Mukundan Unni Associates
Thank God It is Friday that brings with it another set of new releases. And as usual I shall begin the weekend with a Malayalam film! And with that I have finished watching the new Malayalam film Mukundan Unni Associates which is streaming on Hotstar. I must admit that I did have a small regret while making the list of Top Malayalam Films Of 2022. Given the splendid word of mouth, I was almost certain that Mukundan Unni Associates would have featured in that list. But I couldn’t include it as the film took a long while to finally make it to an OTT platform. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that this was THAT Malayalam film which I was keenly awaiting, much like my digi-family on my Youtube Channel Popcorn Reviewss who were constantly throwing its recommendations week after week. After a long wait, the film finally premiered on OTT and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. So then does Mukundan Unni Associates manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Mukundan Unni Associates follows the story of a lawyer whose ambitions rise suddenly after he is fired from his firm. How high will be scale up? The story is a dark comedy and the thing with dark comedies is that its writing should be supremely sharp. It is almost as if the comedy cuts through the second layer while the usual drama does unfold on the top layer. If either of the paths converge then the film would begin to wobble. And this is where Mukundan Unni Associates scores and how! It is one of the most witty black comedies that I have watched in recent times, so effing brilliant! The screenplay standing at a shade above 2 hours does make it a brisk watch that absolutely holds your attention, from start to finish.
The quirky nature of the drama can be seen from the very first frame. Usually other films do have captions about Smoking Being Injurious To Health or No Animals Are Harmed In The Film. But to extract comedy even with those visuals wasn’t easy and full marks to the thought process of the filmmaker to set the tone of the drama very early on. In the very next frame following the ‘Warnings’ above, the full screen is reduced to a square where the drama does unfold. It did take me a while to understand that this signifies his ‘life’. At a point later on in the drama, the screen slowly pulls back to the full screen mode when he wins his first case by tricking his opponent. What a genius of a visual representation, something which would have been more noticeable on the big screen.
The focus is always on the character of Mukundan who is shown to be ambitious, egoistic and a narcissist, present in almost every frame of the film(thus signifying his nature too in a certain way). The frequent voiceovers representing his thoughts was again a risky proposition, which if not done well could have backfired. But this was pulled off so well that it added a layer of dark humour there and then from scene number one. So you are introduced to the lifestyle and daily routine of the protagonist as a part of the world building before quickly getting to the point. So almost within the first 5 minutes he is fired and left on his own to fend for himself. In a clever little metaphor, Mukundan is watching TV that flashes the news featuring a local MLA who was behind firing him, until his mother screams out in the next room that has a snake(indicating that the MLA was a snake). Ahh brilliant! But the writers excel in connecting the dots so well here!
The humour kicks in deftly with the twisted proceedings featuring the twisted mind of the protagonist who picks off from his peer, an illegal way of earning money. This results in a series of sequences which are deliciously dark and engaging at the same time. But there was a tinge of humour that was nicely sprinkled in the narrative. In an instance where Mukundan does cause an accident, watching the car crash sown a hill in slow motion, he himself terms it as ‘poetic’. I found myself laughing hysterically at this and various such other moments like the ones featuring hallucination!
The writers never let go of the seriousness in the drama as a trade of for humour. Both go hand in hand. The twists and turns in the screenplay are pretty interesting without taking the intelligence of the audience for granted. Every time you foresee a downfall, the turn of events do get it back on track. The events leading up to the final act also did have a touch of The Nightcrawler featuring and almost replicating its phenomenal closing sequence but with a different setting. The writing just doesn’t dip throughout its narrative leading up to a tonally correct and satisfying ending. Even the final scene(post credit) featuring the protagonist deleting his modified Aadhar Cards(now that he is 30 instead of continuing to be 29 for over 5 years) with a tagline ‘All Is Well That Ends Well’, was hilarious. So I did end the film with a huge smile thus rounding up the screenplay which was a black comedy for the ages!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The director had put out a post encouraging the viewers to watch the film in its original language with English subtitles even though a Hindi dub which was available. I was anyway going to be doing that but I was intrigued on what the lines had to offer. And after the film, I could totally make it the reason. The lines are witty with an appropriate use of voice modulation that adds a brilliant layer of comedy in the most unassuming manner. The lines are excellent here! The music is excellent and something that only adds to the comedy with its English lyrics wherein a song depicts a ‘poetic’ car crash. Outstanding! The BGM is playful and goes perfectly with the mood of the drama. The cinematography is another element that adds a layer of comedy with the size of the frames. Director Abhinav Sundar Nayak flaunts his incredible skills here with a unique style of narration and goes perfectly with the vibe of the drama. The proceedings are hilarious and engrossing and the director deserves distinction marks here!
The performances by the ensemble cast is phenomenal here. Suraj Venjaramoodu as Adv. Venu shines in an extended cameo. Asha Madathil as Reshma, Nimisha Mohan as Prabha is first rate as is Riya Saira as Annie, Sudhi Koppa as Robin and George Kora as Dr. Vincent. Arsha Baiju as Meenakshi looks very pretty and has a good screen presence in a job well done. Tanvi Ram as Jyothi is outstanding and pleasant to watch. But this is an out and out Vineeth Sreenivasan show. As Adv. Mukundan Unni he is magnificent to watch. With mostly poker faced expressions and a hilarious voiceover, he sinply owns every frame that he features in. This was a stunningly phenomenal act of the highest order in every sense of the word!
Mukundan Unni Associates is a delicious dark comedy capping a drama that is effing brilliant, something that comes with my highest recommendation. Available on Hotstar and Highly Highly Recommended!