Director: Mahi V. Raghav
Cast: Mammootty, Rao Ramesh, Posani Krishna Murali, Suhasini, Jagapathi Babu, Sachin Khedekar and others
It’s biopic time in Tollywood and this week’s big release, Yatra, is said to be based on the 1,470-km ‘Praja Prasthanam’ padayatra of the late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy which brought him to power in the 2004 elections.
Mahi V. Raghav directs Mammootty who plays YSR, and, unlike the other two biopics, is made on a limited budget.
The story is well-known: YSR, then in the Opposition, is looking for something that will fire the people’s imagination in 2003. The Congress has been out of power for a decade. YSR embarks on the padayatra, starts from Chevella of Ranga Reddy district and walks all the way to Ichapuram of Srikakulam district.
YSR meets all sections of people, listens to their problems and makes them several promises. During the walk YSR gets the inspiration for his famous welfare schemes like Arogyasri, fee reimbursement and free power for farmers. He wins the next year, and retains power in 2009. The story ends with his death in a helicopter crash on September 2 of that year.
The director has taken only the padayatra part. Yatra starts off well, and Raghav portrays earnestly the dilemma of YSR before he embarks on the move that finally brought him victory. The emotional scenes are done really well in the first half, especially when YSR ponders over whether to retire or to continue in politics.
However, Raghav takes such a hard political look at the padayatra that some of the instances that placed YSR a cut above the rest are lost. For one, he does not etch well how YSR took inspiration from the people to announce his popular welfare schemes.
There are a few other instances, especially the one of YSR refusing to meet the high command alone as he and his close friend K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao a.k.a. KVP are inseparable, which made YSR what he was. But the director takes too many cinematic liberties.
The second half is like a documentary save a few scenes here and there. In the last few minutes, Raghav features the original footage of YSR’s last moments and the last rites, the family’s tributes to him and his son Jagan Mohan Reddy vowing to continue in his father footsteps.
Whether the director agrees or not, the film definitely comes as a big support to the YSR Congress as it aims to wrest power in Andhra Pradesh, and helps Jagan. Some Congress leaders like V.H. Hanumantha Rao are shown in a poor light.
Many questioned Raghav when he selected Malayalam superstar Mammootty to play YSR, and there were questions about his not knowing Telugu. As it turns out, the actor he is, Mammotty is definitely a good choice. He lives YSR’s role. The body language, the mannerisms and the dialogues — in Mammootty’s voice — are perfect.
The next big role of KVP is played by Rao Ramesh, who once again stands out and performs with a lot of dignity. Rao Ramesh’s KVP, like the original, is not talkative, gives succinct advise and stays good friends with YSR.
In other roles, Ashrita Vemuganti is perfect as Y.S. Vijayamma. The movie featues Posani, Vinod Kumar, Suhasini as Sabitha Indra Reddy, Jagapathi Babu as YSR’s father Y.S. Raja Reddy, Anasuya as Charitha in a cameo and Sachin Khedekar as a high command leader. The dialogues are very good and equally well rendered by Mammootty. Sirivennela has penned the songs, the lyrics are good and the music is apt. The film misses a few facts and uses its cinematic licence and does send up being pro-YSRC....