Uunchai is about friendship, life’s bounties and more

The story of Unnchai is about life and friendship. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

That the length of a film is of really no consequence is best proved by Uunchai in recent times. That a good director, despite aberrations, cannot lose his fundamental skills is also shown decisively by this film. Sadly, the fact that music is no longer an important part of a movie is also demonstrated again as well. But that’s a small hiccup really in a film that aspires to some great uunchai (height) without catering to crass commerce.

Yes, Uunchai is, in many ways, a senior citizens’ version of a Dil Chahta Hai, a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and more. The male bonding saga that began pre-eminently in Hindi cinema with the 1973 Zanjeer and went on to many classics, including Sholay, all in their unique ways, is the pivot around which this story of four old (not just in age, but also duration) friends—celeb author Amit Shrivastava (incidentally a variation of Amitabh Bachchan’s real name, as played by him), Om (Anupam Kher), a bookstall owner, Javed (Boman Irani), who owns a ladies’ boutique and Bhupen (Danny Denzongpa), who hails from Nepal.

As an annual ritual, Bhupen celebrates his birthday with flair and on the ride back to his home with Amit, chides him for pandering to nothing but sensationalism in his books. At the party, he has earlier focused on his pet topic—climbing Mount Everest, his eternal love, and also his dream of trekking to the Everest Base Camp with his three friends. And Bhupen dies in his sleep.

It is now incumbent on his three friends (as persuaded by Amit) to fulfill his dream of their going to EBC and Amit feels strongly that Bhupen’s ashes should also be immersed there.

The film begins with the three friends on the trek with assertive tourist guide Shraddha (Parineeti Chopra) and their problems of coping with the high altitudes and distances to be traversed. After a flashback about Bhupen, the film becomes a fun road movie for a good while as the trio, with Javed’s feisty wife Shabina (Neena Gupta), travel by car from Delhi via Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and finally touch (minus Shabina) Kathmandu. En route, they also pick up Mala (Sarika), who is related to their travel agent, and her presence has helped them get their vehicle at half the cost. Shabina disembarks to return to Delhi quelling her doubts about her flirtatious husband!

As the film proceeds, we have emotional ups and downs as flashbacks and multiple current tracks reveal what has happened in the past or is happening in all their lives, including Shraddha’s and Mala’s. And the word unnchai takes a terrific connotation that is as much about life and courage and determination and not just the Himalayan range. As the friends complete their ambition and dead buddy’s wish, various highs and some lows happen.

Sans preaching, and in a very progressive manner, the director (best known for family hits and blockbusters like Maine Pyar Kiya—his debut and the biggest hit of the 1980s, Hum Aapke Hain Koun!…—the film that led the 1990s in footfalls, Vivah and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, besides the average Hum Saath Saath Hain) delivers a film with an emotional mega-punch. We do not even feel a shade restive during the long 169-minute length of this engrossing tale, in Sooraj R. Barjatya’s first film that he has not co-written—the sign of an ace director and even writer, for he has approved the script! Do recall the running time of most of his movies, including his biggest—Hum Aapke Hain Koun!.,. or any other Hollywood or Indian epics!

There is one flaw that should have been totally avoided, and that is Amit’s medical history of an incipient illness. Given his background as well as the climax of the film, it becomes a needless and senseless add-on that besmirches his graph. On the other hand, Om’s relationship with both his son and siblings and the way it is presented are very well-done. The chemistry between Javed and Shabina (thank Sooraj it is not Shabana!!) is brilliant. As with the best Indian movies, the Hindu-Muslim angle is not even mentioned.

Amitabh Bachchan (seen last in a Rajshri film in Saudagar in 1973) gets a meaty role with the banner again and excels as the man who is, image-wise, a mix of the best of his comic characters and serious roles. Anupam Kher is outstanding as Om, and his cranky and cantankerous ways are delightful even as his eyes do a lot of ‘talking’. Boman Irani puts in a performance worthy of his stature as actor and, like Danny, is effortless.

Among the women, Neena Gupta is the best as Shabina. Sarika (Geet Gaata Chal was her only previous work with the banner) is very good in the low-key role of Mala, though the way her character is introduced should have been better cerebrated—this is perhaps the big minor flaw. Parineeti Chopra shows great understanding of her role, despite a clichéd back-story and limited footage. Nafisa Ali Sodhi is wasted.

The music is tepid within the film, come Keti ko or the well-written (Irshad Kamil) lyrics Haan kar de and Ladki pahadi. The cinematography does seem a shade dated, but works whenever the lighting is natural, which means mostly indoors. But the locations’ beauty makes up for the slight overdose of colors. The technical side is otherwise good and the dialogues (Abhishek Dixit) are natural and wholesome.

Just like the film.

Rating: ***1/2


Rajshri Productions, Mahaveer Jain Films & Boundless Media present Uunchai Produced by; Kamal Kumar Barjatya,Rajkumar Barjatya, Ajitkumar Barjatya, Mahaveer Jain & Natasha Malpani Oswal Directed by: Sooraj R. Barjatya Written by: Sunil Gandhi & Abhishek Dixit Music: Amit Trivedi Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Parineeti Chopra, Boman Irani, Neena Gupta, Sarika, Nafisa Ali Sodhi, Raju Kher, Sheen Dass, Abhishek Singh Pathania, Sp. App.: Danny Denzongpa & others




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