Filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya on Tuesday said he let go of all the "trappings" of his previous films, including naming a character Prem, for his upcoming movie Uunchai. Popular for star-studded family dramas such as Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Hum Saath-Saath Hain and Vivah, Uunchai is Barjatya's first film in seven years. His last release was Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015). Uunchai Trailer: Is Amitabh Bachchan-Parineeti Chopra’s Film Inspired by Martin Sheen’s 2010 Movie The Way? (Watch Video).

The director said the COVID-19 pandemic prompted him to accept changing times. "In this film, I have moved away from all my earlier trappings. There once was a charm that if you name (a character) Prem, the film will work. "But I have let go of that. In the pandemic, everything was slipping away, so there was no point holding onto anything," Barjatya told reporters at the trailer launch of Uunchai here.

Billed as a drama about four friends, played by Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani and Danny Denzongpa, the Rajshri Productions film marks a lot of firsts for the director. Barjatya said he had never set his movies beyond film studios but for Uunchai, he travelled to real locations across the country, including Kanpur, Agra, Gorakhpur, and even the snow-capped Himalayas. "It was liberating for me," he added. According to the filmmaker, "Uunchai" is the "most challenging film" of his 35-year filmmaking career.

"This is the first time I am making a film like this. In 2016, writer Sunil (Gandhi) told me the subject of the film about four friends, all 65 plus. It was a humorous story about their mission to trek to the Everest base camp. The subject didn't leave me. In the pandemic, when we were going through our challenges, I decided to take on my biggest challenge," he said. "If you see the trailer, there's no marriage, no functions. I tried to put in temples though," he quipped.

Barjatya said close friend and frequent collaborator Salman Khan had expressed a desire to work on "Uunchai", but the director said the film was not meant for the Bollywood superstar. "When I was making this ('Uunchai'), Salman asked me, 'Sooraj, what are you making? Why are you going to the hills?' He also told me, 'I can do this film!' I said no because we all know he can climb the mountains and I needed people who look as if they can't."

The director further said he was quite nervous before meeting Bachchan.

"When I wrote the script, I messaged him. He gave me an appointment for a Zoom meeting. I had taken two anxiety pills because it is not easy to face (Bachchan) sir. But over a period of time, I realised he is the easiest person to work with." Bachchan, who gave the event a miss on the advice of the doctors amid COVID-19 scare, said he had a wonderful time working on "Uunchai". The megastar had previously worked with Rajshri, Barjatya's home banner, on the 1973 film Saudagar.

"I have worked with them before. Jaya and Abhishek too have worked with them and they would heap praises on them. And, whatever they said turned out to be true. At this age, there are very few opportunities for us. I am thankful to Rajshri Productions and my co-actors," Bachchan, who turned 80 last week, added. Kher, who has worked with Barjatya on Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Vivah, and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, said he owes his career to Rajshri Productions which backed his feature film debut "Saaransh" (1984).

"I owe my career, success to Rajshri Films and I am thankful they gave me a character like BV Pradhan (from 'Saaransh'). They have made films with the same kind of approach. Some people work for money, some for creative satisfaction. And, some films you do to grow and learn new things. 'Unnchai' is one of my top 10 films," he added. Irani, known for the Munnabhai film series and 3 Idiots, said he is grateful to Kher for pushing him to do Unnchai.

"I was going through a bad phase. I had lost a lot of people, my mother was not well and I was not in the right frame of mind, he had told me this film will be the greatest experience for me. The experience that I had with him (Barjatya), was great. You just stand next to him and feel like a better human being," he added.

Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta, and Sarika also feature in "Uunchai", slated to be released on November 11.

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