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‘Action is the only genre that cuts across all boundaries’: Unni Mukundan on 'Mamangam'

Unni Mukundan in a still from Mamangam

Unni Mukundan in a still from Mamangam   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Actor talks about his preparations for playing the tole of Chandroth Panicker in Mammootty's historical epic

Unni Mukundan has every reason to feel upbeat. He will be donning the role of Chandroth Panicker, a warrior, in the forthcoming historical drama Mamangam, starring Mammootty as the hero.

Unni, nicknamed ‘muscle aliyan’ after his character with a well-toned body in Vikrmadithyan, asserts it is high time the Malayalam film industry accepted the importance of physical fitness for those in the cinema field.

However, Unni wants to shift the focus from his muscles to his acting. And it was for that very reason that he decided to play the villain in Mikhael earlier this year.

The actor who has put in his best for Mamangam is preparing for his next, Meppadiyaan.

Edited excerpts from an interview with Friday Review.

Tell us about your character Chandroth Panicker in Mamangam...

He is a period character any actor would love to add to his portfolio. Chandroth is a 27-year-old Kalarippayattu warrior, a skilful combatant who can take on a battalion of armed men on his own. In a way, he is kind of a gladiator, well-aware about the possibility of never returning alive while heading to the ‘Mamangam’ arena.

How did you prepare for the role?

The moment I heard the story of this brave fighter, I wanted to ensure that I looked the part, physically. But while talking to the director, I understood that in Mamangam, the focus is on what’s going on in the minds of these warriors, which I found fascinating. It was Mammookka (Mammootty) who helped me convey subtlety through dialogues. It was a valuable learning experience.

Did you train in Kalaripayattu for the role?

I underwent rigorous training in Kalarippayattu and ended up injuring my shoulders. I was also on a strict diet. Although the shoot was strenuous, I loved every moment.

Unni Mukundan

Unni Mukundan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

You were not the original choice for the role in Mamangam...

Actually, the team had offered the role to me three years ago. As I couldn’t be a part of it due to certain reasons, Dhruvan Druv stepped into the role.

The character, however, came back to me after certain things went wrong. I don’t want to comment on all that now. Suffice to say that I accepted the role.

Do you feel that brawny heroes are often not taken seriously as actors in Mollywood?

Yes. In Mollywood, the focus is more on the character’s emotions and not their physique.

We shouldn’t forget that anyone can grow a beard but not muscles. But yet, our films depict a muscular person as someone with low IQ or as comic relief. Often the heroes are portrayed bashing them up easily on screen.

Is it time Malayalam cinema started thinking about making true-blue action flicks?

Absolutely. Malayalam cinema should start thinking about action flicks.

I feel action is the only genre that will cut across boundaries of language and culture and sell. We have seen how well such movies from other languages are faring here. We are more fashion conscious now and that inadvertently has to go hand-in-hand with fitness. So I am hopeful.

How do you take reviews and criticism?

I like hearing genuine suggestions and reviews about my work so that I can work on them and improve myself. But often, the criticism is all about my muscles or height.

Some of the dialogues in Mikhael raised eyebrows...

(Laughs) Yes, but at the same time, the dialogues appealed to a large section of the audience as well.

In fact, I heard that my character in the movie, Marco Jr, has a cult following. This has prompted us to think about a movie based on the character.

Although I played a negative role in Masterpiece, Marco is villainous.

You have sung in films and was the lyricist in Achayans. Are you discovering latent talents?

The cinema industry offers opportunities to discover latent talents.

However, it’s all about doing things at the right time. For instance, production or direction are on the cards, it’s just that I am waiting for the right time.

About your forthcoming projects, Meppadiyaan and Chocolate Story Retold.

Meppadiyaan is about an event that occurs in the life of a regular youth and how he fights to maintain certain ethics.

Chocolate Story Retold has been postponed. I have received two Malayalam projects. There are discussions regarding a Hindi and a Tamil project as well.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:07:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/unni-mukundan-talks-about-his-preparations-for-playing-chandroth-panicker-in-mamangam/article29906607.ece

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