For the love of Mani

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Khalid Rahman’s Unda has no dearth of engaging characters. A junior officer deals with caste discrimination. A sharpshooter wrestles with marital issues. An army veteran reminds everyone that patriotism sans compassion is a warm gun. A weary villager and his family see history cruelly play itself out. Yet each of them is almost hesitant to shine. It’s like they decided that 2019’s Mammootty may not be everyone’s favorite Mammootty, but crikey – it’s still goddamn Mammootty.

In this movie, he plays Mani – a charming and incompetent sub-inspector. The poor man has been burdened with the task of leading am upstart task force from Kerala at a Maoist stronghold in Chhattisgarh during the elections.

Mani and his team of underdogs are in over their heads. They just can’t seem to catch a break. They are verbally abused and laughed at by their counterparts. The threat of Maoist attacks looms large. Guns are fired. Bombs are thrown. It’s all the chaos they can handle it for a lifetime.

You find yourself drawn to Mani because he works extra hard to rise to the occasion. There’s even a scene in which Mani borrows from the Manik Baasha playbook of showboating formidability. You don’t get put off because it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. The theatrics end up overstaying their welcome, but the damage is minimal. You’re already rooting for Mani by the time the slow-motion sequences start to go overboard.

mammooty unda movie 2019
Mammooty and his motley crew (c) Indian Express

Till the end, Unda remains a satire at heart. Unless someone close to you is a police officer, the narrative may not profoundly affect you. It may not change the way you feel about law and order or have you concerned about Chhattisgarh’s political turmoil.

But it will put a smile on your face.

For having seen a good movie. For the love of Mani.

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