Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta and Sarika
Directed by Sooraj Barjatya
The aging protagonists aspire to travel only to the foothills of the Himalayas. The film too doesn’t aim for the summit, but is happy to be grounded cosily somewhere at the foothills as long as the footfalls are there.
Uunchai certainly deserves an audience. For all its flaws of wheezing pacing and panting drama it is nonetheless a film that comes from the heart, although I must admit it doesn’t really stir up a storm of emotions in the audience. But yes,it is touching if you are a sucker for cinema on lifelong friendships and unconditional loyalty.
Mr. Bachchan logistically takes pride of place, as Amit Shrivastava(the surname is the Bachchans’ actual passport identification). Amit is a successful author who sells fake gyan to the multitudes.
“Sudhro,” warns idealistic friend Bhupen (Danny Denzongpa) and then promptly dies.
Bhupen three best friends, played by Bachchan, Kher and Irani now decide to take a trek to the base of the Himalayas. Writer Abhishek Dixit(based on story by Sunil Gandhi) has his art in the right place. But he chokes it up with too many back stories for every character so that the film at 170 minutes feels like marathon run for the elderly which becomes an ordeal for the spectators once the participants lose their energy.
One subplot in Gorakhpur about Anupam’s ungrateful ancestors(featuring Kher’s brother) cribbing endlessly about haveli repairs and rising costs should have been taken out on the editing table. And pray tell, which daughter tells her visiting parents and their close friends to f…k off since her birthday guests would feel uncomfortable? These are characters that needed not only polishing up but also a vigorous shake by the shoulders. They are so unidimensional they belong in an animation film.
Another weird plot twist: why should Bhupen’s friends be upset with the love of his life(Sarika) for abandoning him? This is quite what Neena Gupta rightly describes as overstepping the line of friendship.
Neena Gupta’s marital bonding with Boman Irani comes across as very real and endearing. This, I suspect is more to do with the two actors’ skills than anything else. By the time the plot reaches the Himalayas we are as exhausted as the protagonists.
These are identifiable people who deserved a more compact and incisive plot, not this meandering road trip which seems to been constructed like building blocks in a child’s hands .
Nonetheless, Uunchai has a sufficient heart to make it a special film. But it could have been much more special with more skilled writing.