‘Yatra 2’ movie review: The emotional drama works better than the politics

Mammootty and Jiiva liven up the father-son dynamics in the Telugu political drama ‘Yatra 2’, which eventually gets skewed and tiresome

February 08, 2024 03:40 pm | Updated February 09, 2024 11:28 am IST

Jiiva and Mammootty in director Mahi V Raghav’s ‘Yatra 2’, based on the political journey of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy

Jiiva and Mammootty in director Mahi V Raghav’s ‘Yatra 2’, based on the political journey of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A monsoon night. The then chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy (Mammootty), stirs out of bed earlier than usual and walks to the foyer to find his son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (Jiiva) also unable to sleep. They are unable to express their feeling of unease in words. At YSR’s request, Jagan hands him a glass of water, and, as he begins to walk away, he turns to look at him, unaware that this would be the last time. YSR takes a sip of the water. The thunder sounds louder and he grimaces for a fleeting second. In director Mahi V Raghav’s Telugu film Yatra 2, this scene is a crucial one.

The scene envelops within it the brief interaction between the father and the son against the ominous weather conditions and makes us wonder what if YSR had lent an ear to his wife Vijayalakshmi or Vijayamma’s (Ashrita Vemuganti) apprehensions and deferred his chopper ride? The sequel to the 2019 YSR biopic, Yatra, narrates the events leading up to the rise of YS Jagan. Its eulogising tone and the timing of the film’s release, months before the elections, makes its intentions clear. While YSR and Jagan are depicted as leaders who do not err, the opponents are all wily and crooked. Within that framework, it also tries to be a compelling story of a father and a son. It finds that groove in a few scenes such as this interaction on the rainy night, before it becomes an increasingly one-sided political drama.

Yatra 2 (Telugu)
Director: Mahi V Raghav
Cast: Jiiva, Mammootty, Ashrita Vemuganti, Ketaki Narayan
Storyline: Following Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s demise, Y S Jagan has to earn the trust of people and rise in politics against stiff opposition.

Mahi Raghav takes the help of cinematographer Madhie and music composer Santhosh Narayanan to create effective drama. Sathyan Sooryan and composer K did the honours for Yatra. The colour palette remains muted, often moving to warmer tones when the film juxtaposes the cinematic recreation of real-life situations and characters with actual footage of YSR, Jagan and the sea of people who mourned the demise of the late leader. Santhosh’s background score works without drawing attention to itself in the initial portions. Some of the dialogues are also measured yet effective. Watch out for an early scene showing YSR eager to help a young girl with a hearing impediment. It helps that the lines are uttered by Mammootty, whose regal demeanour and composure convey it all. His performance is a little more than an extended cameo and serves as the foundation of this film.

The subtle tonal inspirations from films such as The Godfather and Thevar Magan are also evident in a few early scenes. Jagan hesitates to hog the limelight when his father is cheered on by the swelling crowds. Outside home, he sees his father as a tall leader and is content staying a foot behind him. Contrast this with a later scene when Jagan stands tall in an open-roof car, having earned his victory. His body language conveys that he has earned his place in the sun. Jiiva plays the part with conviction and brings in ample credibility.

When the battle lines are drawn between Jagan and the ‘party high command’ and with Chandrababu Naidu (Mahesh Manjrekar), the film gets increasingly monotonous in how it paints Jagan’s opponents as slimy and conniving. A few aspects are also borderline silly. The ruling party at the Centre is referred to here as the Progress party and the irony is unmistakable when ‘progress’ and ‘Madam (Suzanne Bernert as Sonia Gandhi) makes the final decisions’ are uttered within quick succession. The State-level opposition becomes the Telugu Nadu Party and the slightly wicked background score with which Naidu is introduced adds unintentional humour.

Yatra 2 makes ‘the party high command’ and its senior leaders seem more of a caricature than actual political opponents. There’s also a passing scene where we see former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waiting to meet ‘Madam’ who refuses to cut short her coffee break! At least Naidu’s characterisations, in the later portions, get a slightly better deal showing some political moves.

While the ‘odarpu yatra’ and the rise of the son to a leader are narrated with some conviction, the last half hour between Jagan and Naidu gets increasingly lopsided, long-drawn and dull. Jiiva’s performance and that of Ashrita Vemuganti (as YS Vijayalakshmi) and Ketaki Narayan (as YS Bharati), keep us somewhat engaged in the final portions. The two women have an uncanny resemblance to the real-life characters they are portraying.

Mahi Raghav also finds the scope to include dialogues such as ‘Devudu nammakam, YSR nijam (God is a belief, YSR is truth)’, which works like a mass moment that draws whistles in the hall. In another scene, the reference to strong-willed Kadapa son of the soil also elicits cheers.

However, these moments aren’t enough to prop up a narrative that gets tiresome despite all the yatras. The film depicts events that led to Jagan launching his own political party, breaking away from the Progress (Congress) party and shows how he lost the 2014 elections to Naidu. However, it refrains from discussing the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and the formation of Telangana in 2014 in detail. The character of Y S Sharmila is also conspicuous by her absence. The film stays focussed on portraying the rise of the son as a leader who wins the elections in 2019 to become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.

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