Malayalam actor Vineeth Sreenivasan says the unpredictability of the lead character drew him to the movie ‘Mukundan Unni Associates’

The absolute ‘unrelatability’ of Mukundan Unni attracted him, says Malayalam actor Vineeth Sreenivasan about his role in the Malayalam movie ‘Mukundan Unni Associates’

The absolute ‘unrelatability’ of Mukundan Unni attracted him, says Malayalam actor Vineeth Sreenivasan about his role in the Malayalam movie ‘Mukundan Unni Associates’

It is interesting listening to multi-hyphenate film personality Vineeth Sreenivasan talk about how he approaches a role as an actor especially since he is a director. “I share my suggestions at the pre-production stage when the script is being discussed. I have a conversation with the director beforehand. Once I am at the shoot, I don’t interfere. I don’t want to take away the director’s autonomy. I am a director and I would not like it if it happened to me. Like they say, too many cooks spoil the broth! If you don’t trust your director then don’t do the film,” insists the actor, whose Mukundan Unni Associates, hits theatres today.   

After cameos in Sara’s and Kunjeldho, we will see Vineeth in a full-length role in the movie directed by his long-time collaborator, editor, and one-time assistant Abhinav Sunder Nayak. Does being a writer and director influence the way he selects a script as an actor? 

No, he says. 

Rather than a director’s eye, he picks a script based on cinema’s fundamental role as a means of entertainment.  “Is it engaging? Am I enjoying it? These are the factors I consider. The character or my role in the film comes much later,” says the actor over the phone. The eye for a good story and script perhaps comes from the fact that he is a writer, who has directed five films of which four were hits — Malarvadi Arts Club (2010), Thattathin Marayathu (2012), Jacobinte Swargarajyam (2016), and Hridayam (2022) .  

Drawn by Mukundan Unni

As much as the engaging script, he also liked Mukundan Unni’s unpredictability and the character being utterly unrelatable. “I have done characters that ‘think’ and ‘behave’ like normal people. But with Mukundan Unni, you never know what he is thinking or going to do next. There would be few people like him and that drew me to him.”    

There have been comparisons, based on the film’s promotions, to Saul Goodman from the Netflix series Better Call Saul. The similarities end with both being struggling lawyers, he says. “Someone pointed it out on Instagram, and we [the team] decided to play along with it. Saul is more human, unlike Mukundan Unni who is narcisstic and is not humane.” 

The character’s look aids in conveying a quiet menace. The initial look had him sporting a beard and hair styled differently, which changed on location at Wayanad. The beard was replaced with a moustache and basic, black-framed spectacles. “We felt this look was interesting and decided to go with it.”

As a result of his long association with Abhinav and conversations about cinema, Vineeth had an idea of how the director would make a film. His confidence in the debutant director is evident, “I trust him. The film has shaped up much better than the script. We have done three rounds of dubbing as the film shaped up. Since he is an editor, magic happens in the film!”   

Favourite role

Director or actor?

I enjoy directing a film, it gives me satisfaction and I get to contribute to the processes of filmmaking as a director. Being able to work, as an actor, with other directors exposes me to different perspectives. Engaging with them and watching their method contributes to my work as director.

Next as director?

I am thinking of something, but I have acting commitments for four-five films which I need to wrap up. After those, I will sit down to work on it. 

The conversation veers towards the film’s marathon promotion in Kochi where he did 20-odd interviews besides other activities in a day. “I enjoy promotions, especially after the creative process. When my first music album Coffee @ MG Road came out we visited shops to hand over merchandise — CDs and DVDs. For Anandam [Vineeth was a producer of the 2016 film] the actors and director visited 60-odd colleges. We did the same for Hridayam too. When you have worked hard, you do the work to promote it as well. I have a thozhilali (worker) mentality.”

Road map for love

As Hridayam comes up, he laughs at the suggestion that his films such as Thattathin Marayathu and, now, Hridayam, have created a road map for lovers. The latter, like Thattathin… did 10 years ago, resonated with a cross-section of youngsters — from 15-16 year-olds to college students and those in their 20s. The relatability of the story and the characters were critical factors in its popularity, “That is the thing about a coming-of-age film. People see it from the stage of life they are in and the character is at.” 

He adds, “Malayalis are romantics, contrary to the perception that we are serious. We like a good romance [film], look at [the popularity of] Anniyathipraavu or Niram?” 

Vineeth Sreenivasan

Vineeth Sreenivasan

What is his formula for the winner script? “The movies I make are straight from the heart. I create a parallel world of characters and their lives in my head and ‘live’ there. The script of each film is a beautiful journey.”  

At a time when film songs seldom have recall, those from his films are remembered years later. ‘Thiruvaavaniraavu…’ from Jacobinte Swargarajyam, ‘Muthuchippi poluru…’ from Thattathin Marayathu or ‘Darshana…’ or ‘Manasse manasse…’ from Hridayam are examples. 

Vineeth, who is also a singer, is driven by the awareness that while all films may not stand the test of time, songs do. “I want the songs in my films to be outstanding. Years later people may not remember the movie, but songs have a longer shelf life. There are old songs I like and sing, but I don’t know which films they are from. That is the thing about good songs!”

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