There is without doubt tremendous cinematic material in the momentous life that YSR lived, but this film has none of the masterful strokes or moments that it demands.
There are no two questions about the fact that ‘YSR Yatra’ remains afloat on account of the fascinating act of its leading star. It is sad that the film itself is not one that merits this genuine performance, and the end product is one that sees a severe watering down of the cinematic milestone that it could possibly have been.
Mahi V Raghav’s film starts off with a perplexing disclaimer that despite being based on real events from history, any semblance that one feels towards people living or dead could purely be coincidental. It becomes pretty obvious then and there that assuming an accountability is certainly not going to be one of the film’s strong points. And for biopics – even for the ones that claim they are not – this is bad news.
In spite of the odd disassociation from real life that the film starts with, it’s impossible not to relate it to the late chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, and the eventful life that the much adored and acclaimed politician led. For the most part, the film remains a one-dimensional portrait of the leader who was considered more than a legend by the party and its followers, and a bit too sentimental and subjective for a biopic.
The PadaYatra led by YSR was one that stormed the political scenario of the state, and which led to his being anointed as the chief minister. It was also one that ensured a resounding success for his party in 2004, which rewrote the political history of Andhra Pradesh. The film is an extended visualization of this journey on foot, but fails to move a yard beyond the memorable event, and is restrained by the shackles in the script.
The film starts off with an attempt to establish the humanitarianism that YSR was renowned for, and he is seen offering support to a former opponent’s daughter in the upcoming by-elections. Not one to succumb to the dictates of the high command, YSR is pictured as a man who forever stood by his principles and who had his moral scruples intact.
‘YSR Yatra’ springs to life albeit for a brief while, when the Padayatra arrives at a market place, where YSR is all set to address a gathering. A farmer who has arrived with a truckload of tomatoes is distraught at how the prices have fell, and attempts to end his life, abandoning his young son amidst the crowd that has gathered around. What follows is a poignant account as to how the farmers of the country have been driven to misery and death, captured in truly remarkable frames by Sathyan Sooryan.
There are also the multiple issues that YSR comes across and the promises that he comes up with to counter them. Some of these appear dramatic and tailor made for the film even if based on true incidents, like the one at the hospital where a despondent mother (Kaveri) does the unthinkable to let her ailing daughter have a life-saving surgery, which seem to have lost their spontaneity in the process of translation.
There is hardly an exploration about the man or the politician that YSR was, that is offered in ‘YSR Yatra’, and as such one cannot refute the suggestions that it comes across more as a promotion film than anything else. The intention of the film makers might have been far from this, but with little in-depth analysis of the personality of the much adored politician, one cannot blame the spectators for thinking so. But then, the film is not one meant for fans of biopics, as it focuses more on an event than the person who led it.
Mammootty is fantabulous as YSR, and in a highly restrained performance, establishes sans any doubt why he is considered one of the most dependable of actors in this corner of the world. There is Jagapathy Babu too in a cameo of sorts, staunch supporting performances from actors as Suhasini, Ashrita Vemuganti, Sachin Khadekar and Nassar.
Too bad that ‘YSR Yatra’ does not have a script that does any justice to the whopper act that Mammootty comes up with. There is without doubt tremendous cinematic material in the momentous life that YSR lived, but this film has none of the masterful strokes or moments that it demands.