The high-voltage elections to the Movie Artistes Association (MAA), Tollywood’s apex industry body, ended on Sunday with actor-producer Manchu Vishnu’s convincing victory over noted character actor Prakash Raj, aka Prakash Rai in Kannada and Hindi filmdom.
At 39, the scion of the Manchu clan is easily the youngest actor to win the post of president of the powerful Telugu film body. Along with movies, Vishnu has been a businessman, with interests in education and other sectors. Apparently leveraging his business skills, Vishnu crafted a poll campaign that upset the calculations of the rival camp, which had the backing of the powerful Chiranjeevi clan.
Compared to the other leading Tollywood film families, such as those of Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, and Balakrishna, the Manchus, with four stars in the family — patriarch Mohan Babu, daughter Lakshmi Prasanna, Vishnu and Manoj — are seen to enjoy relatively less clout.
Mohan Babu, known popularly as the ‘Collection King’ for his blockbuster Telugu movies, is famous for his mercurial temperament. He has a blow hot-blow cold relationship with Chiranjeevi and the MAA elections saw them ranged against each other.
The MAA elections saw Vishnu woo voters with a manifesto that included several welfare measures for the Telugu movie industry fraternity. Apart from calling on senior actors for support, a carefully orchestrated poll campaign by his father soon had the attention of the voters diverted to the issue of “local versus non-local”.
Prakash Raj, who hails from neighbouring Karnataka, but has had a long association with Tollywood, polled 274 votes to Vishnu’s 381.
As a child, Vishnu first acted in his father’s movie ‘Ragile Gundelu’ in 1985. He made his big-screen debut with ‘Vishnu’ in 2003. His biggest commercial success has been ‘Dhee’ in 2007. Incidentally, his co-star in the movie, Genelia De Souza, flew in from Mumbai to vote in the polls. It’s another indication of the meticulous planning that went into winning the vote, according to industry observers.
Vishnu is married to Viranica, niece of the late former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy. The couple have four children — twin daughters and a daughter and son.