Malayalam Megastar Mammootty is returning to Telugu cinema after 27 years with the trilingual, Yatra, a film based on the chain of events that happened during the padayatra of the late Chief Minister, Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy. He begins by talking about what drew him to this film directed by Mahi V Raghav.
“After Swati Kiranam (1992), I have been looking for a script that can excite me as an actor. It took me over two decades. I liked the way director Mahi V Raghav and the producers approached me for this film. I’m happy with the script, my role, and the strong team,” he reveals.
He credits the makers for their strong support. “My director and producers are resolute in having something new to tell about YSR. Credit to Raghav for all the research he has done to seamlessly integrate me into the film,” says Mammootty.
The actor goes on to talk about the challenges of making such a film. “YSR is a legend and you cannot depict the story of a person like him in two hours. It’s an eventful story with a mix of reality and fiction. The story is not just about the padayatra. The incidents keep happening and the protagonist gets to meet different people from different strata of the society, sharing their emotions and finding solutions to their problems. It has an emotional connection. I’m so happy I visited Hyderabad for this film,” explains Mammootty.
The acclaimed actor insisted he would dub for himself. “I have a flair for languages. I like to speak as many of them as I can. I feel Telugu is close to Malayalam. I took some time to perfect the accent, and I’m happy with the output,” says the actor, who is known for his unmatched versatility.
It was an emotional experience for him to play YSR’s part in a story that is relatable across boundaries. “Whether it is Kerala or Andhra or Tamil Nadu, emotions are universal and poverty wears the same colour. Quite a few scenes in the film touched me emotionally. Sometimes, I had to control myself, and tell myself I was playing a part,” shares the actor, adding, “I am not emotionally attached to my roles usually. I move on after my director says ‘cut’.”
The actor believes that the boundaries between industries have blurred in the last few years. “Even though we cater to different audiences, cinema is the same. I’m thinking of doing some important films, dubbing for myself. I have dubbed for myself in Dhalapathy, Swati Kiranam, Peranbu, and Yatra, even if it’s strenuous. Life is an adventure,” he says.
The actor is also keen to reinvent himself. “I am not the same I was some 20 years ago. I think people will see that. Let’s see how things will go on. Right now, I’m waiting to see how Yatra performs,” says Mammootty.
He doesn’t think there’s such a thing as a dream role. “Every role that I have done is a dream role. An actor should be able to pull off any kind of character, provided they feel comfortable. I felt I’m comfortable with this role and I did it,” he says.
Of late, the Telugu film industry has been on a high trajectory and filmmakers have been creating a market across languages. Mammootty agrees that the industry has a strong reach and is glad the audience is encouraging all sorts of cinema. “They have been accepting commercial film and experimental ones as well. It’s a great moment for cinema,” signs off Mammootty.
— Murali Krishna CH