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Uunchai: Reviving the charm of old world cinema

After ages, one saw a dignified and sensible promotion campaign for a film. It is ‘Uunchai’, a tricky theme about the friendship of three senior citizens out on an adventure. This, coming from a production house that is known to make family socials and love stories. Actually, the campaign is not selling only the film. It is marketing the Rajshri brand!

What is heartening is that even after 76 years, the Rajshri brand still survives and is as active as ever – a close, family-built and -owned film company that has seen and survived the onslaught of the fly-by-night corporate film production houses that spend millions on proposals and not films.

The Rajshris never believed in this new-age promotion of films. I don’t even remember the company releasing teasers or ads on television channels. And, with ‘Uunchai’, they are sparing no media. On television, the campaign is everywhere, be it ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ or ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. What is more, the campaign is led by none other than Sooraj Barjatya, the face of the Rajshri banner, the creative head/brain/face. The man was always shy of facing the media. He has taken the lead to promote this film, his latest presentation after ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ in 2015.

It is not as if the Rajshris did not indulge the media. I remember when the company was launching Madhuri Dixit with ‘Abodh’, a press conference was called to introduce her at the then Ambassador Hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai. Of course, being a Rajshri PC, it was a high-tea affair at 4 p.m. They were not into cocktails-and-dinner-type PCs. Their media interactions were limited.

Another one that comes to mind is following their attempt to make a sequel to their 1978 musical blockbuster ‘Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se’ – ‘Jaan Pehchan’ in 2011. It was a disaster. They engaged with the media in Mumbai, but to no avail.

You watch these supposedly subtle promotions of films on the various television shows. Like, ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’, ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’, ‘Indian Idol’, and so on. Usually, you don’t see a film being promoted on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. Here, there’s no scope for buffoonery on the part of the stars and the customary appeal they deliver at the end: “Please see our such and such forthcoming film”!

The Rajshris knew when they needed the media. During the making of ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, they would screen the film for a select few during various stages of its making as it was the first film Sooraj Barjatya was helming. These were called trial shows. The first invitation was when the film was about eight reels in the cans.

The Rajshris knew it all because they were deep into the business of cinema, be it production, distribution and exhibition, as in controlling numerous cinemas. They produced films with a very tight budget and were the only company to have a distribution office in all circuits across the country and, among the many films they released, they also released ‘Sholay’ in a few circuits.

The Rajshris were making successful films till the time when they got carried away and launched 12 -14 films simultaneously. That really hurt the company’s business profile. The films may have incurred losses at the time, but, today, in this digital age, they are worth a lot. The banner regained its glory when the new-generation family member, Sooraj Barjatya, made his debut with ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, followed by ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!’.

Now, when aged actors are still portraying themselves as dashing young men on screen, Sooraj has dared to come up with a film, Uunchai, where the three main actors play their age. The film is about friendship. And, usually, films on friendship do not fail.

The difference here is that the television promotion campaigns are all built around the film and do not pander to the TV shows. Sooraj Barjatya has tried to revive the 1960s storytelling in 2022. Such a film as this takes a few days to grow and the Rajshris have engaged limited screens to let that happen.

–Vinod Mirani


Shehnaaz Gill

Rubina Dilaik

Nazriya Nazim

Pooja Hegde

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