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Sooraj Barjatya on Uunchai: ‘My biggest challenge was to conceive a travel picture’

The Rajshri Productions film, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher and Boman Irani, released in theatres on November 11

Sameer Salunkhe Mumbai Published 11.11.22, 11:27 AM
A poster of Uunchai.

A poster of Uunchai. IMDB

Filmmaker Sooraj R. Barjatya stepped out of his comfort zone of filming on sets and ventured into the wild to make Uunchai, which released in theatres across India on November 11. In a quick and candid conversation, the director of blockbuster hits like Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and Hum Saath Saath Hain talked about the paradigm shift in his directing style, his experience of assisting stalwart filmmakers like N. Chandra and Mahesh Bhatt, and his responsibility as a director while offering a film to an actor.

Do you think old age is underrepresented in Hindi films? What was your thought when the story of Uunchai came to you?


Sooraj Barjatya: When the story of Uunchai came to me, the business team said, “Nobody queues up to watch old people in theatres”. I didn’t like that statement. But the story is so beautiful. Usually, there’s sadness in the stories of old people as if it’s the end of their life. So, I decided that we must make an entertaining film.

Then I remembered an incident from the past. There was an 80-year-old lady from a village near Bhuj who went to the government officials and enquired about the land she had demanded for an Ashram. The government official looked at her and asked, “Who’s going to run the Ashram? You’re already 80 years old.” The old lady got angry and told him, “I will run it”. The government official was ashamed of himself for thinking so little of her.

When I remembered that incident, I decided that I had to make this film. We wrote a dialogue by Amit Ji (Amitabh Bachchan) in the film where he is confronting Parineeti Chopra. He says, “Hum budhe hue toh kya hua…”.

When my father wanted to learn how to operate mobile phones, I’d tell him, “Laaiye main do minute mein kar deta hoon” (Give it to me, I’ll do it in two minutes). Which I regret. It’s wrong. Why should I rob him of the experience of learning something new?

You said at the trailer launch that you wanted to do something different from your filmmaking style. What was challenging in this paradigm shift?

Sooraj Barjatya: A major challenge was the outdoors. I am not an outdoors director. Whenever I used to watch films by J.P. Dutta, Imtiaz Ali, Mani Ratnam, and Yash Chopra, I used to wonder how they would shoot outdoors. I have always been a set director like Bimal Roy. I haven’t travelled much. I have become a director from my stories. There are some who are directors of visuals. So, my biggest challenge in Uunchai was to conceive a travel picture, shoot it at various places, and bring the beauty of Mount Everest into the film.

What have you learned from assisting directors like N. Chandra and Mahesh Bhatt?

Sooraj Barjatya: You learn a lot from the directors you assist. First of all sincerity, then technique, and how to behave with actors. I will always be grateful to N. Chandra Ji. We were shooting Pratighaat. In one scene, the villain is stabbing a policeman. I asked him, “Sir, you are shooting this. But will the censor board allow it?” He said, “It will be hundred percent allowed because I have seen this happening in front of my eyes.”

He used to live in a chawl in Mumbai. He had witnessed it. That time I realised that the director is making the film with total conviction, and nobody will be able to question him. That’s what I took from Chandra Ji. I looked within myself at what my conviction was. How have I lived my life?

I was shooting Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!. Mahesh Bhatt Sahab was nearby so I went to meet him and touch his feet. He asked me what I was making. I told him about the ‘joote do paise lo’ sequence. The bridesmaids hide the groom’s shoes. He said, “Sooraj, jab tak joote chhupate rahoge, tab tak successful hote rahoge.” Everyone is made for a particular job. They should do what they like.

Any actor would love to do a Rajshri film. What do you think is your responsibility when you offer an actor a role in your film?

Sooraj Barjatya: It’s a big responsibility because people come to meet us but not every actor agrees to do a film. And we respect that. Some actors have said no too. People agreeing to meet me is also a big thing because they feel that as a director, I won’t fail them. In family films, there’s no big plot or anything like that. It’s about the moments. And I make sure that every character has its space in the film.

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