Mammootty has acted in over 400 movies. Yet his ability to walk into a character and bring variations in his portrayal or behave in a way that he hasn’t done before is phenomenal. In Unda, take the beautiful scene where he narrates why he hates police station to his fellow officers. Its almost as if he puts in an extra effort to make sure his tone or modulation in voice is different from his other movies in recent past. His perplexed face each time he hears a line in Hindi is a treat to watch. It is to his credit, that even in a movie where all characters have equal importance, he still steals the show even without holding the limelight. In another brilliantly enacted scene, he apologizes to his men for the mistake he did. He then he walks to back of the building and sits gloomily. But then his wife calls and informs him that one of his men’s wife has delivered a baby. He comes out to the front, gives the phone to his fellow office now, but with a wide smile on his face. You cannot help but love Mammootty’s S.I Mani.
But Mammootty is not the only person who shines in Unda. Arjun Ashokan continues to be a pleasure to see on screen. Shine Tom Chacko is a really versatile actor for his ability to move from a despising villain to a hilarious police officer. If not for Prashant Pillai’s terrific background score, Unda would have been a difficult watch at many places. Watch out for how his background score and Mammootty’s lovely expression gels in the scene where all his men point their guns to the guy who pushed him to the ground.
Harshad’s story is refreshing as it deals with a number of issues that police officers face while going on duty to camps. Particularly impressive is how he writes the segment where an officer from a low caste is continuously harassed by his peer (Lukman shines in a scene where he vents out all the sorrows he has been carrying out through the years). But I wonder if the screenplay is still very lean with not much going in it for 2+ hours. Khalid Rahman is definitely a director to watch out for. Perhaps his most significant skill is he can make you laugh even from situations that look so subtle or have minimal lines on screen ( One which I noticed in his debut Anuraga Karikkin Vellam too). But I think he got a problem here with which tone he wanted the move to go forward. The movie has almost an arthouse cinema style for a major part of its runtime, at times making you wonder if the pace is too slow. But then at the end, he makes his characters walk in slow motion around a fight that is executed in pure commercial style. This transition does look jarring. For a movie that is also setup in the same premise, I found the hindi movie Newton better.
Unda is a fine work. But I wish it remained more consistent. I wish it had more events going in its screenplay. Mammootty though is an unstoppable force in acting. I have to say with the exception of perhaps only Amitabh Bachchan, I haven’t seen another star from 80’s improvising as an actor in the way Mammootty does.