When actor Unni Mukundan appeared on the sets of the Telugu film, Janatha Garage, at Hyderabad, recently, he felt nervous. This was the first time that he was going to share screen place with superstar Mohanlal. Unni was playing a villain as well as the son, to Mohanlal, who is a shady character.
“I remembered the fantastic work that Mohanlal Sir has done, and the superstar image that he has,” says Unni.
To increase his nervousness, the crew members told Unni that Mohanlal was doing his role exceptionally well. “And on that first day, I was given five paragraphs of dialogue in Telugu,” says Unni. “I was trying hard to memorise it.”
Nevertheless, Unni had a plan. During their shot, when Unni was supposed to get aggressive with Mohanlal, he decided he would take a threatening step forward, to increase the impact.
But when the camera began to roll, Mohanlal gave such a fierce look that Unni felt frightened. “I felt I was being overpowered as an actor,” says Unni. “I don’t feel ashamed to say that I could not execute my plan.”
Nevertheless, after the conclusion of the scene, a gracious Mohanlal tapped him on the back and said, “Good job.”
Unni also had an opportunity to share screen space with another legend: Nedumudi Venu. This is for the yet-to-be-released Avarude Ravukal. Unni plays Siddharth, a happy-go-lucky character. “He is a popular guy in college, loves to play cricket, and is a big-time flirt,” says Unni. For one scene, Unni sat on a white Bullet, wearing stylish sunglasses, his make-up making him look years younger, while sitting behind him was Venu, who was unrecognisable, with a wig, and a red bandana across his forehead. Venu plays a mentor to Siddharth, as well as the characters played by Asif Ali and Vinay Forrt.
The impromptu shoot, in the month of May, took place outside St. Teresa’s College, Kochi. Unni drove up and told a few girls, standing outside, “Hi, how are you? You look beautiful.” Venu also added a few comments.
As the scene was getting shot, without the girls being aware of what was happening, one of them said, “Thank you.” Another said, “What?!!” And the third said, “Is that Unni Mukundan?” as the duo drove past.
Unni says, with a smile, “It was so much fun, and, that too, being allowed by the director [Shanil Mohammed] to flirt with girls. But this has been one of my most fulfilling roles.”
Unni also had fun during the shoot of Mallu Singh, which starred Manoj K Jayan, Kunchacko Boban and himself at Bandipur, Punjab, in December, 2011. The shoot lasted for two months. But after a month, the locals thought that Unni was a Punjabi guy who was doing a Malayalam film. “They would come and talk to me in Punjabi,” says Unni. “Because I knew Hindi, I would tell them that I am a Malayali, but they just would not believe me.”
In the end, Unni became friends with them. “They would bring fantastic food to the sets,” he says. “By the end of the shoot, they wanted me to marry a local girl and settle down in their state doing Punjabi films. I was offered a couple of films, since one of the prominent Punjabi actors, Shivendra Mahal, was playing my father in Mallu Singh. It was hilarious. I still have good support in Punjab.”