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‘Uunchai’ movie review: Amitabh Bachchan’s Everest climb is a familiar yet enriching experience

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Director Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Uunchai’ tells a well-written, emotional story unhurriedly with relatable moments, making one chuckle and cry in equal parts

Director Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Uunchai’ tells a well-written, emotional story unhurriedly with relatable moments, making one chuckle and cry in equal parts

An emotional roller-coaster that makes you chuckle and cry, Sooraj Barjatya’s Uunchai takes us to cold climes but leaves us with lots of warmth. For once we have a narrative that addresses the concerns of the aged without finding faults in the present generation. It talks of friendships that are not measured on the scales of give and take. It talks of developing a camaraderie between the young and the old, and between husband and wife, where one cares for the other, rather than depends on the other.

The messaging is ensconced in a storyline that is not consistently gripping, but not preachy either. In fact, Barjatya knows the dangers of slipping on the melodramatic slopes of yore. So, every time Amitabh Bachchan attempts to rationalise a situation, he is told: “Don’t give us your gyan.”

Uunchai

Director: Sooraj R. Barjatya

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Sarika, Neena Gupta, Parineeti Chopra

Runtime: 170 minutes

Storyline: Three elderly friends decide to scale Mount Everest to honour the memory of their late friend

More importantly, after a while, Bachchan attempts a flawed character that crosses paths with his real-life image of a winner at all costs. The fact that his character is called Amit Shrivastav and that his good friend Bhupen (Danny Denzongpa) tells Amit early in the film that he has reduced himself to a salesman of emotions makes it all the more fascinating.

The trailer had raised hopes of an adventure that the three old friends undertake in the high mountains to fulfil the last wish of their buddy, but surprisingly most of the action happens in the plains, and the focus is more on the metaphorical Everests that we have to face in life. But it is the way that Amit shapes up or rather melts in the last quarter, when Bachchan of all people faces his fear, that prevents the film from falling off the cliff.

Mounted in the unhurried style of Rajshri Productions, Barjatya and co-writer Abhishek Dixit generate a series of moments that the middle-class audience can easily relate to. In the Barjatya universe, there are no villains, so we have harmless fights between friends. And there are humorous situations, like the extra effort made to placate bhabhiji who is annoyed because her husband has dared to speak to another woman. The screenplay is full of situations that we all have lived through, before the world became a smart place and social media allowed people to live in a parallel universe.

From a young age, Anupam Kher has had a flair to play old characters. Here again, he plays the grumpy Om, who is wedded to his past, with utmost conviction. Boman Irani gets the pulse of Javed, a businessman whose life is controlled by his wife Sabina (Neena Gupta), and nobody can match Bachchan in freestyle comedy. Sarika is absolutely endearing as Mala, who like Om, is also holding on to a painful past. As the guide with an attitude, Parineeti Chopra gets a half-baked character, and yet, she makes the most of it.

However, for all the talk of accepting change, Barjatya himself remains stuck to the template of a three-hour-long film. It takes away some of the bite. So does the complete silence on the spiritual side of Javed throughout the journey. And despite signing up Amit Trivedi and Irshad Kamil, the most meaningful and hummable song that captures the crux of the film is Anand Bakshi’s Ye Jeevan Hai which was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal for Rajshri Production’s Piya Ka Ghar in 1972. Well, it is not for nothing that they say ‘old is gold’.

Uunchai is currently running in theatres



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