As Karishma stepped towards the elevator of a building in Kochi, a man standing next to the entrance moved aside to let her inside. He was film art director Sahas.When the lift stopped at the second floor, Sahas waited for the woman to step out before he followed. His colleagues noticed this as Karishma entered a room. And one of them said, “Hey man, didn’t you recognise the woman?”
Sahas shook his head. Then one colleague laughed and said, “It’s Unni Mukundan.”
“What?” said Sahas.
“Indeed”, the colleague replied. Mollywood actor Unni’s makeover as a woman was so complete that Sahas could not recognise her. Unni is playing Karishma in Tamil film Chanakya Thanthram directed by Kannan Thamarakulam.
“When the director asked me whether I would play a cameo as a woman I was thrilled and surprised,” says Unni. “It gave me a chance to step out of the stereotypes of playing muscular men in films such as Masterpiece and Mallu Singh. I am also looking to play a wide variety of roles.”But the process to get transformed into a woman was not easy. Make-up man Pradeep Rangan removed the hair from Unni’s chest, arms, legs, and even shaved his moustache and stubble. “Wax was applied to my body to get a sheen,” says Unni. “It was very hot. Since I have thick eyebrows, extra hair had to be plucked off. That was very painful. And I understood the discomfort a woman goes through to look beautiful.”
Thereafter, Unni wore a blouse and saree and put on a black hairpiece. Soon, he began to feel like a woman. However, on the sets, he had the strange experience of youngsters ogling him. One of them even said, “Sir, if you had not been a man, I would have pounced on you.” It was then that Unni understood the statement that he had always heard women tell him, “I didn’t like the way he looked at me.”
Asked whether he did any research for the role, Unni says, “I have lived around woman all my life, from my mother to my cousins and relatives. I also believe there is a man in every woman and vice-versa. For example, a man can also blush and feel shy like a woman.” Apart from the character, Karishma, Unni would be seen playing four other characters—all males. The romantic thriller is releasing on April 20.