“Unda”… A superbly understated Mammootty stars in a drama that’s much bigger than a “cop film”

Posted on June 22, 2019


Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/unda-mammootty-movie-review-baradwaj-rangan

It’s 2014. Idukki. Policemen are getting ready for their first out-of-state duty. They line up in rows before a stage, from where a superior will give them instructions. He does. He also delivers what, in hindsight, will prove to be a big joke. “Use arms only when necessary.” For many of these men, who’ve seen little more than lathi charges, it’s a redundant statement. One of them says, later, “I don’t know how to fire a gun. I shiver whenever I touch it.” Another cop wonders if the Kerala police have been in a shootout like they show in the movies. Even the commander of these men, SI Manikandan (Mammootty), admits he’s never caught a thief or murderer in his 15 years of service. Khalid Rahman’s Unda (the director co-wrote the film with Harshad) comes with a macho title: the word means “bullet”. But the film, for the most part, subverts the machismo we know from the movies.

Hence the gentlest of hero-introduction shots. A pickpocket is chastened but Manikandan doesn’t so much as lift a finger. It’s a marvellous little scene. It satisfies fans of the star. (“Look, our hero doesn’t have to do anything! His mere presence reduces criminals to jelly!”) It also satisfies the mood of the story, which resists action until the very end. The rest of the time, we watch men of inaction. These policemen are shipped off to the Indo Tibetan Border Police camp in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. And there, they are told they have to prevent Maoists from disrupting the elections, which are five days away. This is a movie about waiting for an unseen, unknown enemy to strike. We don’t see the enemy, either, except for a stray glimpse of two men beating up a villager. Otherwise, we keep hearing about Maoists from people, from the papers. Or we see an explosion and sense they are somewhere around.

Continued at the link above.

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