Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosnajh
Much before its release, the fight between Censor Board and the film’s producers had already made Udta Punjab a hot topic on conventional and social media. Was it a film crossing all social and moral bounds as implied by the Censor Chief? Or was it a cinematic expression of a free creative spirit as claimed by the makers (especially Anurag Kashyap?
Then the film was released, garnering mixed reviews- some praising it sky-high and others trashing it mercilessly.
Finally I managed to see the controversial film. So what are the impressions?
What’s the plot?
Mind-altering drugs smuggled across the porous Pakistan-India border are flooding into Punjab, turning the state’s youth into a generation of hopeless mindless junkies. The powerful drug mafia, the hooked addicts, the corrupt politicians, the colluding cops, the deteriorating cultural scene….the picture is stark and dark. The only rays of hope are some passionate individuals and organizations trying to fight this rot and to bring in the positive change.
Udta Punjab builds its story and the case against the drug menace through diverse characters. There are 4 main characters here- a migrant laborour girl (Alia Bhatt), who unwittingly falls into hands of the drug mafia, who turn her into a drugged sex slave; an iconic pop singer (Shahid Kapoor) famous for his explicit rock-rap songs, who is turning into a shell of himself through drug use; a young cop (Diljit Dosanjh) who understands the true dangers of flourishing drug trade only when its tentacles reach his own family and a lady doctor (Kareena Kapoor) who besides treating the addicts, is also an active campaigner against the issue.
What happens when the paths of these characters pass each other? Will the doomed druggies ever manage to come out of the clutches of their hellish habit? Will the fight against drugs see the culprits behind the bars?
· The film gets full marks for doing good justice to its theme. It opens one’s eyes about the rampant drug abuse in Punjab, which is often happening in broad daylight thanks to a flourishing network of covert operators, many of whom are wearing state uniforms and many occupying seats of power.
· The believable characters, the raw rustic language and fast-paced narrative laced with dark humor are film’s strengths.
· Alia Bhatt once again shows what a fantastic actress she is. Within a short span of time since she made her debut through a typically kitschy Student of the year, she has wowed with a variety of memorable roles and here, too her portrayal of a Bihari migrant girl, who comes to Punjab in hope of making a career in sports and ends up being a farm labourer, and later a captive consort of the drug operators, is striking.
· Shahid Kapoor’s drug-ravaged rock-star, losing touch with everything is entertaining but does not manage to shake off his Haider hangover.
· Kareena Kapoor carries her low key role with conviction.
· Diljit Dosanjh, a popular actor in Punjabi films, makes an impressive debut in Bollywood. He is cute, confident and convincing as the young police officer.
· Supporting actors do a net job, especially Satish Kaushik in his role as the musician’s uncle-cum-manager is superb.
· The music gels well.
· After a hard-hitting realistic beginning, the film becomes a tad unconvincing with some populist plot devices (the lady doctor joining the cop in the secret investigations, the romantic leanings between lead characters etc.)
It may not be a masterpiece but Udta Punjab is a film worth watching for its pertinent theme and some fine portrayals. I certainly did not understand the furore over its supposed use of bad language; there have been many movies with worse use of words! It is a sincere effort to raise public opinion against the drug menace and every such effort needs to be lauded in today's troubled times.