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UNIQUELY UNNI with Unni Mukundan
The angry young man of Malayalam cinema gets chatty.
A man or someone who knows a man well enough, knows how hard it is for one male Homo Sapien to say something nice about another. Especially after just a single meeting; more so when these are competitive men in their 20s trying to force their way into greatness. On most regular occasions, you would find us employing the choicest of abuses to describe each other. In almost an antithesis to this ‘Universal Law of the Male Ego’, I was taken aback to find myself liking Unni Mukundan( as much as a straight-as-a-line man is allowed to like another). Well, I could just be a dismal writer that the world gives two hoots about, but the Law of Male Ego applies to me almost always and this exception surprised me, pleasantly. We struck a bond almost instantly and got talking about life, success, the world, philosophies and a common fascination that we shared at some point in time, Osho. It was the typical Guys’ conversation, random, all-encompassing and also included a few things about Unni Mukundan, the actor and the person.
For a remarkably good looking actor, ripped and in such fabulous shape that he is in, Unni, has surprisingly done just a countable number of photo shoots. Surprised as I was about this unusual reluctance from an actor towards the still camera, I questioned him about it. Photo shoots are not something he totally enjoyed, he admitted. No, he had nothing against photos or photography; it was a just personal preference just like certain people not preferring a certain fruit or flavor. Well, I think he sort of got over this unexplainable disinterest in photo shoots during ours, for at some point he voluntarily took off his tee-shirt to give us a few great shots of his  sculpted torso. Such a shame that we could not publish them here but that is solely because the other ones were better. Our apologies, nonetheless.
Winds of change
Eid in Malayalm filmhood had a very Malappuram flavor to it this season as KL 10 Patthu, staring Unni set the screens alive with its Malappuram brand of comedy. The movie has been something of a transition for Unni, from the biceps flexing, barrel-chested good boy that he has been playing since eternity (not really, but isn’t that what generally people think of him?) He plays Ahmed in the movie, a young carefree lad of 21 and he who has no clue as to what he wants in life and how he would get there. Mohsin, the director and Unni share a friendship of few years. Unni knows him as the fun loving, easy going guy and not the perfect man that he has been made to portray often in many of his movies. It was this knowledge that must have made Mohsin ask Unni to play the role and to his credit, Unni pulled it off with ease, exceeding everybody’s expectations.​​​​​​​
As good reviews for KL 10 Patthu keeps pouring in, Unni says he is happy about having moved out from the stereotypical characters that he had been boxed into. “People still walk up to me and tell me that they loved watching me in Mallu singh and vikramadityan. But Mallu Singh realeased about two years ago.” Though praises are always what artists want to hear, they also reminded him that he was not doing enough movies. 14 movies in 4 years are not great numbers considering that other actors manage to do the same number of movies in one year. But that was a conscious decision, he says. When he had to play Vikraman in Vikramadityan, he took his time out to look the character, building a lot of muscle.” I did not want to look  ike a random guy who plays the cop because he is the lead actor.” That’s how Unni has been, most part of his career. I was told very early in my career that you are a good actor only if you deliver hits. It did not strike a chord with me then, but now I know the immensity of that statement. These days as I look at scripts, I think of the commercial viability of them first.” So has stumbled on the secret to picking up a script that would be an assured hits, I ask him? “Not really, ” he laughs.
Unni makes it very clear that he is hardly the perfect man that he has portrayed in his movies. So is he like Ahmed, lost? For somebody who grew up in Gujarat, a thousand miles away from the Malayalam filmdom with no connections whatsoever within the industry, to decide at the age of twenty that he wanted to walk into it is unlike someone who is lost. Unni made the “hmm” sound, the sound you make when an answer cannot be shrunk into a single word or phrase and a story has to be told.Born  to parents, who he says is a perfect blend of orthodoxy and broad mindedness, Unni was brought up in a strict, academic atmosphere. As he moved from school to college, he says he found the freedom wayward, lousy and in some ways even stifling. So he dropped out of college and has largely been self-educated ever since. The choice of dropping out of college propelled him to think about acting and this thought got a shot in the arm especially after he won a few major modeling events. Spending time with like- minded friends who were doing amateur theatre and cinema, he started taking baby steps into cinema, directing plays.

Shovels and Spades
Being an outsider to the film industry, Unni has had to shovel and sweat his way into the cine world. It has not been easy at all. A few of his early movies have not seen the light of the day even now. So it was understandable when at some point he said,” I am not the guy who can just listen to whatever people talk about me and take all of it in my stride. No I cannot do that. I am just a normal guy who is affected by small, sometimes etty things.” But Unni has fought his way up, sometimes fighting his own shortcomings like the speech disorder that haunted him till about three years back. Unwilling as he was to disclose it to anyone, those were times that he spent withdrawing into his shell secretly battling it out to utter the words that he wanted to. Choosing to take professional help, he can speak as fluently as anybody now. As fortune would have it, he was asked to play the role of the stammering Suryan in Thalsamayam Oru Pennkutty. Playing this role, the memories of his own plight came back to him.
Right now, something unusual is brewing up for Unni: Style, his next ovie and he is super excited. Style is going to be something of a shock treatment for the Malayali folk who turn towards dubbed telugu and tamil movies when they want serious entertainment. Style is a youthful movie with a lot of energy. The Unni that you see is what he had to be for his role in Style. It has great dance sequences. Unni has his hopes pinned high on Style and assures us that Style would be something that Malayalam cinema has not seen in the last ten years.