Malayalam superstar Mammootty plays the lead role in the biopic on the life and times of charismatic Congress leader and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister late YS Rajasekhar Reddy. The movie “Yatra”, released in February, has been a hit at the box office. It is now coming in handy for the YSR Congress Party, headed by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, to be used as a campaign tool to reach out to voters.
Apart from using the film’s publicity material at the election rallies, the party has been making transport arrangements for people from villages and small towns to watch the movie on the big screen. The party leaders are booking the theatres, screening the movie, for all the four shows in a day. Transport and food arrangements are being made by the local YSRCP leaders.
Local reports say that some emotional scenes and punchlines from the movie, directed by Mahi V Raghav, are played out at the party rallies in Chittoor and Anantapur districts to generate maximum impact on the gathering.
The biopic’s title is a tribute to the 1,500 km long walkathon YSR undertook in 2003 that played a key role in Congress capturing power in 2004. He steered the party to victory for a second term in 2009. True to the tradition of biopics on Indian political personalities, the movie largely serves as a propaganda venture, eulogising the virtues of the Congress leader while steering clear of the controversies associated with him. It glosses over the stigma of ‘faction violence’ that YSR and his close associates had carried and instead portrays him as a do-gooder and a man with a golden heart.
The highlight of the political drama is the performance of Mammotty who lends an authentic touch to the character without being loud and melodramatic. Though Mammootty doesn’t have physical similarities with YSR, who was short and diminutive in comparison, he brings a certain solidity to the role with a restrained performance.
‘Yatra’ focuses on three major issues that stood out during YSR’s padayatra — farmer suicides, neglect of irrigation and agriculture sectors and lack of good healthcare to the poor. An elaborate drama surrounding these key issues forms the backdrop before YSR’s character is introduced in the movie.
The key attributes of YSR-his helping nature, commitment to the welfare of the poor, steadfast focus on welfare schemes overruling his party high command’s objections-have been highlighted in the movie to lend a charismatic aura to his personality.
Nearly a decade after his death in a helicopter crash in September 2009, YSR’s legacy continues to find resonance with the voters of Andhra. He is remembered for a string of welfare schemes introduced by his government including “Arogyasri”, a health insurance scheme for the poor, free power for farmers and fee reimbursement for students belonging to weaker sections.
Positioning himself as the inheritor of YSR’s political legacy, his son and YSRCP president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s main promise at the election rallies is to bring back “Rajanna Rajyam”, a reference to the welfare-oriented regime of YSR.
Jagan’s supporters claim that he has been the sole fighter for the cause of special category status for AP which has suffered on several counts following division of the state in 2014.
They argue that it was Jagan’s consistent focus on the emotive issue that had forced the ruling Telugu Desam Party, headed by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, to join the chorus of the demand and ultimately pull out of the NDA.