To be honest, I had not been particularly impressed with the trailer of Udta Punjab and was in two minds about watching it but the furore over the censorship of the film and the ensuing court order definitely piqued my curiosity quotient. I entered the cinema hall with a little trepidation but was completely blown away by the raw honesty and brilliance of the film. So a big ‘Thank You’ to the Censor Board, for had they not raised all their nonsensical objections, the film might not have caught the public attention it deserved.
Udta Punjab fearlessly exposes the dark, depressing and frightening lives of people who get sucked into the horrifying vortex of the ‘drug-world’. Ensconced in the secure haven of our lives, we cannot even begin to imagine the hellish life of the addicts, the alarming ease with which these are made available for consumption and the remarkable alacrity with which the young and the old are taking to it.
Director Abhishek Chaubey’s film not only brings to life this inferno which has engulfed the state of Punjab but also stirs our conscience to understand the frightening reality and enormity of the problem.
He weaves a brilliant plot which revolves around the lives of four main protagonists: a rock-star with a huge fan following (Shahid Kapoor), who needs his daily dose to churn out his music, a junior cop (Diljit Dosanjh), who turns a blind-eye to the drug-racket because his seniors are too deeply entrenched in the scheme of things until his own younger brother falls prey to the addiction, a ‘Bihari’ migrant (Alia Bhatt) who inadvertently gets sucked into the dirty whirlpool from where there seems to be no point of return and finally a doctor (Kareena Kapoor), who runs a rehabilitation centre and treats and takes care of the patients with whatever possible means available to her.
The script beautifully goes back and forth showing all four parallel tracks, yet there is a chilling connection of drugs which runs like a life-line that cannot be overlooked. The power lurking in the political corridors and the nexus between the leaders and the cops and the drug-lords is really unnerving making us understand why the problem is not easy to control. The lackadaisical attitude exists because of the vulgar amounts of money involved and seemingly ordinary and unremarkable people seem to be the king-pins operating the racket.
Apart from the taut script, racy narrative and excellent direction, the other USP of the film is the perfect casting of the lead actors who put a lot of life into the characters. Young Alia Bhatt comes up with a scintillating performance and in the stillness of the cinema hall her searing screams of pain and hurt pierce right through our hearts giving us goose bumps. By tackling a variety of characters in all her films she is proving her mettle as one of the finest actresses of the industry. Kareena Kapoor lends a sincerity and dignity to her role that only comes from years of experience. As in her earlier film Ki & Ka, she gets a role befitting her age and talent and she is superb.
Shahid Kapoor’s role as a drug-addicted rock-star requires him to mouth profanity and jump around like a raving lunatic and at the same time experience an inner tussle with his own self. He approaches the role with a lot of maturity and his scenes with Alia are touching. Punjabi star and singer Diljit Dosanjh who makes his debut in the film is a delight to watch and has an endearing screen presence. His underplayed character stands out and is a talent to watch out for. His chemistry with Kareena is refreshing and infuses a few heart-warming moments in this otherwise grim tale.
The torture and the agony that marks the lives of people involved and the violence that runs across the whole world of narco-politics are so frightening just to watch in a movie…can we even begin to fathom how much more horrific they must be to experience?
It requires guts to make and act in such films…and to think that the censors almost banned the film !!!
So what are you waiting for? Do go and watch this inescapable and harsh reality of our lives which will definitely jolt you out of your reverie…