Ghattamaneni Mahesh Babu was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to prominent Telugu Cinema Actor Krishna Ghattamaneni and Smt. Indira Devi on August 9, 1975. He is the younger brother of actor turned producer Ramesh Babu Ghattamaneni. He also has two elder sisters, Padmavathi and actress-producer Manjula Ghattamaneni and one younger sister Priyadarshini. Mahesh's childhood was spent mostly in Madras under the care of his paternal grandmother Smt. Durgamma and the rest of his family. He studied at St. Bede's School in Chennai while continuing to attend his dad's filming during holidays. He obtained an Honours Degree in Commerce from Loyola College, Chennai. He started his acting career by playing a small role in his brother Ramesh Babu's debut film, Needa (1979), at the age of 4. He was later seen in films such as Poratam (1983), Sankharavam (1987), Bazaar Rowdy (1988), Mugguru Kodukulu (1988), Gudachari 117, Koduku Diddina Kapuram (1989), Balachandrudu (1990) and Anna Tammudu (1990). He acted in seven of his father's films as a child actor.
He has given 30% of his annual income to charities, and most of his philanthropic activities are unpublicised because he prefers them to be so. Mahesh joined Farhan Akhtar's Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD) campaign in August 2013 and lent his voice to the Telugu version of a poem written by Javed Akhtar. He is considered one of the most popular actors in Telugu cinema. He is one of the best South Indian brand ambassadors, being the celebrity model for close to a dozen brands. Mahesh stood in the 31st place on the Forbes India 'Celebrity 100' List for the year 2012, with an annual earnings figure of 422.5 million. He stood in the 15th place in terms of Money and 79th place in terms of Fame. He slipped to the 54th position on the same list for the year 2013 with his annual earning figures, Money ranking and Fame ranking descending to 289.6 million, 24 and 84, respectively. However, he climbed to the 30th position the following year with an annual earning figure of 510 million. His Money and Fame rankings stood at 14 and 84, respectively.
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