He may not give you a handshake but will definitely hug you after the conversation. That’s how Unni Mukundan has been over the years. The actor doesn’t mince words when it comes to being judgmental, and his philosophy ‘better late than never’ only makes him wiser with each day, writes Sashidhar Adivi
Five years ago, Unni Mukundan entered showbiz to become a filmmaker. Naturally, he was initially not keen to face the camera. But when he bagged an opportunity, life changed forever and he could not ave hdreamt of a more celebrated career.
“Acting was never on my agenda. I wanted to be a director and that’s how I started my journey. I assisted filmmaker Lohithadas. After his sudden demise, I decided to join Indian Army. But then I got a call from a Chennai asking me to appear for a screen test for a role. My mom asked me to give it a shot once. I gave my audition for ‘Seedan’, and they liked it. After I got good reviews; I started getting offers from Malayalam as well. I eventually got the opportunity to play challenging roles – support cast, a baddie and protagonist – that excited me. I’m
glad that I had the flexibility to fit into any kind of character,” the actor reflects.
Having done 20 odd films, is wielding the megaphone still up his sleeve? He replies, “I’m enjoying acting a lot, but the idea to pursue direction has always been the ‘driving force’. It also gives me a different dimension, hopefully it’ll happen soon.”
Life in cinema changed Unni a lot, but he states that he never let success go to his head. “Cinema gave me all the attention, unwanted as well (smiles), so how to handle the things is the key. I haven’t studied beyond 12th but I have been blessed to earn all this, so many people have been kind to me. Whatever I did onscreen was appreciated by the larger audience. I felt so humbled. I also look up to stars like Rajinikanth, Vikram and Mohanlal, and closely observe them; how they carry themselves. Also, I come from a humble background, rooted in strong middle-class values, all this never let me get carried away,” he opines.
Although the ‘Vikramadithyan’ star spent more than half a decade in Malayalam, he never had the opportunity to share screen with Mohanlal in a substantial role, until his Telugu debut ‘Janatha Garage’.
“One of the main reasons why I signed a Telugu film was Mohanlal sir. Moreover, I play his son and have a lot of scope to excel in my role. Also, I could not resist the temptation of being a part of an ensemble cast and enter into a new industry. For any Malayali, the biggest dream is to see Mohanlal Sir and for every actor, to work with him and I’m glad that my dream finally came true. There’s a bit of Mohanlal in everybody’s life. In one of my earlier films, I mimicked and tried to behave like him but working with him, I learnt so much by just observing him. I’m also thrilled with the appreciation and accolades that poured in for my performance. I also signed another Telugu film ‘Bhagamati’, starring Anushka Shetty,” fills in the Thrissur-born and Gujarat raised actor.
“Giving up studies and taking up a career in films was definitely a turning point in my life. It was tough to convince my parents to choose films instead of studies. But I do regret missing out on campus life, but I’m pursing my third year degree (correspondence course). I believe that having basic education is important and getting a degree is vital for self learning and development. Certain things are to be done at a certain age but it’s okay, I’m glad that I’m compensating now – preparing for exams, catching up with college friends, and it’s all fun.”
Off the screen, Unni comes as a straight forward guy. His plain speak may put him in a spot of bother at times, but the Malayalam actor is nonchalant about it.
He admits, “I speak my heart out and dont think before I say something, sometimes it works and at times, it backfires, he smiles, adding, “I believe if you think before doing something it looks manipulative, so I just follow my instincts. There are times when I felt I should have just shut my mouth instead of being vocal, but that’s me.”
Ask him when he is getting hitched and he says “No idea,” bursting into laughter”, and adds, “I don’t have any girl friends.”
He confesses, “There are moments when I get excited looking at a few girls, but nothing transformed into love. I guess I haven’t come across anyone who I believed I can spend the rest of my life with. I’m just waiting for the right girl.” So what is he’s looking for in his partner? “Apart from looking good, she needs to have a good heart. A girl’s sharp nose also takes my attention,” he confides.
In his me time, he loves to, “Write poetry, indulge in acrylic painting, spend time with family and travel.”