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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Review of the film Uunchai: A Heartfelt Ode to Friendship

This is as far as it goes from a Sooraj Barjatya movie. It also avoids the melodrama that films of this type tend to fall into, although it can’t resist the temptation to stretch the duration at least an hour longer than it should be.

Still, how often do you see a road movie about three old men and two old women, whose only lesson is that change is the only constant? Life is not a one-way street, it is the surprising and refreshing message learned by the three friends Amit (Bachchan), Om (Kher) and Javed (Irani) in their attempt to climb Everest Base Camp. You can learn every step of the way, very often looking back but also sometimes looking forward.

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

Those are some of the many life lessons included in this road trip, from Delhi to Kathmandu, via Kanpur, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. Neena Gupta as Sabina, Javed’s wife, and Sarika as Mala Trivedi, who takes a walk with them, complete this traveling troupe.

While Bachchan is the star, this time it’s not his doing, as the script repeatedly pushes him forward when his own character is genuinely glad to be one among many. As the love couple Javed and Sabina, Irani and Gupta have the most select moments in the film, while Kher, as the grumpy friend, gets the most laughs. While they are on the road, the film is at its best.

The Everest trek, however, is not dismissed as purposeful, as some effort has gone into making it genuine, right down to the peeling skin and chapped lips, and the daily itinerary involved. There’s a real horror scene on a bridge over a stream that we may remember from other Everest movies, though it’s too long.

Given the boost Everest tourism could receive if this movie were to be a success, a lot of emphasis is placed on safety, having proper medical health, and warnings about everything that could go wrong. But there are also surprising, warm, little touches on how it can be done, by people who are repeatedly told that life is basically over for them.

A little less than several stretches into the second half where the movie meanders into more of a man-made crisis, and this Uunchai would have been truly mission accomplished.

Cast of the movie Uunchai: Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta, Sarika
Director of the film Uunchai: Sooraj Barjatya
Uunchai Movie Rating: 3 star

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