Mammootty to star in Mahi Raghav's Yatra — bilingual biopic on former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YSR

Haricharan Pudipeddi

Mar 21, 2018 14:37:18 IST

Exciting times are ahead for Telugu filmdom as everybody is keen on making biopics. While two highly anticipated projects on legendary actors Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR Sr) and Savitri have already created quite a sensation and have gone on the floors, the news of a biopic titled Yatra — on former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister late YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) — has taken the excitement to all new levels.

Mammootty

Mammootty. Facebook

On Wednesday, it was officially announced that Malayalam superstar Mammootty, last seen in a Telugu film over two decades ago, will play the titular role in this prestigious project, to be directed by Mahi Raghav. In an exclusive chat with Firstpost, Raghav opened up on the project, revealing crucial details.

“It’s an absolute honour to be working with Mammootty sir. We commence shoot from June and are eyeing a January 2019 release. The film will be produced by Vijay Chilla and Shashi Devireddy who bankrolled my last project Anando Brahma,” Raghav said, and added that Mammootty was his first choice for YSR’s role. “If you look at the history of biopics, filmmakers have always gone for unconventional choices. We could have Amitabh Bachchan playing Bal Thackeray in his biopic but there is a reason why Nawazuddin Siddiqui was chosen.”

Explaining with an example, Raghav said. “If I cast Nagarjuna in the titular role, it'll remind you of his rural films. You have an image of the kind of films he's done and you'll start comparing. Audiences won't surrender and see YSR in him. Mammootty’s last Telugu film was over two decades ago. One advantage with him is he gets the kind of aura that's unmatched. He can stand in a frame with Rajinikanth and still earn claps. Even when he walked with thousands of people, YSR could stand tall in the frame, thanks to his aura. I believe Mammootty brings such an aura to his screen presence. His charisma translates on the screen.”

Talking about the project, Raghav said the story will track the events that lead to YSR’s popular padayatra (walkathon) in 2003. “In biopics, you can either tell a person's whole biography or take moments from their lives that are worth recreating.  In this case, I'm taking events leading to YSR's popular walkathon. This part of his life really defined him. It's an underdog story, a masterstroke. Yatra was two-way street of transformation for YSR. It took him close to his people who in turn learnt about him like never before. We want audiences to know what shaped this man and his career.”

Raghav is yet to finalise other members of the cast. Amidst rumours that Suriya and Nayanthara are likely to be part of the project, he said, “The film will be made in Tamil and Telugu. Since it’s a politically-driven film, I’m not sure how many actors will be really keen to be part of the project. We’re still figuring out whom to approach. I plan to rope in actors from Tamil industry. YSR’s story is quite universal so it makes sense to make the film in Tamil as well. This film is not for people who love YSR because they’ll continue loving him even if I don’t make this project. If this story can really move some who has no knowledge of YSR, we’d succeed in our efforts.”

Mammootty will dub in his own voice for the film. “He’s very particular about dubbing in his voice. When I went to narrate the story, he asked me to read in Telugu and told me that he’d stop me if he doesn’t understand something. He’s really excited because he’s someone who follows politics religiously.”

Updated Date: Mar 21, 2018 14:37:18 IST