Yatra is a biographical drama film based on the life of Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. The film features Malayalam superstar Mammootty in lead role. Jagapathi Babu, Rao Ramesh, Suhasini and Anasuya Bharadwaj appeared in prominent roles. Vijay Chilla and Shashi Devireddy produced the film under 70mm Entertainments banner. Mahi V. Raghav directed the film. Yatra released worldwide on 08th Feb, 2019.
The film starts with the early life of Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy (Mammootty) through newspaper articles during titles. The ruling party, Mana Desam, calls for advance elections considering that the opinion polls are in favour of them and the opposition party is weak. YSR stands against the decisions of high command of the party during several decisions and this angers them. An incident triggers YSR to take a bold decision of travelling across the state on foot to interact with general public to understand their problems. What he learned and what he did forms the crux of the film.
Yatra has a wafer-thin plot driven by docu-drama style narration. It is indeed a bold decision to make a biographical drama based on padayatra. There is no scope for commercial elements. The director made a good decision to narrate an emotional drama instead of forcing either action or comedy into the film.
First Half –
The first half begins with political conflicts and a hopeless situation for opposition party. This eventually leads to the dilemma of YSR to give up on politics. These elements added depth to the story by establishing the purpose of padayatra. However, showcasing the problems of public in the beginning could have made it effective. As the film progresses, they take the approach of showing one problem at a time and adding a solution through the manifesto. This seems like a propaganda at the expense of drama. Moreover, the film strives to show both ruling and opposition parties in a bad light. It takes two conflicting ideas that the public had a lot of problems and that they favoured ruling party. Many of these scenes are unnecessary and doesn’t add any value to the script. The interval sequence is good but it doesn’t help the story structure.
Second Half –
The second half mostly deals with the determination of YSR to fulfil his promises. The entire second half runs on 3-4 sequences of public suffering cross-cut with the politics. The expertise of editor helped the film to gain momentum. However, majority of the film lies flat without any highs and lows. There are several hero elevations scenes but they don’t intensify the story.
The major problem is that everyone (at least Telugu audience, considering that it’s a multi-lingual film) already knows the climax. It is a major spoiler and the film depends heavily on screenplay. Moreover, the positive aspects of YSR were never discussed in detail. YSR won every election he contested and stood up against the charisma of NTR during 1983 and 1985 elections. Instead of belittling ruling and opposition parties, the film could have glorified such aspects of his life. Overall, Yatra is an engaging drama for the audience who like documentary style narration.
Mammootty is terrific as Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. His powerful screen presence coupled with subtle acting takes film to the next level. The film goes against the regular commercial portrayal of lead character by showcasing him as the soft-spoken person throughout the film. Mammootty portrays heroism through his performance without the need of action scenes. Rao Ramesh may not appear as a key character but his presence is felt throughout the film. His expressions perfectly carry the mood of the scenes. Jagapathi Babu is a good choice for the role of Raja Reddy. Anasuya Bharadwaj plays a brief role. She delivers a memorable performance.
The script of Yatra is above average which develops over a simple line. The dialogues are terrific and convey message through simple expressions. The production values are great. The producers spent lavishly to rope in prominent actors. The cinematography is an asset to the film. The music elevates the mood throughout the film. But the background score appears to be overdone during some scenes. The direction is superb. Mahi V. Raghav has a very good understanding of cinema and he made sure that Yatra lives up to the expectations. He can effortlessly pull off a commercial film.
Yatra is a biographical drama which tries to bring back the glorious election campaign of YSR without giving any credit for Congress party. The film has serious political propaganda that may not appeal to everyone. However, the fans of YSR and YS Jagan will enjoy every minute of it. But as a regular film, it is a one-time watch for the audience who like drama genre.