta. The film was commercially successful, and people began referring to him with the title Prince. He received the Nandi Award for Best Male Debut. He starred in two films the following year – Yuvaraju and Vamsi. Following their poor performance at the box office, Mahesh starred in Krishna Vamsi's Murari the next year. Mahesh called Murari an important film in his career and the role he played in it one of his favourites. Murari was a commercial success and earned him the Nandi Special Jury Award. Though his 2002 releases Takkari Donga and Bobby performed poorly at the box office, Mahesh received his second Nandi Special Jury Award for his performance in the former.
Mahesh had two film releases in 2003, the first one being Gunasekhar's Okkadu co-starring Bhumika Chawla, which went on to become the highest grossing Telugu film of the year. He won his first Filmfare award for best Telugu actor for his performance in the film. The other release was Teja's Nijam co-starring Rakshita. The film was noted for introducing Dolby EX surround system in Telugu cinema. Though the film was a commercial failure, Mahesh received praise from the critics for his performance in the film, with Vijayalaxmi of Rediff.com calling him the only reason to watch the film's second half which she termed a routine tale of vendetta. Mahesh won his first Nandi Best Actor Award for his performance in the film.
Manjula produced his next film, Naani, directed by S. J. Surya co-starring Amisha Patel. While its simultaneously shot Tamil version New featuring a different cast was commercially successful, Naani flopped at the box office. He received the Nandi Special Jury Award for his performance in his next film, Arjun, directed by Gunasekhar and produced by Ramesh. The failure of Naani depressed both Mahesh and Manjula, who took a small break in Goa before resuming their other commitments. He chose to act in Trivikram Srinivas's Athadu, co-starring Trisha Krishnan, whose script had been approved back in 2002 before the production of Naani and Arjun had begun. Athadu became one of the highest-grossing films of the year. The film was commercially profitable venture for the producers and distributors. The film benefited Mahesh's career as he won the Nandi Best Actor Award for his performance in the role of a hired assassin.
Mahesh collaborated with Puri Jagannadh in 2006 for the film Pokiri, which was jointly produced by Jagannadh and Manjula. Made on a budget of ₹100 million and shot within six months, Pokiri became the highest grossing Telugu film of all time by the end of its run, and was screened at the 7th IIFA Awards held in Dubai. Mahesh received praise for his performance, with Y. Sunita Chowdary of The Hindu opining that "Mahesh's understated performance in Pokiri allows him effortlessly to reclaim the title of a star, overshadowing more questionable recent career choices". He won the Filmfare award for best Telugu actor for the second time. That same year, his next film, Sainikudu, co-starring Trisha, was released amid huge expectations but flopped at the box office.
The following year saw Mahesh acting in the film Athidhi, co-starring Amrita Rao marking her Telugu debut. The film was produced by Mahesh's brother Ramesh. UTV Motion Pictures acquired the film's distribution rights for ₹185 million, which became its first Telugu film venture. In 2008, Mahesh provided voice-over for the film Jalsa directed by Trivikram Srinivas.
After Athidhi's release, Mahesh took a break from films for seven months; two months later, he signed Khaleja, but the break was unintentionally extended for two years due to several delays. During this time, Mahesh's grandmother and his wife Namrata's parents died. Krishna was worried about Mahesh's career as the film's shoot was delayed for so long. Upon release, Khaleja received mixed reviews from critics and was a commercial failure in India. However, it managed to perform well at the overseas box office.
In 2011, Mahesh collaborated with Srinu Vaitla for the film Dookudu, which was inspired in part by the 2003 German tragicomedy film Good Bye, Lenin!. Co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu, the film received positive reviews upon release and became one of the highest-grossing films of the year. The Los Angeles Times called Dookudu the "biggest hit you've never heard of". For his performance in the film, Mahesh won the best actor award at the 2012 Nandi Awards ceremony. He also won the best Telugu actor award at the 59th Filmfare Awards South and 1st South Indian International Movie Awards ceremonies. After the film's gross crossed the ₹1 billion mark, Income Tax Department officials conducted a raid on Mahesh's Jubilee Hills residence as he was rumored to be getting a remuneration of more than ₹1.2 million for his next projects.
