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Unda (film)

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Unda
Illustrated poster features Mammootty, Shine Tom Chacko and Arjun Ashokan
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKhalid Rahman
Produced byKrishnan Sethukumar
Written byKhalid Rahman
Harshad
Starring
Music byPrashant Pillai
CinematographySajith Purushan
Edited byNishad Yusuf
Production
company
Moviee Mill
Distributed byGemini Studios
Release date
  • 14 June 2019 (2019-06-14)
Running time
131 minutes
CountryIndia
LanguageMalayalam
Budget8 crore[1][2][3]
Box office30 crore[4] (in 20 days)

Unda (lit. Bullet) is a 2019 Indian Malayalam-language action comedy film co-written and directed by Khalid Rahman and produced by Moviee Mill and distributed by Gemini Studios. The film stars Mammootty, Shine Tom Chacko, Jacob Gregory and Arjun Ashokan. The music was composed by Prashant Pillai. Harshad co-wrote the screenplay. It tells the story of a nine man police unit from Kerala led by Sub-inspector Manikandan C.P. which is sent to a Maoist affected area of Chhattisgarh as part of election duty.

Unda’s development began in 2014, when Rahman spotted an article featured in the Malayala Manorama daily. The article was about a police unit from Kerala posted as part of election duty in a Maoist affected area in Chhattisgarh without sufficient ammunition. After a brief research, Harshad along with Rahman wrote the screenplay in 2016. Eventually, Sethukumar replacing Anwar Rasheed, who was its initial financer, became the producer of the film. The title was announced on 21 September 2018 and production commenced from October. Principal photography began by the second week of October in Kasaragod and shooting was completed on 23 March 2019 in Chhattisgarh.

The film released in Kerala and rest of India on 14 June 2019 and globally on 19 June. It received wide critical acclaim, eventually becoming one of the biggest critical and commercial success of the year.[5][6]

Plot

Unda is inspired by a real life incident that occurred in 2014 during the Lok Sabha elections. A nine man police unit from Kerala is posted on election duty in the Maoist affected area of Chhattisgarh. Despite being in a dangerous zone they lack basic facilities and sufficient ammunition. A sub-Inspector in his forties (Manikandan CP, played by Mammootty) leads the unit in this mission. The rest of the movie deals with how they manage to successfully help to conduct trouble-free elections during the conflict.

Cast

Main cast

Cameo appearances

Production

Development

Unda is based on a 2014 newspaper article in the Malayala Manorama daily.[17] In 2014, Rahman had noticed an article pointing out the situation of a unit of policemen from Kerala sent to Chhattisgarh for duty during the 2014 Lok Sabha election. It reported that the unit, posted in an area with rampant Maoist activity, were not provided with sufficient ammunition. Rahman found a photograph showing a bunch of cops crammed into a tiny room, sleeping on the floor holding their rifles close to their chest, haunting. In 2016, Rahman and Harshad started to write Unda’s screenplay.[6][18] In an interview with The Hindu on the challenges he faced, Rahman said: “I had only the newspaper article as a reference. It was not easy to meet the policemen who went there on duty because they are not supposed to reveal anything about their official work. After a report came out, a directive was issued to stop the men from revealing anything more about their assignment. So, no reports came out after that. Thus, it was quite a task to collect the details.”[19]

In early November 2017, Mammootty was reported as the star of the film, with Anwar Rasheed financing.[20][21] Because of the delay and extension in filming Trance, Rasheed left Unda amicably and Krishnan Sethukumar replaced him as producer.[22][6] Rahman's brother Jimshi Khalid was initially announced as the film's cinematographer and filming was planned to start in September 2018.[23] Rahman and Jimshi visited North Indian states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in search of filming locations.[24] Prashant Pillai was signed as the film's composer and Bollywood action director Sham Kaushal was the film's stunt coordinator.[22] According to the producer, the film was to be an action-comedy made on a ₹8 crore budget.[22][2][25]

