Four years of ‘Unda’: Mammootty’s non-macho cop film highlights a relevant social issue

The movie communicates strong politics, including the discrimination faced by backward castes and tribes in the hands of the government.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Jun 15, 2023 | 4:30 PMUpdatedAug 10, 2023 | 2:41 PM

Unda movie poster

It’s been four years since Superstar Mammootty‘s Unda (Bullet) was released on 14 June, 2019. It is one of the few Malayalam movies that spoke about tribal communities in Chhattisgarh and Kerala.

In the film, a contingent of Kerala police from Idukki is sent to the Maoist areas of Bastar district in Chhattisgarh.

A commercial hit, the black comedy has Easwari Rao, Shine Tom Chacko, Jacob Gregory, Arjun Ashokan, Abhiram Radhakrishnan, Lukman Avaran, and Ranjith in major roles.

Its plot is similar to the Bollywood movie Newton (2017) where a government employee is sent to Central India on election duty. Nevertheless, Unda doesn’t wear “nationalism” on its sleeve like Newton. It is based on a real incident that happened during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Tribals and Maoists

In the movie, the police unit from Kerala is sent to a Maoist areas of Chhattisgarh on election duty.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) commandant is amused to know that the Kerala Police aren’t provided with sufficient bullets and ammunition by the state government to resist Maoist attacks.

A poster of Unda

A poster of ‘Unda’. (Supplied)

As stated in numerous reviews, the Mammooty-starrer communicates strong politics, including the discrimination faced by backward castes and tribes at the hands of the government, as well as issues like bogus voting.

The movie is an eye-opener as it also speaks about Kunalchand, a tribal man in Bastar. In the film, it is stated that the members of his community had reduced from two lakh to 10,000 people.

The police think that these people are Maoist supporters, while Maoists think they are police informers.

The script by Harshad and Khalid Rahman (director) is hard-hitting.

Sajith Purushan’s cinematography is a highlight of the movie which captures the interiors of Bastar, something new to a Malayali viewer.

Also Read: ‘Drishyam 3’ not being shot simultaneously: Director Jeethu Joseph

Mammootty as non-macho cop

Mammooty donned the role of police officer several times in his career. His roles in Roudram (2008), Inspector Balram (1991) Rakshasarajavu (2001) and Kasaba (2018) are loud and sometimes over the top.

However, the Superstar plays the role of an amiable and mild-mannered police officer in Unda.

Unda has some fine performance of Mammootty

‘Unda’ has some fine performance of Mammootty. (Supplied)

The introduction scene of CP Manikandan aka Mani sir (played by Mammootty) where he deals with a local thief let the audience have a brief idea of what can be expected from the character.

Manikandan just smiles at the thief when the latter tries to pickpocket. The thief suddenly stops his action in fear of the police.

Mani sir shares a warm relationship with his fellow policemen.

At one point, he confesses to them that he is not an inspirational cop— a stark difference from the role Mammooty played in Madhuraraaja (2019) where he boasts of his qualities as a “rowdy”.

Further, Mani sir in Unda is also giving inspirational advice to Biju, a police constable from the Adivasi community in Kerala (played by Lukman Avaran).

Biju is often teased by his senior officer Unnikrishnan (Abhiram Radhakrishnan). Sometime later, they both get injured in a grenade attack in Bastar.

These instances are some of the strong points in the script that avow that humanity and equality rank far above casteism, complexion and fanaticism.

According to director Khalid Rahman, Mammootty was briefed about his mannerisms during the shooting of Unda.

Also Read: Versatile actor Urvashi on being a comedienne

Unique plot

Mammootty and Shine Tom Chacko in Unda

Mammootty and Shine Tom Chacko in ‘Unda’. (Supplied)

Meanwhile, the ultras announce that they won’t allow the elections to be held in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

The ignorance of the Kerala police team about the Maoist insurgency in Bastar and the sufferings of villagers in the area because of the fear of both Maoists and government security officials are conveyed well.

Kaadu Pookunna Neram (2016) and Thalapaavu (2008) dealt with similar issues.

The Kerala police contingent is sent to Chhattisgarh without proper weapons and into a high-security area, watched over by the ITBP. How the team from down South manages to cope when an alarming situation arises and their minor differences in hierarchy and ego clashes are good to watch.

Unda has good music scored by Prasanth Pillai that gives insight into the lives of tribals in the Bastar area, their pain and despair connected well with the audience.

Also Read: ‘Adipurush’ wades through ticket price hike and less publicity

Flaws in Unda

Mammootty and Unda crew

Mammootty and ‘Unda’ crew. (Supplied)

However, the climax of Unda is a bit superficial as Mani sir and his team do the final act with the limited bullets they have when they are attacked by some politicians who are engaged in malpractice during the elections.

The movie also lacks a strong female character.

Manikandan’s wife is the only female character played by Easwari Rao. She runs a nursery school and appears briefly on screen.

Scriptwriter Harshad, as a clarification on why there are no female characters in the flick, told the media that he doesn’t have many female friends and is not aware of how a woman thinks and works.