He later played the role of a mafia kingpin with a hidden personal agenda in the film Businessman, co-starring Kajal Aggarwal and directed by Puri Jagannadh. Upon the film's release, Mahesh received praise from the critics for his performance in the film, with Y. Sunita Chowdary of The Hindu writing, "The film has no frills, no vulgar wastage and the hero is practically in every frame; you hear only his voice, he looks good, sounds good, he also steals the comedian's job. Mahesh plays it straight." Businessman became one of the highest grossing Telugu films of the year. He received a nomination for best Telugu actor award at both the 60th Filmfare Awards South and the 2nd South Indian International Movie Awards ceremonies. By then, Mahesh was reported to be the second highest paid actor in South India after Rajinikanth.
Mahesh then began filming for Srikanth Addala's Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, whose script Mahesh had approved during the pre-production phase of Dookudu. Co-starring Daggubati Venkatesh along with Anjali and Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu became the first Telugu multistarrer film to be produced in the last twenty-five years. Released in January 2013, the film became one of the highest grossing Telugu films of the year and marked the completion of Mahesh's hat-trick of successful films. Mahesh won the best Telugu actor award at the 61st Filmfare Awards South ceremony and the 3rd South Indian International Movie Awards ceremony. He provided voice-over for Srinu Vaitla's Baadshah the same year.
Mahesh had two releases in 2014, the first one being Sukumar's 1: Nenokkadine, a psychological thriller focusing on a celebrity suffering from hallucinations related to the murder of his parents and the discovery of a special variety of rice. Kriti Sanon played the female lead in this film, marking her acting debut. Made on a budget of around ₹700 million, 1: Nenokkadine was released amid huge expectations, but received mixed reviews from the critics, turning out to be a disaster by incurring a loss of around ₹260–270 million. However, Mahesh's performance received praise, with critics calling it one of his best performances. He also earned a nomination for the best Telugu actor at the 4th South Indian International Movie Awards. The other release, Aagadu, directed by Srinu Vaitla and co-starring Tamannaah, flopped at the box office.
Mahesh collaborated with Koratala Siva for the family drama film Srimanthudu co-starring Shruti Haasan. He co-produced the film under his newly formed banner G. Mahesh Babu Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, marking his first film production venture. He opted to do so in order to control the film's budget, accepting a share in profits in lieu of remuneration. Released on 7 August 2015, Srimanthudu opened to positive reviews from the critics, was commercially successful, and gained the best Telugu actor award at the 63rd Filmfare Awards South for Mahesh, marking his resurgence. Sethumadhavan N. of Bangalore Mirror stated, Srimanthudu wouldn't have been as effective if it did not have Mahesh Babu who is at his charming best", adding that he "underplays the emotional scenes, making them a treat to watch".
The Film was a commercial success, grossing nearly ₹2.0 billion globally on a budget of ₹400—700 million and becoming the second-highest grossing Telugu film of all time and the highest grossing Telugu-language-only movie. After the film's release, many actors, bureaucrats and politicians announced plans to develop the backward villages and encouraged the adoption of villages in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Mahesh himself has adopted his native village, Burripalem.
Mahesh acted in Srikanth Addala's Telugu family drama film Brahmotsavam co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Kajal Aggarwal, and Pranitha Subhash. Originally produced as a bi-lingual, the film would've marked Mahesh's first straight Tamil film. However, later on the plan was altered due to its disastrous performance at the Telugu box office and the film wasn't released in Tamil. While the film underperformed at the Boxoffice, the Deccan Chronicle stated that Mahesh Babu was its saving grace. The film was criticized by the public, due to the lack of a proper story. Mahesh stated that this was an error of judgement, where he had picked the wrong director. Mahesh is currently working on Spyder, directed by A. R. Murugadoss, which is going to be Mahesh's 23rd movie as lead actor, and his first bilingual movie which finally marks his first Tamil film. He has signed to do movies with Puri Jagannath and Vamsi. He has also signed to do a movie with director Koratala Siva.
Mahesh Babu is considered one of the most popular actors in Telugu cinema. His popularity has been documented in several Telugu films such as Ashta Chamma (2008), Kiraak (2014), and Superstar Kidnap (2015). He joined Twitter in April 2010 and has 1.05 million followers as of 1 January 2015. He was ranked twelfth on the Times' 50 Most Desirable Men in India for the year 2010. He climbed to the first position of the same list for the year 2013, beating the likes of Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan. He stood at sixth place on the same list for the year 2014. Mahesh has been criticised for his limited and predictable wardrobe while attending any kind of event.
