Unni Mukundan: Talent, luck and destiny go hand in hand
The Malayalam actor, who is creating a stir with his turn as a stylised villain in Mikhael, talks about what it takes to succeed in the film industry
Never before has Malayalam cinema seen such a stylish villain. But, given that the handsome Unni Mukundan is playing the role of the baddie, it's no surprise that Haneef Adeni's new film, Mikhael, is creating a lot of hype.
The movie, which releases in the UAE and wider GCC on January 18, stars Nivin Pauly in the lead and has an ensemble cast including Manjima Mohan, Babu Antony, Siddique, Suraj Venjaramood and Shanthikrishna.
Unni, who shot to the limelight with the Mammootty starrer Bombay March 12 in 2011, has had a roller-coaster ride of a career. Despite his chiselled abs and acting chops to match, the young actor hasn't got his due yet.
But that's all set to hopefully change with Mikhael, which is seen as something of a second coming for Unni. His earlier films of note include Lal Jose's Vikramadithyan, KL 10 Pathu, Mallu Singh and Fire Man.
In an exclusive chat with City Times, Unni, who plays Marco Jr in Mikhael, said he has no qualms in playing the bad guy.
"This isn't the first time I have played a character who isn't the hero. I started off playing a villain in my first Malayalam film, Bangkok Summer (2011), repeated it in Masterpiece (as John Thekkan) against Mammootty and did a cameo in Tharangam, again as a baddie. So, this isn't something new for me. However, Marco is different because he is a very clear-cut villain and professionally the most stylised version of me as an actor," he shared.
Hard work matters
"He is someone you wouldn't want to be friends with," he added. "I'll keep the rest to your imagination. There was a lot of homework done on how Marco Jr would be as a person and the way he would dress up. He is very articulate. Director Haneef Adeni and I would send each other character sketches on the looks, discuss how and why he wouldn't or would act on something. The rest was more spontaneous."
Scenes starring Nivin and Unni in Mikhael's fight sequences are kicking up a storm even before the movie has released. Both the actors have performed cameos in each other's movies earlier. "He did a cameo in Vikramadithyan while my picture was used in Oru Vadakkan Selfie. We have combination scenes in Mikhael and it was refreshing, considering that it hasn't happened earlier the way it has now," admitted Unni.
Though some of the actor's earlier movies have been unsuccessful, Unni believes his hard work will not go unrewarded. "Basically, talent, luck and destiny, all go hand in hand in this business. So, your talent needs hard work, which in turn will bring luck in your favour. If you are lucky, your destiny will unfold just as you dreamt last night."
Responding to a question on having to compete with star kids as his contemporaries, Unni, a rank outsider to the Malayalam film industry, said: "I have no qualms about competing. That's how it should be. But I choose my competition and for the moment, it's me. I choose to better myself."
Unni affirmed that he has no regrets about any of his career choices and has gained from all the experiences. He is proud of all the characters that he has played although some of them failed to get the recognition they deserved.
"Commercial failure does upset me. But, I don't dwell on it because I study the reasons for failure and try my best to improve myself and hope the reasons don't surface again," said the confident actor.
Get fit like Unni
Unni is an epitome of fitness in the Malayalam film industry today. However, fitness is not something that Malayalam movie stars have been traditionally associated with. But, that is slowly changing with the younger brigade of stars.
Referring to all the focus on his macho physique, Unni said he's glad that this aspect of his personality is being appreciated today.
"I remember being sidelined for being way too healthy and not coming across as a regular Malayali boy. Of course, I never bought the idea and never bothered to fit in. I choose to stand out tall and today, men, women, boys and girls are very conscious about their health and lifestyle. When thousands of rupees are spent on outer grooming, why isn't it equally important to groom the inner you? Today, young boys who follow me or like me are into fitness and I'm extremely proud of my impact on the betterment of Kerala youth," Unni divulged. But, the actor has rarely flaunted his toned abs and muscles on screen. It's mostly only through social media that fans get to see Unni's physique.
However, he is quick to add that physical fitness alone can't land him a good role. "I have never pushed to get a movie based on my muscles. Bombay March 12, Kaattum Mazhayum, Clint, KL 10 Pathu, Oru Murai Vanthu Paarthaya are films that had me shedding every muscle from my body. So, the onus is on being fit to play a part and be ready to transform as per the requirement of the character," he pointed out.
With Unni being the only unmarried male hero in the Malayalam film industry currently, he has a legion of female fan followers. "I do receive fan mails. It's very humbling. I hope this phase will last for a long time. It's priceless," said the actor who was earlier in the midst of a storm when a female scriptwriter accused him of molesting her. His people have, however, dismissed it as an attempt to 'blackmail' the actor and extort money from him.
Unni's upcoming projects include Maamaangam where he teams up with Mammootty again, an untitled movie with debutant director Vishnu and Chocolate Story Retold, which is inspired by the Prithviraj-starrer Chocolate. He is also doing a movie each in Tamil and Telugu.
The actor is no stranger to other South Indian film industries. He made his Telugu debut with Janatha Garage starring Mohanlal and Jr NTR and his Tamil foray with Seedan starring Dhanush.