The film is directed by Abhishek Chaubey and produced by Ekta Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap.
And it finally happened! The most talked about film of this year, Udta Punjab, has finally managed to get a proper release this week, After having dogged with various controversies with regards to its much discussed battle with CBFC, the film has now fallen victim to online piracy two days before release! Does the film have the the potential to get over this roadblock and become the huge hit in the careers of Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh? Let's discuss that ahead...
What's it about
As everyone must be aware of the plot by now, it's the makers' mirror to the society on how drug consumption has taken its toll on the youth of Punjab - told through the lives of four individuals. Tommy Singh aka Gabru (Shahid Kapoor) is a popular rockstar known for his abuse-filled songs, and his drug-fuelled lifestyle. However, when police arrests him for misdemeanor and puts him behind bars, he begins to re-evaluate his life. Alia Bhatt plays a Bihari immigrant working on the fields on the border of Punjab, when she comes across a drug package thrown from across the border. In trying to sell the package and earn fast buck, her whole life goes topsy-turvy and becomes a living hell for her. Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) is an ASI in the Punjab police force, working under a corrupt senior who is mentor for him. Though he normally turns a blind eye towards the drug trade in his town, when his younger brother gets hospitalised due to drug overdose, he decides to wake up and take action. Enters Dr Preet (Kareena Kapoor Khan), who becomes his support in his tirade against drug trade, which they realise has some heavy political power behind it. Yet they strive ahead, because as he says in the climax baat meri ya aapki nahi hai, baat Punjab ki hai!
Whether each of these individuals manage to redeem themselves or become bigger victims to the nexus is what the rest of the film is all about...
Censor di maa di is the first phrase that will come in your mind as you watch the film. Because this is a film that India needs to watch, and I am actually appalled to think the CBFC didn't want the world to see the stark reality of drug abuse that has been haunting Punjab and many other states in India. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see a documentary featuring Rahul Bose, that also was about the rampant drug nexus in the state. It was scary yet insightful, and fortunately, the makers of Udta Punjab follows suit and doesn't shy away from inflicting the viewers on the harsh effects of how drugs have seeped so much into our society that we don't know where to begin cleansing.
Kudos to Abhishek Chaubey, Anurag Kashyap, and Ekta Kapoor for putting all their might in making this film. Another person who needs to be appreciated is Sudip Sharma for his crispy dialogues. Yes, there are cuss words in galore, but they add to the authenticity of the film. The first half of the film is tightly narrated and has some very brilliant scenes. The entire Tommy Singh arc (excluding a few sagging portions) is well-written, and so is Sartaj's personal tragedy that becomes the fighting point for him. Certain scenes stand out like the first scene of the film, where the Pakistani drug mules bring their champion discus thrower to fling the packets across the border. Shahid's scene in the jail where he meets two of his fans is also well-written; at first he feels pride when he hears them sing his song, only to be told later that they had killed their mother for money! Even the songs are nice!
Now let's talk about the performances that are the film's biggest assets! Shahid Kapoor once again manage to surprise you with a nerve-wrecking performance, after Haider. It's amazing how this man can get into the skin of the character so much that we are not able to distinguish between the star and the character he is playing. Make no mistake - Tommy Singh is a character we are not going to forget anytime soon. Alia Bhatt once again proves that she is one of the most wonderfully talented performers of her generation, and that Highway was no fluke. You feel for her character, who is actually the most abused of the lot, especially in the scene where she reveals to Tommy her entire trauma (though the kiss was unwarranted). She sheds her glam image easily and easily nails the Bihari accent perfectly. Diljit Dosanjh also serves a power-packed performance in his Bollywood debut; he is technically the 'hero' of the film and he lives upto the role! Kareena, despite laden with the weakest character of the lot, is quite adequate. Even the supporting cast, like Satish Kaushik and the actors who play Sartaj's mentor and his younger brother, and Tommy's best friend are first-rate!
While the first half is nearly spot on, the second half meanders here and there thanks to a few forced romantic subplots. There is a lot of lagging in these portions, and whenever the film switches from Shahid - Alia's track to Diljit - Kareena's, the result is very clunky to watch. This makes us feel that if these tracks have been made into separate films it would have worked better. Tommy Singh's reasons for redemption and later his intent to save Alia's character may look reasonable but is not very convincing. Unlike Chaubey's more brilliant but very under-rated Dedh Ishqiya, the director is not able to balance the black comedy of the writing to the dark themes in the film this time. This is especially obvious in the climax, which is the weakest sequence in the film. Kareena's character doesn't have a definitive arc unlike the other three protagonists, though she does provide the catalyst to the finale.
Lastly, this is not exactly a flaw, the ordinary moviegoer might find the Alia Bhatt track very queasy!
What to do
Udta Punjab is definitely Bollywood cinema at its bravest, and also works as an eye-opener for people ignorant of the evils that's plaguing our youth. Everyone involved in the making of the film should be lauded for backing such a film, when our viewers are still not able to get over the blockbuster fever. Yes, the film is very dark and mature, needed a tighter narrative and might not even be a 100-crore grosser, but still...it is a film our society desperately needs!
3.5 out of 5
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