'The Pay Was Just RM50': From Struggling Entertainer To Superstar, Mugen Rao And His Rise To Fame

An inspiring story.

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'The Pay Was Just RM50': From Struggling Entertainer To Superstar, Mugen Rao And His Rise To Fame
Rojak Daily/Letchumy Tamboo & Instagram

Mugen Rao has an inspiring story to share.

India’s hugely popular Tamil version of the reality TV show 'Bigg Boss' had just concluded its fourth successful season.

While many of fans of 'Bigg Boss Tamil’ were sceptical that the show would take off in the middle of a pandemic as it required more than a dozen people staying together in a house, it surprised everyone by running its fourth course albeit some delay.

Despite that, the recent show proved to be a let down and even boring for millions of its viewers as it lacked the fire, spirit, fun and drama that were the essence of previous seasons, particularly the third one.

Many couldn’t help but compare the current contestants to the previous ones, who undoubtedly gave the show its entertainment factor.

One of the most popular contestants from seasons past was Malaysia’s very own Mugen Rao Prakash Rao, a crowd favourite who went on to win season three of the show after gaining over 700 million votes in the grand finale of the show.

Rojak Daily recently caught up with the busy artist to catch up on his life before and after the big win.

Humble beginnings

If a couple of years ago the name Mugen Rao did not ring a bell in anyone’s mind, today, it has become a household name in almost every Tamil family in India and even in Malaysia after he became the champion of 'Bigg Boss Tamil Season 3'.

In fact, in Malaysia, Mugen Rao has also gained recognition among non-Indians. His sweet nature and laidback attitude throughout the show has gained him a massive fanbase.

A quick search in the social media revealed that he has hundreds of fan accounts dedicated to his name set up by his adoring fans both in India and Malaysia.

Despite the craze over him, Mugen remains humble.

Staying humble.
“I started from a very humble beginning. My interest in entertainment industry was inspired by none other than my father.

“My father was a part time stage singer. I watched him performing since I was seven years old and followed him around whenever he had shows.

“At that tender age, I was always awestruck by the energetic claps that he gets from the audiences whenever he finished singing. I wanted people to clap for me too. So, I told my father that I wanted to sing too. He didn’t stop me from doing so. In fact, he trained my vocals,” Mugen told us.

Mugen said not long after undergoing training with his father, he started singing in his school societies and with friends.

When he turned 16, he got more serious about singing and song writing. He then wrote his first song titled "Kaathale kaneer" (Love Is Tears).

Despite the effort, he didn’t get a chance to sing the song for at least two years as he faced financial difficulties.

He owes his success to a kind man.
It was then he met a kind soul that helped him along in his musical journey.

“I met Edwin when I was looking for a studio to record my song. He was the owner of music record label IBP Studios and he liked my song.

“He invited me to come over to record the song, but I kept on delaying the recording as I had no money to pay for the recording fee. 

“Edwin never gave up and kept asking me to come and asked what’s stopping me. Finally, I was honest with him told him that I don’t have the money to do it. Edwin was kind enough to sponsor for me as he said he liked the talent I have,” Mugen explained.

From there, Mugen, who is ever grateful for Edwin’s support, slowly wrote and recorded songs under the same record label and developed his career in music.

Putting in the work

Mugen, who finally released "Kaathale Kaneer" when he was 18, received a huge response from the public.

“The local Tamil radio stations continuously played my song and after the release people gave me so much positive feedback. People in the industry told me that it’s unusual for a newcomer to receive such response. 

“So, I didn’t want to let the golden opportunity slip by and built on my career from there.”

Mugen has since came up with countless hit singles that has reached millions of views on YouTube including "Kayalvizhi", "Pogiren", "Abinaya" and "Maya".

Apart from song writing and singing, Mugen also showed a keen interest in acting and aptly, opportunities came his way at the right time.

He said he actually started acting when he was 13 in a telemovie titled ‘Senandung Malam’, which was a tribute to P. Ramlee. 

“The opportunity came through a late local actor who was acquainted to me. From there, I began getting calls to act in other Malay telemovies and dramas.

“To date I’ve acted in ‘Rumah Kecil Itu’, ‘Da Bomba’, ‘Sindiket Fixi’, ‘Rembau Ada Wifi’ and ‘Gerak Khas’.

Baby steps for Mugen.
“I took up one project at a time as I was still studying. Despite the exposure in local Malay telemovies and drama, I had fewer chances in local Tamil productions. So, I starred in my own music videos to show my talent. I also directed the music videos. 

“Not only that, I took up small roles even to act in small budget advertisements where the pay can be as low as RM50. I would travel the distance with my old motorbike and sometimes wait long hours for the shoot. Despite that, I persevered because of the passion and drive and I am glad I did.”

'Bigg Boss' opportunity

The eldest of three siblings said the opportunity to become a contestant in 'Bigg Boss Tamil' came via an unexpected audition call through a Malaysian friend who works for India’s Vijay Television, the home of the popular show. 

“When I first got the call, I thought someone was playing a prank as it was a big show. When I learnt that the call for audition was real, I consulted my family and friends. All of them asked me to not miss this opportunity. 

“So, I went to the audition in India and that was the first time I stepped foot in the country too. After the audition, I came back to Malaysia and almost immediately was told that I am selected as one of the contestants.

“The show’s organisers only gave me about one week to prepare. So, I put all my other projects at home on hold, packed my bags and flew to India for the show,” he laughed.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime.Mugen said he was, at first, nervous at the thought of living with strangers in a confined space for 100 days while being filmed.

However, he said people in the house made him comfortable despite being from another nationality and that was all he needed to feel at home.

“I was particularly close to Tharshan, Sandy and Kavin. Tharshan is a person who never gives up and is a driven soul. Sandy is a jolly and entertaining person. Kavin knows what he wants and is focused. They made being in the house more fun.”

Mugen said life after 'Bigg Boss' changed tremendously for him.

“Before 'Bigg Boss', I was looking for opportunities. After 'Bigg Boss', opportunities are looking for me,” he said.

Hitting the big screen.
He revealed that among the huge opportunity that came his way when a famous Kollywood film director approached him.

“I have already signed two Kollywood films with popular Indian production companies to act as a hero.”

It was widely reported that his maiden Kollywood movie is titled 'Vettri', and he is working on another movie called 'Velan'.

Not bad for a guy who did commercials for just RM50 back in the day, huh?

Inspiring young talents

Work hard at your dreams and you'll make it.With the big win in the show and becoming a well-known name, Mugen undoubtedly has inspired many young talents to walk his path.

To those waiting for a big break, he has these words to say:

“While you may have dreams to set your foot in the entertainment industry, never, ever forget to focus on your studies. Keep studies as your priority and try to find a stable income at the same time.

“It will be a uphill task to get opportunities in the entertainment industry especially when you are an unknown name in the industry. Never give up. And remember, once you land an opportunity, use that as a platform to get more opportunities.”

Wise words, Mugen Rao.

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