Mukundan Unni Associates director Abhinav Sunder Nayak talks about the various versions of the film and more
Editor-turned-filmmaker Abhinav Sunder Nayak’s debut directorial Mukundan Unni Associates was last year’s surprise hit – presenting a novel experience for the audience through a dark comedy with a grey protagonist at its core, by way of its storytelling as well as its visual language. The film, which starred Vineeth Sreenivasan, Tanvi Ram, Arsha Baiju, Suraj Venjaramoodu and George Kora, is all set to stream on Disney+ Hotstar on January 13, after a successful theatrical run.
In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, Abhinav talks about the reception of the audience, how he ensured that the viewers connected with its protagonist sans virtues, the various versions of the film and more.
Did you expect such a reception for a Malayalam film with a protagonist with zero virtues?
We expected the film to be successful. Of course, everyone would want their movie to do well, unless the movie has completely gone wrong and we realise it too late. What defied my expectations was the response of the family audience. In some of the theatres I had visited, I could see elderly ladies laughing when an accident scene was playing out; the bus accident, which is a very cruel act from the protagonist, was actually being enjoyed by them. That was something I didn’t expect at all. I expected the youngsters and a particular demographic to lap up that film but not the veteran audience. Of course, some of the people were offended but that’s natural.
While making a dark comedy with such a protagonist, there’s always a risk that the audience doesn’t connect with him. What were the challenges for you while conceiving and scripting the movie?
The first and foremost aspect that I wanted to ensure was to not deviate from Mukundan Unni the character. We don’t want to focus on any other character apart from him. We wanted to travel with him from the beginning. He doesn’t have an emotional arc at all and when the protagonist doesn’t have an emotional quotient, it’s hard to follow the film. So, if I had gone into the lives of the supporting characters like Jyothi or Robin, I would have lost the audience because they are proper human beings with emotions. And in that case, Mukundan Unni would have become an antagonist and people wouldn’t have connected to him.
So, the first rule was that I would only stick with Mukundan Unni and all other characters would be shown through his eyes. The other aspect was during the editing process, when I added the voiceovers, which I believe boosted the connection with the audience.
One particular standout scene was how a major character played by Suraj Venjaramoodu meets his end. How many versions were there of that scene?
There were many versions where Suraj’s character was not killed off. In the initial draft, he was not killed at all and he was there throughout the movie. In fact, we had several different versions of the movie. We had to change a lot of things because a few other movies of similar genre had been released. So, the version you see is not the one we had started out with. There are other ideas too, that came and went; it’s hard to recall now because there were so many of them.
What will be your next project? Will it be the sequel of Mukundan Unni Associates or something else?
The sequel will happen but not as my next project. I want to work on something fresh. There are two ideas that I am developing now. I am hoping to finish the script and then take a call.