Mahesh is an ambassador for about a dozen of South Indian brands. In 2007, he signed a five-year endorsement deal with the cola company Thums Up to replace Chiranjeevi as its brand ambassador in Andhra Pradesh. He endorsed brands such as UniverCell Mobile Store, Navratna Oil, Amrutanjan, Provogue, ITC Vivel, Jos Alukkas, Idea Cellular, Santoor Soap, South India Shopping Mall, Royal Stag, Rainbow Hospitals, TVS Motor Company, Mahindra Tractors, Paragon footwear, and Tata Sky in South India. He was signed as the brand ambassador of Intex Mobiles in August 2015 for one year. In 2012, he replaced Akshay Kumar as the National brand ambassador for Thums Up across India. He also promotes the real estate firm Ramakrishna Venuzia. Mahesh commands a figure of ₹25—30 million per endorsement per annum, thus earning around ₹300 million per annum as a brand ambassador.
Mahesh stood in the 31st place on the Forbes India 'Celebrity 100' List for the year 2012, with an annual earnings figure of ₹422.5 million. He stood in the 15th place in terms of Money and 79th place in terms of Fame. He slipped to the 54th position on the same list for the year 2013 with his annual earning figures, Money ranking and Fame ranking descending to ₹289.6 million, 24 and 84, respectively. However, he climbed to the 30th position the following year with an annual earning figure of ₹510 million. His Money and Fame rankings stood at 14 and 84, respectively. In 2015, he placed 36th, the highest ranked "Tollywood" celebrity, with an income of Rs. 51 crore. In 2016, he was signed as the brand ambassador of YuppTV and AbhiBus.
During the shoot of B. Gopal's Vamsi at Australia, Mahesh began to date his co-star Namrata Shirodkar. After being in a relationship for four years, they decided to get married, and Manjula convinced Krishna in favour of their decision. They were married on 10 February 2005 at the Marriott Hotel, Mumbai during the shooting of Athadu. The couple welcomed their first child, a boy, on 31 August 2006 at the Global Hospital in Hyderabad. The boy, named Gautham Krishna, was a premature baby and was in critical condition during his birth. His condition turned stable after the doctors treated him in time. On 20 July 2012 Namrata gave birth to a girl whom they named Sitara. Before her delivery, they preserved her stem cells using stem cell banking to ensure a better immunity level.
Telugu actress and filmmaker Vijaya Nirmala is Mahesh's step-mother, and actor Naresh is his step-brother. Mahesh's elder sister Padmapriya was married to Galla Jayadev, an industrialist and Member of the Indian Parliament who is currently aligned with the Telugu Desam Party. Mahesh's younger sister Priyadarshini was married to Sudheer Babu, who later made his debut as an actor in Telugu cinema.
Mahesh gives 30% of his annual income to charities, and most of his philanthropic activities are unpublicised because he prefers them to be so. Mahesh joined Farhan Akhtar's Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD) campaign in August 2013 and lent his voice to the Telugu version of a poem written by Javed Akhtar. He was signed in 2013 as the goodwill ambassador of Heal-a-child Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers financial support to the parents of terminally ill children to help with the cost of medical treatment. In October 2014, he donated ₹2.5 million to a relief fund run by the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh for reconstruction of area destroyed during Cyclone Hudhud. Krishna and Vijaya Nirmala later donated ₹2.5 million to the fund.
Jayadev announced in February 2015 that Mahesh would adopt Krishna's native village Burripalem, a minor panchayat in Tenali, and would address basic needs of the community such as potable drinking water and better roads and drainage systems. Mahesh also announced that he is working with Telangana's Rural Development minister K. T. Rama Rao to adopt another village in Mahbubnagar district.
In September 2004, Mahesh attended a rally organised by his fans at Warangal for the promotional activities of Arjun. He and his fans allegedly raided two video libraries and assaulted their owners who were circulating unauthorized CDs of the film. Cases under IPC section 448 (criminal trespass), section 427 (mischief) and section 366 (kidnap) were registered on Mahesh, who was the principal accused, and five others. Later, a delegation from the Telugu film industry, including Chiranjeevi, Akkineni Nagarjuna, Krishna, Allu Aravind and Daggubati Suresh Babu, approached the then chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy to intervene in this case. Regarding the issue, Mahesh said that while cases were booked against him, not a single case has been booked against the person dealing in bootlegged CDs, which he found the "funniest" thing. Actor and filmmaker Pawan Kalyan openly supported Mahesh throughout the episode. Mahesh surrendered in the district court on 20 September 2004 and appeared before the court again on 22 April 2006. The final hearing was held on 7 July 2006, and Mahesh and the others were exonerated.