- by Sahil Joshi
Udta Punjab hits you like a blast of hot air after a cool air-conditioned room. The bleak, drug-ridden landscape it presents is suffocating at times and you will find yourself cringing at the strong language and stronger ideas it presents. Uncomfortable as it may be, it is also very real. Welcome to Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab.
Udta Punjab tells the tale of four characters at different ends of an as-yet nascent war on drugs. Shahid Kapoor as Tommy Singh is one of the poster boys of debauchery, his coke-addled songs have become anthems for the coke-addled youngsters of the state. Then you have Diljit Dosanjh playing a cop who plays along with the corrupt system right till the moment the horrors of heroin come knocking on his own door. Kareena Kapoor Khan plays the character of an idealistic doctor fighting a lone battle against drugs, she is possibly the cleanest of the lot. And finally you have Alia Bhatt playing an unwitting, innocent outsider getting helplessly engulfed in the issue. The lives of these four characters enter-twine against the backdrop of a damned landscape as the taut, gripping and horrific drama of Udta Punjab unfolds.
Writers Sudip Sharma and Abhishek Chaubey have crafted a finely nuanced story. It unveils in layers of brutal doses of reality and yet manages to stay immensely entertaining throughout. As always, Abhishek Chaubey has perfected his art as a filmmaker with Udta Punjab and the visuals do full justice to the story. Amit Trivedi’s music is brilliantly spot on and manages to evoke many of the finer moments in the film.
Coming to the performances, Shahid Kapoor is not Shahid Kapoor, he is Tommy Singh. The Haider star has so seamlessly integrated Tommy Singh within himself that you will barely recognize the chocolate-boy hero we know so well. Diljit Dosanjh finally makes his Bollywood debut and we couldn’t be happier. He is one of those rare actors who manages to exude a macho and boyish charm simultaneously. Kareena Kapoor too sheds her star image and blends into the landscape of Punjab and delivers a compelling performance. And if Alia Bhatt’s performance in Highway made you sit up and take notice, her performance in Udta Punjab will convince you of what a truly fine actress she is. One scene in particular springs to mind as particularly praise-worthy, but we won’t spoil anything for you. You will know what we’re talking about when you watch the movie. And you will definitely watch the movie. Because as Diljit Dosanjh says in one of the scenes, “Yeh baat aapki aur meri nahin hai, yeh baat hai Punjab ki.”
Udta Punjab’s solutions to the drub problems in Punjab may not satisfy everyone but the film has achieved one very important goal - people have started talking about it. And that is how every great change in history begins, with one raised finger pointing at an element of corruption. Udta Punjab is that finger. And what a glorious, thrilling finger it is. This is one film that truly deserves nothing less than four stars.