Title

Even before its official announcement, medias had reported speculations about the title of the film to be Unda.[20][26] On 21 September 2018, Mammootty shared a poster through his Facebook handle revealing the title "Unda", meaning Bullet in Malayalam. Due to its unique title, numerous trolls and negative comments had appeared across social media platforms post announcement.[27] When asked about the title given for the film, Khalid Rahman said that the film is very much connected to a bullet and it was put just for its attractive point of view.[28]

Casting

Omkar Das Manikpuri looking at camera for an image capture
The film was Manikpuri's debut in Malayalam cinema

While writing the screenplay, Rahman and Harshad knew that they needed Mammootty as the film’s lead. They first narrated the story to him in 2018 and were sure that he would be ready to do the film. Mammootty, calling it a “novel subject”, agreed to appear in the film.[6] The cast in the storyline required ten central characters. Apart from Mammootty’s character sub inspector Manikandan C. P., there are nine policemen.[19] Sudhi Koppa was cast as PC Aji Peter initially, who later suggested Rony David to Rahman for his role as he had other commitments.[29] Asif Ali who was the lead in Rahman’s debut film Anuraga Karikkin Vellam (2016), agreed to do a brief cameo appearance when informed by him.[30] Gokulan, Abhiram Radhakrishnan, Lukman and Noushad who had earlier known and worked with Rahman while he was an assistant and associate director in films were cast to play the roles of four policemen.[31] To highlight the downtrodden adivasi community, Rahman and Harshad created a character PC Biju Kumar (played by Lukman) who is a policeman from the adivasi community.[6] Unda’s storyline did not require a heroine. “There are female actors in the film but their presence on screen is limited. For instance, the actor playing Manikandan’s wife is there in one or two sequences only”, said Rahman.[19] After watching Peepli Live (2010), Rahman invited Bollywood actor Omkar Das Manikpuri to appear in a major role in the film, for which he agreed.[30] Later in 2018, it was reported that actors Shine Tom Chacko, Jacob Gregory, Arjun Ashokan and Dileesh Pothan along with Bollywood actors Bhagwan Tiwari and Chien Ho Liao were officially added to the cast.[32][33][34][35]

Filming

An early morning shot from Bastar
The portions of Chattisgarh was filmed within the Bastar district

Principal photography began by the second week of October 2018, in the Karadka Reserve Forest, situated in the Kasaragod district of Kerala. As part of setting up the location, gravel laid roads was constructed in the forest area.[2][36] Filming was initially planned as a single schedule for 60 days and apart from Kasaragod, Chhattisgarh and Mangalore were also major filming locations.[22] After wrapping up the first schedule in Kasaragod, the team had a few weeks break. On 19 February 2019, the second schedule of filming commenced in Wayanad and it took 3 weeks to wrap up.[37][38] A brief schedule of filming had also taken place in Kannur, Mysore, Nilambur, and Viyyoor in Thrissur.[39][29] The final filming in Chhattisgarh, had begun in early March 2019.[40] Unda being the first Malayalam film to be shot in the locale, it was expected to be interesting to see how it would utilise the premise.[41] As the filming location inside the forests of Bastar had been affected by Maoist attacks, the actors had a fear within and were cautious while shooting.[42][19] The filming in Chhattisgarh was wrapped up on 23 March 2019.[43][44] The entire filming was completed in 57 days.[3]

Stunt coordinator Sham Kaushal choreographed “very realistic” fight sequences for the film. To set up a major action sequence in the climax portions of the film Kaushal did not rely on dupes or special effects: “All the fights are done by Mammootty himself. This is not a larger-than-life story; it’s honest with realistic situations. Naturally, this demanded real action”. Stating that the climax sequence for Unda was shot in its final stage, he said: “We did most of it in sequence as per written in the script, but then we also had to improvise a few portions while keeping the basic structure intact.”[45] The film was shot in sync sound and it worried the actors. Some found it difficult as they had to properly learn and deliver dialogues during shoot. Initially, there was no sync sound in the first 2-3 days of shoot, but later Mammootty suggested to go with sync sound as he felt it was an unnecessary struggle to recreate all the dialogues later in the dubbing studio.[31]

