THIS has been a great year for Mugen Rao. The local entertainer was a contestant on season 3 of the Tamil-language version of Bigg Boss, a popular reality television game show produced in India, becoming its first Malaysian participant.
He then created history by beating 16 other contestants to become the first Malaysian winner on the show.
In Bigg Boss, contestants live together in a house and are cut off from the outside world. This creates tension and drama, and the audience is treated to huge outbursts of emotions from the contestants. Contestants are slowly voted out, week by week, and the last one left will win a cash prize.
What motivated Mugen to join Bigg Boss? He said: “I saw the first season in 2017 and I loved it. I told my family I wanted to be a contestant.”
The show, he said, taught him patience, how to handle different personalities and how to live without a handphone.
Besides winning the title, his fondest memory was mingling with the show’s host, the legendary actor Kamal Hassan.
“His dedication to his art really impressed me,” said Mugen. “He is so humble. I remember I was stunned when I first met him. I was at a loss for words.”
There have been accusations that, in order to win votes and the hearts of the audience, Mugen was manipulative and told sob stories of an unhappy childhood and of suffering mental anguish over his parents’ arguments.
He said: “Victory is never easy. You have to face the consequences of your win. If someone else had won, there would be people who would have found flaws in him.
“I think there were more positive things said about me [than negative]. We should focus on the positive comments and dismiss the negative.”
Mugen certainly has no time to worry about his critics, as it looks like 2020 will be a busy year for the 24-year-old. After his win, Mugen was flooded with acting offers from the Indian film industry. He also received offers to write songs for Kollywood films.
He has already accepted offers to act in two romantic comedies, and shooting for the first film starts in early January.
Asked why he decided to act in romantic comedies, he said: “So far, I am seen as the good boy next door and these roles will be perfect for me.”
But in future, he wants to take on different roles to become a more versatile actor. He also hopes to play negative roles which he described as “always interesting and unpredictable”.
For now, he wants to build a name for himself in the Kollywood film industry. However, he dismissed rumours that he would be moving to India for good in order to focus on the Tamil film industry there.
“I will never forget Malaysia,” he said. “This is where I started my career.”
Instead, Mugen plans to work with local talents here and to produce films in Malaysia.
“But first, I need to establish myself in India,” he says.
“If you are famous in India, there will be more people inclined to support you to do projects here.”
He is also open to the possibility of acting in Malay films as he believes it will broaden his horizon and attract a new segment of fans. He has already appeared in two episodes of popular Malay TV cop show, Gerak Khas.
Mugen is also grateful that his newfound fame is allowing him to do good in society.
“I love giving motivational talks,” he said. “I tell people to not give up on life and to believe in their dreams. When you are famous, people will listen.”
Of course there are also challenges to his growing fame.
“Not everyone likes you when you are famous,” he said. “People will start talking bad about you. At the same time, you will lose some privacy as [people] will be watching you.”
Mugen said he was “very negative” as a teenager. He chose to become a more positive person when he turned 18, and he found his life changing for the better.
“I believe in the law of attraction. You become what you believe in,” he said.
Being an entertainer was not Mugen’s first choice of career. When he was younger he wanted to become a police officer.
Unfortunately, when he was 18, a robber stole his handphone and wallet, and also wounded his hand with a samurai sword.
Mugen said: “I thought I would never be able to use my hand muscles again, so I decided to forget my dream to be a police officer and I became an entertainer instead.”
Fortunately Mugen had some experience with the entertainment industry, as his father was a part-time singer.
“I used to follow my father to his singing functions and he encouraged me to sing to the crowd,” he said.
“From my father, I learnt to sing and from my mother, I learnt about love. She has always loved me unconditionally.”
Speaking of love, Mugen admitted to having someone special in his life, but said he was not ready to divulge details yet.
He said: “She is my best friend. Love is something you should focus on in life. It keeps your heart happy.”