As I sat down in the theatre to watch Unda, I heard a couple talking about how they hoped it was a comedy movie. Now is it a comedy movie? Well, yes and no.
Unda is the story of a nine men police unit who travel from Kerala to a Maoist affected area in Chhattisgarh for the Parliamentary election duty. The movie starts in Kerala where you see the men in their barracks, preparing for their mission. You see them picking up guns and equipment, and you think to yourself that they’re going to Chhattisgarh, armed to the teeth. And boy are they not!
The humour in the movie is centred around these nine men who have come completely unprepared to hostile territory. In one scene, the men mention that Kerala Police has shot at people, but have never been shot at themselves. They have never used a gun outside training, and have been sent to one of the most affected Maoist areas in the country. The humour in that is one that only Malayalam cinema can capture.
If you expected Unda to be like any other Mammootty movie, you’re in for a surprise. Unda felt more like a new-gen movie, with almost no ‘mass scenes’. Well, the makers did add one or two – why waste a good goosebump moment, right? But Unda is not a comedy. It has a serious undertone and deep social commentary. This movie makes you question India’s social structure, Kerala’s perceived progressive mentality, the bond between brothers-in-arms, and even democracy.
Unda, like the Hindi movie Newton, shows the state of Maoist affected areas – the hardships that locals face, the way security forces have to stay alert all the time, and how this conflict has stalled the development of these areas.
After the teaser came out, I had asked my friend Shahbaz his thoughts and he said, “Unda is an extremely low budget movie, not fitting into the conventional blockbuster template. So my guess is, there’ll be cinema fans who will love it, Mammootty fans who will hate it, and a good amount of crowd who’ll be turned off by the lack of songs and heroines.” After watching the movie, I feel the same.
But good films have always been appreciated by us Malayalis, so I’d like to think that this movie would receive the same reception too. If you watch Unda expecting it to be a typical Mammootty movie, you are bound to get disappointed despite a great performance from the actor. Instead, go for this movie expecting what you would expect from Khalid Rahman.
Khalid Rahman made his directorial debut with Anuraga Karikkin Vellam and worked on Sapthamashree Thaskaraha as assistant director. Both these movies were received well. Hopefully, Unda will be too.