Yatra Movie Review: YSR biopic is underwhelming but Mammootty saves the day

After Mahanati’s resounding success, Tollywood has developed a sweet spot for biopics. Recently, NTR Kathanyakudu hit the theatres and now it is Yatra’s turn to grace the screens. Yatra, on the life of YS Rajashekar Reddy, directed by Mahi V Raghav, is a film that shows a series of events that took place in 2003 and how it changed the course of politics in undivided Andhra Pradesh.

Mammootty as YS Rajashekar Reddy in Yatra

Right from trailers and interviews, Mahi and Mammootty made it clear that Yatra is not a biopic on the life of late CM YS Rajashekar Reddy (YSR). The film, in simple words, concentrates on the iconic padayatra he took and how it propelled him to become the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

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YSR’s padayatra is indeed a monumental moment in Andhra Pradesh’s politics. In 2003, Congress had the upper hand and other political parties (including YSR’s) were facing the crunch. YSR’s idea to begin his padayatra turned the tables and eventually, he bet all odds to become the messiah of the people.

For non-Telugu speaking audience, Yatra could serve as a handbook on the events that happened in 2003. But, for Telugu-speaking people, Yatra turns out to be unimpressive as the film lacks the punch and fizzles out towards the end.

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The biopics that have released in recent times – Sanju, Mahanati and NTR Kathanayakudu – dehumanise their respective heroes and project them as gods (or victims of the situation, like in Sanju). Kudos to Mahi Raghav who showcases the humane side of YSR and stays away from glorifying him. More importantly, there are a lot of sequences that show YSR as a man and not a politician.

In that way, Yatra is a film that shows what kind of a man YSR was. While he is compassionate towards the suffering people have had to endure, he is also a person with a devil-may-care attitude. He is a person who undertakes the padayatra to understand the public and also makes his party leader wait for him. The scene in which he makes his party leader wait for him is one of the most well-written scenes in the film.

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Choosing Mammootty to step into the shoes of YSR is a bold choice and a successful one as well. He brings his own charisma and experience to the role. Mammootty, in several interviews, has said that he hasn’t imitated YSR and it has worked in his favour.

Any film for that matter, let alone biopics, is in need of a powerful antagonist. In this case, Mahi Raghav fails to showcase the opposition political parties and their reaction towards YSR’s rise as a probable Chief Minister. It would have given a new dimension to Yatra; but no, Mahi has safely stayed away from it.

Mammootty’s performance is refined and he does not have to mouth page-long dialogues to hold the viewer’s attention. However, the second half of the film forces him to mouth inspirational quotes one after another.

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Ashrita Vemuganti, who plays YSR’s wife Vijayamma, delivers a subtle yet memorable performance, as do Rao Ramesh and Posani.

Overall, if Mahi had avoided making the second half of the film a documentary, Yatra could’ve been a memorable journey.

Director Mahi Raghav’s Yatra, YSR biopic, starring Mammootty showcases the humane side of late CM YS Rajashekar Reddy. Despite its problems, Yatra is a one-time-watch, says our review.

2.5 out of 5 stars for Yatra.

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