Malayalam actor Unni Mukundan aims for versatility with 'Meppadiyan'

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Published: Wed 19 Jan 2022, 6:30 PM

Malayalam film actor Unni Mukundan is in high spirits. Following the release of family drama Meppadiyan, the film star’s first venture into production, Mukundan says he is overwhelmed by Kerala’s reaction to the movie.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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“It is doing very well in theatres. We have had some houseful shows across the state, despite cancelling many releases due to ongoing public health concerns. Most of our well-wishers advised us not to release the movie during this time as well,” says Mukundan. He adds, “However, families have chosen to watch Meppadiyan, and the reviews have been mostly splendid.”

City Times caught up with the actor ahead of Meppadiyan’s UAE release todayover an extended phone call. Directed and written by first-timer Vishnu Mohan, Mukundan says with Meppadiyan he has taken a respite from the action-hero, macho-posturing roles he has earned a name for in the Malayalam film industry.

The film also features Aju Varghese, Anju Kurian, Kottayam Ramesh, Saiju Kurup, Nisha Sarang, and Kalabhavan Shajohn. Mukundan plays the role of a mechanic, Jayakrishnan, who gets into a seemingly ‘great land deal’; however, he ends up with life-challenging situations in making the deal happen.

‘Breaking away from the muscleman typecast’

The actor’s foray into playing the role of Jaikrishnan is an attempt at being more versatile. “As actors, we need to have complete freedom of expression irrespective of the way we look. Actors need to be in a space where they can perform well,” he says.

“The story is very relatable and I put my all into the movie. I consciously gained weight because the script demanded I play such a role,” he says.

“I feel like I got typecast as an action-hero becuse of my lifestyle choices. I choose to work out and lead a healthy lifestyle. But invariably, you get clubbed into the choices you make while getting films,” says Mukundan.

“With Meppadiyan, I made a psychological attempt from my side to divert the attention of the audience away from Unni Mukundan by undergoing a body transformation. It has nothing to do with the six-pack abs, and it has nothing to do with a guy who is fat either or with long hair either,” he adds.

The character undergoes several mental struggles and fights with an on-the-edge-of-the-seat movie viewing experience. “I feel Jaikrishnan goes through several emotional turmoils that the average man goes through in his life,” he explains.

“I didn’t take any other central, action hero roles for four years because that’s how long Meppadiyan has been in the works. There were talks that I was going out of work as well. I made sure I gave a deaf ear to the negative banter,” he adds.

The theme of a financial crisis is a tried and tested one. The movie showcases very raw human emotions, according to Mukundan. “The central protagonist finds it very hard to say ‘no’ to people. I believe that connects with 99 per cent of the audiences,” he says.

“A lot of the problems the character faces wouldn’t be problems if he says ‘no’ more often. He is a man of solid ethics. He gets betrayed by someone he places a lot of trust in. A lot of people face genuine moments such as these in their lives,” he adds.

The ensemble cast of Meppadiyan is the kind of people you meet on a day-to-day basis. “Also, I took a huge leap of faith by trusting Vishnu Mohan, who hasn’t worked in mainstream cinema, and honestly, it has paid off. He has done an amazing job in narrating this simple story,” says Mukundan.

For example, Aju Varghese’s character plays the role of a politician in the movie, leaving audiences wondering if he is a friend or a foe. “Aju is someone who is known for his comedic timing. However, his character in Meppadiyan was not a funny person at all. It was a challenge we posed to Aju; he accepted it and delivered excellently,” says Mukundan.

For the actor, the screenplay is what drives the movie. Despite the lack of action sequences, the movie has been viewed as an engaging one. “It doesn’t have the ‘violence part’ which I am known for. However, viewers have said they are at the edge of their seats. This is a huge compliment for us,” he adds.

A formula for success?

There is no formula for a guaranteed hit, says Mukundan. “Let actors and technicians in the industry be free of typecasts. Once you brand an artist into a certain genre, it’s hard for them to get out of that mould. Let them have their creative independence,” he adds.

Mukundan says pegging artists into genres burdens creative minds. “What eventually happens is that the industry loses out on a lot of experiences and the audiences lose out on good movie experiences,” he adds.

“I’ve played negative roles, and I’ve been the good guy in a movie. Trust me, as an actor and a producer, I want the audience to trust me. I do not want to spoil their day by offering them something cheap and bad. I am someone who enjoys all kinds of films, and at its core, cinema has to entertain people,” he says.

Unni Mukundan invites his fans in the UAE to enjoy Meppadiyan. “It is a cute, small family film. I guarantee goosebumps,” he says.

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