The recent black comedy crime Mukundan Unni Associates (2022), directed by Abhinav Sunder Nayak, was a new approach to the narrative of Malayalam cinema. It shows how an average advocate climbs the social ladder and reaches the top of his game by manipulating others. The titular character Mukundan Unni played by Vineeth Sreenivasan is very similar to Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Louis “Lou” Bloom from the Hollywood flick Nightcrawler (2014). However, even though these two characters appear very similar, the story, genre, theme and making of both films are different.
A deeper look at Mukundan Unni reveals that he is an anti-hero. He starts his career with a lot of expectations but fails miserably. He realizes that only success matters at one point, so he sets out to achieve success at any cost. For this, he decides to observe the life of a successful lawyer. He stalks him continuously, learns his dirty tricks, and finally establishes himself as a successful lawyer. So when we look at Mukundan Unni, he cheats, lies and even kills people! An average individual usually doesn’t behave like Mukundan Unni does, even if they are desperate for success. So why does he do all this, even at the cost of killing someone?
From a clinical point of view, Advocate Mukundan Unni has a personality cluster called the “Dark Triad Personality”. This concept was coined in 2002 by the researchers Delroy L. Paulhus and Kevin M. Williams. The concept is not a diagnostic criterion or a general personality type, but it is used in some psychological research. As the name suggests, “Dark Triad” combines three personality characteristics: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. They are called “Dark” because of their malevolent qualities. People with such a combination of traits have inflated self-esteem and are extremely dangerous, remorseless and manipulative.
The first trait in the “Dark Triad” is Narcissism, which comes from a Greek mythical character Narcissus. He is a hunter fascinated by his reflection in the water and eventually gets drowned in the same water. Narcissists are people who are obsessed with themselves. They think they are very important or unique and act as if they are more intelligent than others. They want others to treat them specially. They have inflated self-esteem. Their priority will be boasting about themselves, and they are also remorse-less. They don’t care for others and lack empathy. Mukundan Unni is one such character with almost all the features of a narcissist.
The second trait in the “Dark Triad Personality” is Machiavellianism. The term was named after Niccolo Machiavelli, a 16th-century Italian Politician who became famous for his book “The Prince“, which dealt with deception, treachery, and crime. People with traits of Machiavellianism are manipulators, lack morality, are cunning and do anything to gain power or position. The character is very similar to a politician who does dirty tricks and reaches the top of a political party. Mukundan Unni is more or less the same; he did all the dirty tricks, removed his competitors and reached the top of the hierarchy like a pro candidate of Machiavellianism.
The third trait of the “Dark Triad” is Psychopathy. It is referred to people who have antisocial personality traits. They are often called “Psychopaths” in popular culture. These people disregard the rights of others, break rules, are highly impulsive, lack empathy/remorse and can even be hostile to others. In most cases, they have a superficial charm on their face by which they can easily deceive others. Serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were such “psychopaths”. Mukundan Unni has a similar trait but kills people only when they stand against him. This ability to maintain a “good face” in public and kill people without remorse makes him a psychopath.
In the above-mentioned three traits of the “Dark Triad Personality,” only two traits are identified as a diagnosable conditions in psychiatry. One is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the other is Antisocial Personality disorder; both come under the Personality Disorders section in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Therefore, as told earlier, the “Dark Triad” is not a diagnosable condition in psychiatry and more research evidence is required to prove it as a diagnosable personality condition. And there could also be people around us who have this “Dark Triad” but are not known to society or their families.
Coming to the film, even though it deals with a negatively shady character, there is no doubt that this film will achieve cult status shortly, especially among adolescents. People have already started celebrating Mukundan Unni. But we must understand that this is a dark comedy-satire film; the filmmakers set an example of personality characteristics that others should not adopt. But most people do not understand this fact; they have already started giving a heroic label to Mukundan Unni. If people get inspired by Mukundan Unni and behave like him, then the film’s ideology will fail.
There is a strong possibility that Mukundan Unni can influence people in one way or the other. But since the filmmakers have presented the character negatively, we cannot say that the filmmakers have done something politically incorrect. Art has its freedom, and since they have presented it without hurting the feelings of others, there is nothing wrong with how the film is made. What matters is how the audience perceives the film, which is purely subjective; it is not under the filmmakers’ control. Therefore, one should have a clear idea about the influential power of cinema. Therefore, children should be given proper guidance while watching it because we can’t tolerate a Mukundan Unnis in real life.
Bringing up a new filmmaking style in the star-studded Malayalam industry by breaking the old stereotypes is not simple. And doing that with an anti-hero requires a lot of guts. The director Abhinav Sunder Nayak and lead actor Vineeth Sreenivasan need a special appreciation for bringing up such a socially relevant idea and presenting it in a satire-comedy manner. They have done their part well, and it all depends on how much the audience understands the film’s concept. Without a second thought, we can say that Mukundan Unni Associates is a necessary change that Malayalam cinema has longed for. The expectations for part two are much higher, and we expect something darker and funnier.