Soundtrack

Unda
Soundtrack album by
Released28 June 2019 (2019-06-28)
Recorded2019
GenreFeature Film Soundtrack
Length11:36
LanguageHindi
LabelGoodwill Entertainments
ProducerPrashant Pillai
External audio
Audio Jukebox on YouTube
Prashant Pillai chronology
Padayottam
(2018)
Unda
(2019)

Prashant Pillai composed the soundtrack of Unda. The soundtrack album consists of three tracks. The lyrics are written by Hussain Haidry and Kirendra Yadav.[35] The soundtrack was released by Goodwill Entertainments on 28 June 2019. Kirendra Yadav, various folk singers from Bastar and Prashant Pillai himself contributed vocals to the soundtrack.

Track listing[46]
No.TitleLyricsSinger(s)Length
1."Bastar Awaits"Kirendra Yadavvarious folk singers from Bastar02:28
2."Badar Garaj - A Beautiful Bastar"Kirendra YadavKirendra Yadav03:46
3."Kaara Kaara - The Journey Continues"Hussain HaidryPrashant Pillai05:22
Total length:11:36

Release and reception

Unda was initially scheduled to release on Eid al-Fitr but the release date was later changed to June 14.[47]

Box office

The film crossed the ₹10 crore mark from Kerala box office in five days and grossed ₹11.9 crore in six days.[1] By collecting ₹1.59 crore (as of 21 June) from the rest-of-India territories, Unda became the sixth highest-grossing Malayalam film of 2019 in the rest-of-India territories after Lucifer, Kumbalangi Nights, Uyare, Virus and Madhura Raja.[1] It grossed over ₹20 crore worldwide in 10 days, with ₹14.7 crore from Kerala alone.[48] The film's gross crossed ₹30 crore in 20 days.[4]

The film grossed $27,975 in two weeks from United States and collected a total of $47,564 in three weeks.[49][50] In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the film grossed $443,859 in the opening weekend (20 – 23 June) becoming the fourth best opener and the fifth best grossing film of that weekend (behind Toy Story 4, Men in Black: International, Kabir Singh and Aladdin).[51] In the opening weekend, the film grossed $6,404 from Australia and $559 from New Zealand (and $2,248 in two weeks).[52] The film collected a total of ₹6.8 crore from the UAE-GCC in ten days.[48]

Critical response

Manoj Kumar R of Indian Express gave the film a full five star rating and wrote: "Unda is one of the best-written films in Malayalam cinema. It is not just a film about a group of naive policemen from Kerala grappling with the challenges of an unknown territory." He added, "The actual story lies in the subtext, which never stops reminding us about the innate flaw of the human race: one tries to assume a sense of superiority by dominating or looking down on the other."[53]

Malayala Manorama rated it 4 out of 5 stars and gave the verdict "Potent film-making, poignant message."[54] Deepa Antony of The Times of India awarded 4 in a scale of 5 and commented: "Unda is an unbridled entertainer with a heart that makes you root for the Kerala Police. It opens your eyes to the gap between the administration, the bureaucracy, and the working force."[55] Rating 4 out of 5 stars, Anna M. M. Vetticad of Firstpost wrote: "2019 is The Year of Mammootty, this sweet-sad-funny ode to the Kerala Police seals the deal."[56]

The Week rated the movie 4 out of 5 stating: "This Mammootty-starrer is a police story with a difference."[57] Navamy Sudhish of The Hindu said it was "hitting the target, fair and square" and added "Khalid Rahman’s ‘Unda’ is an immensely realistic narrative, part satiric and part poignant."[58] Sify felt that Unda was "a compelling ride that will appeal to those who take movies seriously."[59] Neelima Menon wrote for HuffPost that "Mammootty’s Kind, Vulnerable Policeman Is A Delight."[60]

References

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External links