He’s a brilliant actor, a doting father and a great husband. For a long time, we’ve known him as Mahesh Babu, an established Telugu actor who delicately balances work and family. Glimpses of his private life have been rare. This Father’s Day, You & I gets close to the Prince of the Ghattamaneni family, and his firstborn, Gautam, through the words of someone who knows him almost as well as he knows himself, perhaps even better: his wife, former Miss India and ex-Bollywood actress Namrata Shirodkar.
How did you and Mahesh feel when you found out that you were going to be parents?
We were very nervous. Gautam was born prematurely, four weeks before the date the doctors had given us. There were a few complications that, I must say, frightened us. But thinking back now, I think it was a fabulous experience; something neither of us will ever forget. In fact, Gautam was quite tiny. We were scared at times, but Mahesh was there and gave his full support. He was my pillar of strength, and the way he took care of every little detail and Gautam made me realise then that he would make a very good father.
What sort of a relationship does Mahesh share with his father (Krishna) and with Gautam?
A Mahesh treats his father with a lot of respect and dignity. He has tremendous love and respect for him. They share a warm father-son relationship, which is strong in a very traditional way. However, Mahesh’s equation with Gautam is based more on friendship and fun, very much like most modern father-son relationships. He’s more of a friend to Gautam. On the other hand, Gautam loves to meet his granddad and they share a lovely connection. Their equation is very different – he’s a real doting grandfather, so Gautam gets pampered like anything by him!
What’s Mahesh like as a father? Is he a better father or a better husband?
A He’s a cool dad and extremely patient. He’s an equally good husband! He constantly takes us out on fun trips, even if it’s just for two days. And on trips both of them like to go cycling and they recently went to the zoo, which Gautam loved. He has endless patience with Gautam, especially when he asks questions about anything and everything! He’s got an enquiring mind and Mahesh encourages him completely.
What has being a father changed in Mahesh?
A He’s very loving and even more responsible now. He’s very caring and knows that he needs to spend time with us. He constantly makes an effort to do that. He doesn’t socialise as much as he used to; now family always comes first. It’s called being a ‘Dad’!
Who reads bedtime stories to Gautam? You or Mahesh?
I read bedtime stories to Gautam, to which both of them fall asleep. They are like two kids! (laughs) Mahesh likes bathing Gautam whenever he gets time. It’s sweet to see them bond together; he completely spoils him. Mahesh loves gaming with Gautam and they play Nintendo or Wii all the time. He loves to take him swimming. They watch a lot of TV and his favourite cartoons are Tom and Jerry and Doraemon.
Who’s the bad guy between you and Mahesh?
I’m the bad guy! If anyone has to be strict with Gautam and discipline him, it’s me. But I’m also the one who spends more time with him, so it’s fair enough. Mahesh gets less time with Gautam, so he gets to pamper him. And they both love every minute of it!
Name one quality you like the most in Gautam.
A He’s a sensible kid. Both of us agree on that. He doesn’t bring down the house, like kids do generally when they make a fuss or throw a tantrum. If he doesn’t get something he wants, he handles it well. But Mahesh tries to fulfil all his wishes, so he has very little to complain about! - as told to Rahul