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Bollywood Movie Reviews

Uunchai, Not  Quite The Dizzying Heights, But Special





Starring  Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta and Sarika

Directed  by Sooraj Barjatya

Rating: ***

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.

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