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'Udta Punjab': A Dark, Gripping Movie You Shouldn't Miss

A Still From ‘Udta Punjab’.

A Still From ‘Udta Punjab’.

Abhishek Chaubey’s Punjab has nothing to do with what we have seen for years in popular, entertaining YRF projects. The Punjab here isn’t merely about green fields, local fairs, and petty women.

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosanjh, Satish Kaushik

The first impression holds huge significance, right? Well, the same goes for films too. The opening sequence of a film is the director’s opportunity to make a good, first impression on the viewers.

‘Udta Punjab’ opens with a well-crafted sequence – that of a drug dealer from Pakistan throwing heroin – worth a crore – across the border. In this sequence, Abhishek Chaubey introduces the audience to the tone and theme of ‘Udta Punjab’. In the next few minutes, he introduces us to rockstar Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor), who surprises and thrills fans as he performs ‘Chiita Ve’ live at a concert. While the viewers get an instant insight into the drug-addicted star rapper, they are also made familiar with all the key characters in a short and crisp manner.

Abhishek’s crime thriller ‘Udta Punjab’ delves deeper into the rampant drug menace in the state of Punjab. The gripping, smart narrative interweaves the lives of the so-called youth icon Tommy Singh, Bihari migrant Kumari Pinky (Alia Bhatt), doctor-turned-social-activist Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor Khan), Inspector Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) and his brother Bali who is also a victim of drug addiction.

What begins as an accidental possession of a packet of drugs by Kumari Pinky, soon turn into her tragic tale of physical abuse. Bhatt is flawless as a Bihari migrant. Her accent, body language and the manner in she takes on her perpetrators – explains what she is capable of. As someone who can pull off such a complex role with so much ease and effortlessness, Bhatt definitely deserves projects that are as rewarding as ‘Udta Punjab’.

Kapoor does full justice to his role of a singer whose life is driven by drugs, and strong expletives. But his attempt to rescue Bhatt and follow the path to redemption is convincing. He has transformed both physically and psychologically to essay the role of a helpless artiste who can't do anything to avert the dire consequences of drug consumption. His dramatic mood swings is as striking as his ability to infuse unintentional humour.

Actor Diljit Dosanjh who makes his Bollywood debut with ‘Udta Punjab’ is a tough, strong-willed cop Sartaj Singh. An assistant police inspector, who had initially laughed off drug menace in Punjab, is completely shattered when he realizes that his younger brother is also a victim of drug addiction and has to be treated at a clinic which is run by Preet (Kareena Kapoor Khan). Whether it is his resolve to take on drug dealers, or his emotional, romantic bonding with Khan, Dosanjh uses every shot given to him to explain his acting chops. While we like him particularly in the sequences featuring Khan, the latter could have been more impactful.

The film’s music works in consonance with its script – each song talks about the drug addict’s feelings via multiple innuendos. Abhishek’s preference for good music and risqué can be easily understood through ‘Udta Punjab’.

The plot sustains viewers' interest because it explains almost every aspect of drug trade in Punjab. Even as it uses disturbing pictures of people snorting ‘Chitta’ and injecting drugs, it spreads a powerful message that the menace can’t be abolished completely unless and until every individual takes on the responsibility to battle the corrupt system at their individual level.

Chaubey’s Punjab has nothing to do with what we have seen for years in popular, entertaining YRF projects. The Punjab in the film isn’t about green fields, local fairs, and petty women. It is different and creepier, and that's why it is real and haunting.

Rating: 3.5/5

first published:June 17, 2016, 15:43 IST