When the announcement was made that the director of Anuraga Karikkin Vellam teaming up with Mammootty in a cop movie, I, like many, didn’t really know what to expect. Unda’s success started there. It was the exact opposite of the movies that we have seen over the years with Mammootty as a police officer. Mammootty’s last decade is a mixed bag when it comes to the roles he has chosen or in terms of the success of his movies. But Unda gives not only one of his top performances of the last decade but also is a movie which hit the right chord in every sense of it.
Unda is the story of a group of policemen from kerala, lead by SI Manikandan, who were posted for an election duty in the wilderness of Chhattisgarh, a Maoist-prone area. SI Manikandan has to keep his group together, which is seemingly low on confidence, while negotiating with his higher ups for more ammunitions and facilities.
Right before the interval, we see Mani and his men are attacked and pushed to the backfoot by a torrent of bullets, from what looks like a Maoist attack. As his shattered team try to retaliate with whatever limited ammunition they have, Mani sir is sits down on a chair shocked and terrified and is all drenched in sweat. We see a normal vulnerable police officer who fears for his and his fellow officers’ life in this sequence, probably the most realistic police role Mammootty has donned. It is this realism that sets Unda apart.
The movie shows police workforce as human beings who are as normal and vulnerable as others. Khalid Rahman has established his characters as surprisingly sympathetic and we root for them and fear for them through out the movie. While there is no time wasted on melodramatic flashback sequences or dreamy love tracks, all the characters have stories of struggle, both official and personal, which are unravelled through their conversations and conflicts. PC Biju Kumar’s (Lukman) story of never ending suppression and casteist slurs aimed at him by his fellow policemen is the most affecting of the lot, one that mainstream movies usually ignore.
The struggles of policemen at a totally different geographical and cultural territory with lack of proper ammunitions and lodging are depicted with perfection. While showing the gap between the police workforce and the administration, Unda also zooms into the realities of maoist encounter killings and how the commeners often end up at the receiving end of both the maoists and the state. We see commeners taken into state custody by giving them maoist informant tags. The only scene which went slightly overboard in the otherwise grounded narrative is the lathi fight against the goons who created ruckus at the poling booth trying to rig the EVM. But with the poignant and heartfelt end scene between the localite Kunal Chand and Manikandan Unda gets an end the movie richly deserved.
Mammootty gives a towering performance as SI Manikandan and must be lauded for his readiness to come out of his stardom for the script. He is ably supported by the brilliant supporting cast ensemble with Lukman giving a standout feat as PC Biju Kumar.
The storyline has developed brilliantly by the screenplay and direction; a realistic narrative with plenty of heartfelt and fun filled moments knitted in beautifully. The background score by Prashanth Pillai captures the soul of the movie. Sajish Purushan’s beautiful visuals and Nishad Yusuf’s editing has works brilliantly with the brilliantly set production.
June 14th marks the 2 years of Unda, a movie that hit the right chords in every sense of it, be it the politics it puts forward or the thoroughly realistic experience it gives!