Onto the final release(technically the final release) of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi film Uunchai last night directed by Sooraj Barjatya. It has been 75 years of Independence and 75 years of Rajshri Productions. A small production house that consistently grew in stature to give many blockbusters over the years. In fact, a couple of fun facts on how Rajshri Productions has been an interesting part of my life. I was born on the same weekend of Maine Pyaar Kiya and my very first Hindi film that I happened to watch in a theatre was Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. And that one man common to both films was Sooraj Barjatya who was in a way the face of Rajshri right through the 90s and early 2000s.
Another interesting thing about the production house was that it always had its values intact. But the same aspect slowly began to become a minus point with the new generation(mine included). With the rise of social media and OTT platforms, the old school values needed a fresh outlook to them and this is where my skepticism was with Rajshri. Even their last release Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo fell flat as far as I was concerned in conveying its point(though it was a Box Office success). So when Sooraj Barjatya did announce his new film Uunchai, I did have my red flags up as I was extremely skeptical whether the prolific director would adapt to the taste of the new generation. And to top it, it was a family drama in a certain way which is a rarity in today’s times and without takers may I add. But on the brighter side, its trailer did look promising! So then is Uunchai worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Uunchai follows the story of a group of aged friends who take on the challenge of climbing the Everest Base Camp as a part of the last wish of one from the group who dies suddenly. The story itself is a winner here from its concept level. We all have witnessed films like Dil Chahta Hai or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara which cater to the youth. But in a first for Hindi Cinema, this was a story revolving around a road trip cum trek involving aged people. And it was brimming with the right kind of emotions, from start to finish. The screenplay standing at almost 3 hours may seem like a daunting watch but it honestly did pass off like a breath of fresh air!
Very early on in the film, we are introduced to the main protagonists and the bond that they share with one another. Their chemistry is almost infectious that would instantly put a smile on your face. So the foundation for this emotional ride was laid right at the very beginning which would eventually pay rich dividends towards the end. Soon catastrophe strikes when one of the friends expires that triggers a chain of events featuring a road trip and a trek against all odds.
At its core, the film has a barrage of emotions that are tactfully interspersed in the screenplay without overindulging in them. There are a few subplots on parental issues amongst the others. Now we have seen a lob-sided discussion in films like Baghban where the narrative is titled towards one side only. I was skeptical when the events were unfolding, but to my surprise this wasn’t a children bashing drama at all. Instead, it did act like a bridge between generations wherein each party could take a step towards one another to resolve an issue without vilifying or singling out any one party! This was refreshing to watch and it instantly made me think, right now this might be a start of the new Rajshri era!
The drama is a tear jerker which will often fill you up with many emotions. There is a streak of nostalgia which would cater to the demographics of parents yet the fun element isn’t compromised that will cater to today’s youth. The balance was very important here and it did maintain perfect equilibrium right throughout. The drama also scores in the softer moments in a trip which is also about self discovery in many ways. As they say, it is never too late to learn and adapt!
The drama is supremely engaging and heartfelt right throughout. A minor flaw in the screenplay was the pre-climax wherein a character is seen to have been diagnosed with an ailment. This did not work entirely for me simply because it did take that focus out of the main plot for that wee bit besides adding some minutes to the overall screen time and not really adding enough weight to the screenplay. But the final act is beautifully executed that definitely had my heart full. The chain of events leading upto the resolution of a few entangled subplots was wonderful to watch. Here I really felt that they could have played that song “Yeh Jeevan Hai” once more which by the way was played at different junctures in the film. But overall, a heartwarming trip of self discovery filled with positivity is how I would label the screenplay as!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are heart touching and beautifully written at so many places in the screenplay. The music also blends beautifully with the drama with the iconic yesteryear’s song ‘Yeh Jeevan Hai’ used quite well at many places. The BGM also heightens and elevates the drama at different junctures particularly during the climb. The cinematography is quite good, the VFX are alright, the editing is pretty good as well. Director Sooraj Barjatya should be applauded for moving away from his comfort zone yet keeping all the values for which Rajshri is known for, intact! The change was needed in the mindset and that is reflected here in a heartwarming story with friendship and emotions at its core. Honestly, this is the best Sooraj Barjatya film after Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.
The performances are excellent here. Parineeti Chopra as Shraddha is natural to the core! Sarika as Maya has such a pleasant presence onscreen in a job very well done. Danny Denzongpa as Bhupen shines in an extended cameo. Sheen Das as Heeba and Raju Kher as Guddu are first rate. Neena Gupta as Shabina is brilliant and balances her emotional act with a hint of humour too.
Boman Irani as Javed is phenomenal in such a sensitive performance that is often masked with a smile. Anupam Kher as Om is a character that many would relate to yet it is a supremely layered character with many emotions to play with and he is excellent here. Amitabh Bachchan as Amit is a living legend. Firstly, can we take a moment and admire his passion for acting even at the age of 80! This is probably his third or the fourth film that is out this year and he keeps churning one brilliant performance after another with utmost ease. And Uunchai is no different. Yet, the trait of being “alone” is so well explored through his character without even underlining it. That was me was refreshing to watch as well!
Uunchai is a heartwarming tale of friendship and self discovery which is honestly a breath of fresh air! This film is the start of the new Rajshri Era! Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended!