Even with some hurdles, Uunchai scales new heights

Uunchai Story: Three best friends in their 70s — celebrated author Amit (Amitabh Bachchan), Javed (Boman Irani) and Om (Anupam Kher) — decide to embark on a trek to the Everest Base Camp to fulfil the wish of their late friend Bhupen (Danny Dengzongpa), whose heart belonged to the Himalayas.

Uunchai Review: Uunchai is a welcome change from Rajshri banner whose films have mostly revolved around multigenerational joint families, class divide and good rich people. Simplicity has always been at the heart of each story, even as wealthy uncles slyly boasted of their successful karobar. Bhaiyya, bhabhi, devarji singing ABCDEFGHI in private buses, women dolling up for multiple ladies programs in palatial homes, was aspirational for the 90’s generation. However, life is not white or black and there’s more to grey characters and issues than snooty stepmoms and gold-digging outsiders.

Uunchai starts off as a fun road trip movie, as the old friends (literally and figuratively) decide to achieve the impossible. Keeping their age related health issues at bay, they set out to fulfil their late friend’s only wish — to get to the Everest base camp together. While Bhupen is no more, the other three embark on this dangerous journey to celebrate his life and love for the mountains. Accompanying the three on the road trip without being aware of their big plan is Javed’s caring wife Shabina (Neena Gupta) and a surprise co-traveller Mala (Sarika). There’s no ‘bagwati’ here, but a warm Shabina bhabhi has shades of Kalki from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Sunil Gandhi’s story and Abhishek Dixit’s screenplay have its teary-eyed moments but they are unable to maintain the momentum and zest all the way. The Delhi-Agra-Kanpur-Lucknow-Gorakhpur- Kathmandu journey is heartfelt and cathartic. The film’s best moments are limited to its first half alone. Parent-child, intergenerational discord is analysed rationally without viewing it from the Baghban lens. Food is used beautifully to establish places and culture.

Sadly, once the trio reaches Kathmandu, the story loses grip, lacks direction, gets cluttered and things go downhill. The events don’t seem organic, personal backstories feel irrelevant to present day, and the mood gets too dramatic. The background score is overbearing and the scenes seem to drag endlessly.

It’s the performances that keep you interested despite a messy latter half. Masters of their craft — Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta, Boman and Amitabh Bachchan are brilliant in their respective roles. It’s once again a testament to fine acting elevating a muddled script. Bachchan aces the shift in his character, from an Instagram-friendly successful author to a lonely old man battling Alzheimer’s, he is outstanding.

Amit Trivedi’s music is decent but doesn’t do much to elevate the narrative. Parineeti Chopra plays trek guide Shradhha, who seems terribly indifferent to things around her. Her character isn’t finely sketched out.

Life is too short to say ‘phir kabhi’ and friends can be family. Uunchai scales new heights in terms of storytelling and concept, but never quite reaches the top. The film is not solely about older people, and even with its flaws there’s a certain relatability to the characters and the story. We wish the writing was stronger and did more justice to the fabulous cast.

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