‘Uunchai’: A Heartfelt Ode to Friendship

By Shalini Langer

This is as far as it gets from a Sooraj Barjatya film. It also avoids the melodrama that movies of this kind tend to lapse into, though it can’t resist the temptation to stretch the length to at least an hour more than it should be.

Still, how often do you get to see a road film about three old men and two old women, whose one lesson is about change being the only constant? Life is not a one-way street, is the surprising and refreshing message that the three friends Amit (Bachchan), Om (Kher) and Javed (Irani) learn on their bid to climb till the Everest base camp. You can learn every step of the way, very often looking backward but also sometimes looking forward.

Parents aren’t always in the right, children not often in the wrong, marriages can require distance, and love can often succumb to worldly comforts.

That’s some of the many life lessons packed into this road trip, from Delhi to Kathmandu, via Kanpur, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. Neena Gupta as Javed’s wife Sabina and Sarika as Mala Trivedi who takes a ride with them complete this travelling company.

While Bachchan is the star, it’s not his doing this time, with the script thrusting him repeatedly forward when his own character is actually content being one among the many. As the loving couple Javed and Sabina, Irani and Gupta have the film’s choicest moments, while Kher as the grumpy friend has the most laughs. While they are on the road, the film is actually at its smoothest.

The Everest trek, however, is not dismissed as a by the way, with some effort having gone into making it genuine — down to the peeling skin and chapped lips, and the day-to-day itinerary involved. There is a scene of real terror on a bridge across a stream that we might remember from other Everest films, though it lasts a bit too long.

Given the boost Everest tourism might get should this film be a hit, a lot of emphasis is put on safety, being in the right medical health, and on warnings about all that could go wrong. But there are also surprising, warm and small touches regarding how it can be done, by people who are repeatedly told that life is basically over for them.

A bit fewer of several stretches towards the second half where the film meanders into more than one man-made crises, and this Uunchai would have been mission truly accomplished.

Cast: Amitabh BachchanAnupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta, Sarika
Director: Sooraj Barjatya
Rating: 3 stars