Filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya’s name has become synonymous with traditional family dramas mostly revolving around marriages among the wealthy class. He tried something different in terms of the content in Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003) but the result didn’t turn out to be favorable.
Barjatya has once again gone out of his comfort zone by presenting a bromance among a small group of friends in an advanced age in his latest offering Uunchai. The end result has turned out to be way different from his 2003 movie.
Uunchai is about a group of senior citizen friends staying in Delhi – Amit (Amitabh Bachchan), Om (Anupam Kher), Javed (Boman Irani) and Bhupen (Danny Denzongpa). The last one is a professional hiker who has successfully climbed few of the highest peaks in India. He is very keen for the four of them to go for a hike at the Everest Base Camp after preparing for two months. However, Amit, Om and Javed plainly refuse citing old age issues.
One day, out of the blue, Bhupen passes away due to a cardiac arrest, despite being fit and healthy. The rest of the three friends, who are obviously heartbroken, realize that Bhupen had already booked their tickets to visit the Everest Base Camp after two months.
Amit believes they should not only fulfil Bhupen’s wish of visiting the site but also immerse his ashes over there, since he was deeply fond of the place and the activity of hiking. Om and Javed strongly object but eventually give in for the sake of their late friend. But they, obviously, need to face various challenges to fulfil their mission.
The narrative of Uunchai is not just limited to three friends embarking on a hugely difficult mission. The script is deep and layered with special importance given to each character and his or her journey. This ensures that you start having sympathy for the main characters, their friendship and mission too.
Despite the emotional nature of the subject, the film is full of sensible situational humour, which comes as a pleasant surprise. Neena Gupta has a major share in the funny moments and she does a fine job of it.
Mainstream Hindi films about such missions always face the danger of suffering from the second-half syndrome. But this is not at all the case with Uunchai, mostly because the main mission is kept for the latter half. Plus, the screenplay has the right mix of funny, emotional and dramatic moments during this part, which is also handled effectively.
What takes the cakes though is the moment where the friends release Bhupen’s ashes. It was vital for this to be the most overwhelming scene from the film and this is understood well by Barjatya.
A good amount of the story based in the mountainous regions. Manoj Kumar Khatoi’s camerawork has provided eye-pleasing visuals. One can make out the tricks used through VFX during various situations but this doesn’t bother you much. While the film is fine in the technical parts, the songs only reach the average level.
The performances can also be easily included in the positives. Amitabh Bachchan continues to defy his age through an enthusiastic act. Boman Irani and Sarika, whose character later joins the trio in the mission, also provide praiseworthy performances. Anupam Kher is likeable but, at times, he tries a bit too hard in appearing angry and offended.
Parineeti Chopra, who is the hike organizer, gets more scope later as she delivers a decent act. Danny Denzongpa and Nafisa Ali Sodhi are memorable despite having guest appearances.
But Uunchai is not devoid of any negative points. Its lambaai (runtime) of 169 minutes should have been trimmed, especially during some events in the second half. The film also takes quite a lot of creative liberties. Without giving away any spoilers, the narrative does this the most with Bachchan’s character.
Overall: Uunchai reaches a convincing height despite its lambaai. It says a lot about friendship goals and human spirit without saying much. The film won’t get a big opening at the box office due to Rajshri Productions’ decision of opting to go with fewer shows. But it stands a chance of getting a wider release once the word-of-mouth spreads.
– BY Keyur Seta
Rating: 4 out of 5
Director: Sooraj Barjatya
Producers: Rajshri Productions, Mahaveer Jain Films and Boundless Media
Writers: Sunil Gandhi and Abhishek Dixit
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Sarika, Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta