On Wednesday, actor Vishnu Manchu assumed the office of the Movie Artists Association (MAA) president, defeating actor Prakash Raj in the 2021 polls for the Telugu film body after a controversy-filled campaign.
The election, which was held on Sunday at Jubilee Hills Public School, saw 605 of the 883 eligible members turning up to vote. Actors Chiranjeevi, Pawan Kalyan, Nandamuri Balakrishna, Nagarjuna, Mohan Babu, Jaya Prada, Roja and Genelia, were among the many who voted.
The MAA results were announced on the same day, and saw Manchu securing 380 votes to Prakash Raj’s 274. The newly elected members, however, were drawn from both sides. While Manchu was elected as the president, Srikanth (from Prakash Raj’s side) became the new executive vice president. Madala Ravi was elected as the vice president and Raghu Babu as the general secretary. Uttej and Gowtham Raj became the joint secretaries, and Siva Balaji, the treasurer.
The campaign leading up to the polls was far from smooth. Both parties engaged in a war of words that took an ugly turn. Prakash Raj had alleged that Manchu and his family were resorting to unethical practices for victory. He said that Manchu was trying to win the votes of senior actors by paying for their postal ballot votes. Denying these allegations, Manchu retorted that Prakash Raj has been creating a “nuisance” in every film industry and countered with a warning to not drag his family name into “petty politics.”
To gain a better understanding of the fiercely-fought MAA elections, Silverscreen India spoke to sources in the know from the Telugu film industry.
What is the MAA?
A Telugu film industry apex body, the Movie Artists Association exclusively comprises of members whose main profession is acting. However, it is not mandatory for an actor to be a member to act in the industry.
Formed in 1980s, the organisation has gained importance primarily through its members, who are naturally known faces among the public. “With the glamour that the actors bring with them, the MAA gets more hype than other organisations. However, the elections till now were never controversial like this one,” said a source in the know.
MAA elections take place once every two years. The outgoing president is Naresh. “There were no elections until 2015, though the president was chosen unanimously. It was only after 2015 that they adopted a democratic way of polling,” another source said.
Responsibilities of the MAA:
The body’s main responsibility is to address the concerns of movie artists. The body also serves as a mediator when disputes arise between parties.
Manchu, in his election campaign, had made 14 promises, including a new building for MAA, support for female and elderly members, and the provision of discounts at Mohan Babu Film Institute for the underprivileged.
“Manchu has a good relationship with the AP government, and he had promised for the welfare of the industry, including handling issues such as ticket pricing, timings, etc,” our source said, noting however that the MAA does not have any political affiliations in either of the Telugu-speaking states.
Post poll drama:
Following his defeat, Prakash Raj announced his resignation from the MAA on Monday, alleging that the recent elections were based on ‘regionalism’. Following this, 11 members from his side who were elected, also submitted their resignations.
Despite Prakash Raj and Manchu reportedly being spotted hugging each other and exchanging pleasantries on the day of the elections and Manchu sharing a screenshot of his alleged conversation with Prakash Raj, in which the latter accepted defeat and offered his support “as a non-member,” Prakash Raj tweeted that there was a “deeper meaning” behind his resignation.
Actor-producer Naga Babu, in his resignation letter, said that there has been a “drastic and disgusting shift in the evolution of members both as artists and humans.”
On Thursday, Prakash Raj addressed the Election Officer of MAA, Sri Krishnamohan, on Twitter and claimed that Mohan Babu and Naresh “abused, threatened and physically attacked” MAA members during the recent election.
“I assume you used your discretionary powers to allow them and their henchmen in the polling arena. Some of the visuals were leaked to media and it had a field day. MAA elections and later incidents made us laughing stock [in] the eye of the public,” he wrote and requested the election officer to view the CCTV footage recorded on voting day for corroboration of his claims. Adding that he feared that the footage might get “deleted or tampered,” Prakash Raj urged the election officer to act immediately and acknowledge the letter.
Regionalism, the reason for friction?
Prakash Raj’s main allegation was that regionalism played a role in the results. Naga Babu also noted in his letter that the MAA is “driven by forces of regionalism and narrow-mindedness under influences of muscle and money.”
It is be noted that Prakash Raj, who hails from Karnataka, has acted in several Tamil, Kannada and Telugu films and can speak Telugu fluently. On the other hand, Manchu, who was born in Chennai, is son of veteran Telugu actor Mohan Babu and works predominantly in the Telugu film industry.
“Prakash Raj was backed by Chiranjeevi. If it had been someone else instead of Prakash, things would have been different. Many stressed on the fact that he is not a Telugu native and turned this into a Telugu vs non-Telugu election. That why is many voted against him. Prakash Raj was also banned sometime back due to disciplinary issues and this also factored into his defeat,” our source said.
Another source revealed that while the Machu family and Chiranjeevi’s family are good friends, the latter’s support of Prakash Raj created a rift in the recent elections.