‘UUNCHAI’ REVIEW | 11 November, 2022

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Rajshri Productions Pvt. Ltd., Mahaveer Jain Films and Boundless Media’s Uunchai is a film about friendship and bonding. Amit Shrivastava (Amitabh Bachchan), Om Sharma (Anupam Kher), Javed Siddiqui (Boman Irani) and Bhupen Barua (Danny Denzongpa) are close friends in their 70s and 80s. All of a sudden, one day, Bhupen breathes his last. The distraught friends decide to go on a trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp in memory of their deceased friend because it had been his ardent desire for many years to take his friends to Mount Everest. Of course, age is not on their side but their resolve keeps them going. They are joined by Mala (Sarika) before they embark on a mission which seems impossible for people of their age. The trekking instructor is Shraddha (Parineeti Chopra), and except for the four oldies, her group consists of youngsters.

Sunil Gandhi’s story about aged friends undertaking an extremely difficult and an almost impossible mission in the memory of their dear friend is very heartwarming. It is fresh not only because one doesn’t see such stories in too many films but also because it is about four old friends. The individual back stories of the four friends come as a bonus because most of the stories are revealed much later in the drama and are least expected. Abhishek Dixit’s screenplay is fantastic and milks the story of all the emotions one can think of. The drama woven around the individual stories of the four friends is so emotional that many among the audiences would weep and sob. Even those who can control their tears would feel a lump in the throat at several points. The best part of the screenplay is that there are so many layers and, therefore, so many turns and twists that it keeps the viewers engaged and engrossed, especially in the second half. However, it must be said that the structure of the screenplay is such that the actual trek takes too long to start after the demise of Bhupen, thereby diluting the inherent emotional strength of the main drama (of three friends going on a risky mission — because of their age, fitness and health conditions — to fulfil the wish of their friend who is no more). Had the trek started soon after the demise, the audience would not have got the feeling of the writer straying. It is because of this structural problem that it will be difficult to sustain the interest of the audience, especially the youngsters, till the interval point. All the same, Abhishek Dixit makes up for this structural lapse by adding so much drama and so many emotional tracks and scenes post-interval that it becomes a tear-jerker. Of course, there are light moments too, especially in the first half, and they are pretty entertaining. The message about family values, bonding, friendship, expectations, acceptance, etc. which the drama gives is absolutely phenomenal.

The second half, at times, gets boring because of too many scenes of trekking under difficult weather conditions. The scenes of trekking should’ve been shorter and fewer. However, the point of concern is the first half and that is because of two main reasons: one, as mentioned above, there is too much that happens between Bhupen’s demise and the start of the trek; secondly, since this is a drama about old people, it would be a challenge to sustain the interest of the younger generation.

Abhishek Dixit’s dialogues are absolute gems and give the feeling that the man understands life like few do. The dialogues are supremely inspired. Just one example will drive home the point one is trying to make here. There’s a dialogue which Shabina (Neena Gupta) tells husband Javed about how in all these years of married life, she had forgotten what her favourite food items were because she had only concentrated on the food preferences of the husband and their daughter. This sums up the story of millions of selfless wives and sacrificing mothers, and brings tears to the eyes of the viewers.

Amitabh Bachchan does a marvellous job as Amit Shrivastava. He immerses himself so completely into the character that in the scenes leading to the point when he is asked to abort the trek, it actually looks like he may drop dead any moment. Anupam Kher is phenomenal in the role of Om Sharma. He excels in emotional scenes and literally shakes the viewers with a performance which will be remembered for years to come. Boman Irani plays the character of Javed Siddiqui to such perfection that it is difficult to imagine any other actor in his place. His acting in minimalistic, yet has a huge impact. The scene in which he takes the urn of the ashes in his hands before the trek will make many among the audience howl. Sarika lends excellent support in the role of Mala. The scene in which she narrates her back story comes as a shock and it moves the viewers emotionally. No praise is enough to describe what Neena Gupta does to the character of Shabina. Her expressions, dialogue delivery and body language add up so wonderfully that her performance turns out to be one of her career’s best, if not the best. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she bagged many an award for the best supporting actress this year. Parineeti Chopra is just too lovely as trek instructor Shraddha. The girl has understood her character beautifully and has given it just the perfect interpretation to make it stand out in spite of being in the midst of stalwarts. Danny Denzongpa is pretty endearing in a special appearance as Bhupen Barua. Nafisa Ali Sodhi makes her presence felt in a guest appearance as Abhilasha. Pranav Sachdeva (as Om Sharma’s son) has his moments. Sheen Dass (as Javed and Shabina’s daughter, Heba) and Abhishek Pathania (as Javed and Shabina’s son-in-law, Vali Khan) are natural. Raju Kher and Manoj Tandon (both as Om’s brothers) make their marks. Seema Thariani and Baljeet Kaur, both as Om’s sisters-in-law are alright. Rahul Nawach Mukhia (in the role of Sunny), Ajay Dutta (as Bhupen’s doctor), Amit Sapru (as Amit Shrivastava’s doctor), Lavinder Singh Khurana (as Abhilasha’s brother), Aaron Gurung (as young Bhupen), Ayusha Subedi (as young Mala), Saroj Tamu (as teenaged Bhupen), Sneha Adhikari (as teenaged Mala) and Micky Makhija (as the doctor in Nepal) are good.

Sooraj R. Barjatya’s direction is masterly. Sincerity, honesty and integrity get a new meaning as the drama unfolds. His conviction in the drama is evident in every single frame of the film. However, he has not been able to camouflage the structural flaw in the first half. Amit Trivedi’s music is nice. The ‘Keti ko’ song is already popular and has a racy beat to it. The other songs may not have gained in popularity but they are all melodious. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are fantastic and so weighty that they take the drama forward. Shabina Khan’s choreography in the ‘Keti ko’ song-dance is endearing. George Joseph’s background music is par excellence. Manoj Kumar Khatoi’s cinematography deserves distinction marks. Sham Kaushal’s action and stunt scenes are in complete synch with the mood of the film. Production designing (Urvi Ashar Kakkar and Shipra Rawal) is of a very high order. Shweta Venkat Mathew’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Uunchai will be loved more by the elderly audience than the youth. It may have taken a slow start but its collections will definitely and undoubtedly pick up on the strength of positive word of mouth. However, it has limited appeal for the youth.

Released on 11-11-’22 at Inox (daily 4 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru Yash Raj Film Distributors. Publicity: good. Opening: dull. …….Also released all over. Opening was below the mark at most of the places.