It’s not very often that you walk out of a theatre and your heart feels full and makes you want to live all your dreams, sometimes even those of your friends. Uunchai left with me sense of solace, happiness and fulfilment. A heart-warming story without any intent of being preachy or trying to evoke extreme emotions, Uunchai moves you from the word go. Returning to direction after seven long years, Sooraj Barjatya brings a mixed bag of emotions varying from love, loss, dreams, desires, friendship, failures to self-belief, conviction and a promise made to your loved ones and most importantly yourself. Starring veterans including Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Neena Gupta and Sarika in leading roles, Uunchai rightly boasts of being loaded with powerhouses of talent. (Also read: Black Panther Wakanda Forever movie review)
Unlike his earlier family dramas mounted on a large scale with a backdrop of a family wedding or a love story, Barjatya’s Uunchai is refreshingly different and breathtakingly beautiful. It opens with a group of three friends — Amit (Bachchan), Om (Kher) and Javed (Irani) along with Mala (Sarika) who are on a trek to reach the EBC (Everest base Camp) led by tour guide Shraddha Gupta (Parineeti Chopra). Soon after, we are shown a flashback from two months ago about how they landed here and what unfolds thereafter. Back in Delhi, we are told, this trio celebrated their close friend Bhupen’s (Danny Denzongpa) birthday, and the next morning his demise leaves them shattered. To fulfil his last wish of doing a trek with his friends, these three decide to embark on a journey full of uncertainties and hardships. Will they be able to complete the trek and fulfil their friend’s last wish? Will the difficulties along the journey break them? Or will there be more harsh realisations along the way? Uunchai beautifully showcases these dilemmas that each of the characters go through.
Bachchan, Kher and Irani are a riot together. Their camaraderie instantly reminds you of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara albeit they have different set of life issues they’re dealing with. The finesse and expertise they bring to the screen in unmatched. While Bachchan as the most sorted and sure of the three, convinces the rest for this trekking expedition, Kher is the cry-baby yet the sweetest and most relatable out of all. Irani brings forth his charisma and wins you over with his performance. With his wife Shabina (Neena Gupta), they make for an endearing couple. Their chemistry together makes you believe that love has no age. Neena’s expressions, dialogue delivery and screen presence just light up the mood. Sarika, on the other hand, carries a more poised demeanour bringing a sense of calm to the chaos. However, her track, I felt, was quite rushed and never explained much in detail for me to fully connect with it. For a tour guide, I often found Parineeti Chopra less empathetic while dealing with senior citizens but guess she gets ample space to justify her actions and convincingly so. Amid all this, it was a treat to watch Denzongpa on screen after so long. His smile, persona and mannerisms leave you in awe and wanting to see more of him.
As beautiful as these characters, the film has a beautifully written story by Sunil Gandhi that’s high on emotions and there’s never a dull moment. Beautifully complementing the narrative are dialogues from Abhishek Dixit, which look apt for every situation. I loved the way how even in the grimmest situations, he tries to put in a tinge of humour yet doesn’t make it look odd. Shweta Venkat Mathew’s editing could have been a little crisper and the film could have been easily 20 minutes shorter yet you don’t complain much about the length for the story keeps you hooked. With Amit Trivedi’s music that’s soothing to ears and isn’t forced into the screenplay, Uunchai turns out to be the perfect family entertainer. Special mention to Manoj Kumar Khatoi’s cinematography and the way he has captured stunning views of the Himalayas. From aerial to low angle to close-up shots, it’s nothing short of magical and makes second half of Uunchai a perfect visual spectacle.
What I particularly loved in the film is that the makers didn’t rush into showing the group of friends on the final trek instead they took their sweet time to soak into their respective stories. As the trio along with Neena Gupta took the road trip to reach Kathmandu, we get to see India in its full glory from places like Agra, Kanpur to Lucknow and Gorakhpur and their cultural influences. Every scene celebrating this friendship and emotions puts a smile on your face and that makes Uunchai worth it.