After the debacle of Dedh Ishqiya, Abhishek Chaubey comes up with Udta Punjab. Produced by Anurag Kashyap and the Phantoms, this film narrates the story of drugs in Punjab, today.
I would not be wrong to say, the film was expected to be, and to a great extent is, like the 2000 hit, Traffic, directed by Steven Soderbergh.
I will not spoil the narrative and its impact by disclosing the storyline, since that is half the fun of watching this film.
Coked out, Rock star, Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor), reformist, Dr. Sahni (Kareena Kapoor Khan), corrupt ASI Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) and an unnamed Bihari immigrant (Alia Bhatt), are the four stories which are intertwined due to their involvement with drugs and it’s after effects in the state of Punjab.
This is one work of brilliant writing by Sudeep Sharma & Abhishek Chaubey. They have presented the situation as is, without getting preachy or heroic about it. Coupled with real settings and some fine actors, they have a product, which will make your cinematic experience real, might not be entertaining for a few, but like the product you will.
Rajeev Rai’s cinematography too is commendable, coupled with the background score by Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar.
The movie story starts with each protagonists daily life and eventually twists them all in a tornado, which they cannot avoid, escape, they do try though..
Kareena Kapoor Khan is grace personified. As the crusading doctor running a drug rehab clinic, she is so much at ease in her character that it makes the debutante comfortable also.
Diljit Dosanjh is the real ‘hero’ of the film. He moves the story forward, or rather his story arc moves ahead in a more ‘filmy’ manner. In terms of performance, he is rock solid. Delivers anger and vulnerability both with great strength. Truly deserving of more exposure in the mainstream Hindi film industry.
Suhail Nayar as the crewie (Crew plus groupie) cousin, Jassi, is first rate. A talent to watch out for and with Phantom, am sure he will get more such opportunities.
Shahid Kapoor is the GABRU…. As Tejinder Singh a.k.a. Tommy Singh, delivers a role of a lifetime. He is the only ‘entertaining’ comic factor in the film ably supported by the fantastic Satish Kaushik. Apparently Shahid and Alia had decided to halve their usual fees for this film, if so, then a deal worth every dime. This is going to be his career defining characters, after Haider. Every scene that Shahid is on screen, there is so much vibrant energy. Playing the aloof star, trying to cope with reality, a result of the starworship that makes the impressionable minds swing both for and against you in a jiffy. Something we and he witness in the film itself.
Alia Bhatt… steals the show. As the deglam, Bihari girl, a victim of circumstances whose sole definition of ‘acche din’ is a holiday in Goa, she nails it. Period. Be it her accent, her outburst with Shahid or the pitiful cry for mercy at the hands of her perpetrators, BRILLIANT. What better gift from her to her father for the upcoming Father’s Day, than this heart wrenching performance. Goes to prove that she is one of the finest actresses of today, with the potential of far greater things than just look nice. Something mentioned by me after watching Highway too, referring her to Smita Patil.
Abhishek Chaubey deserves much credit for venturing out with this subject. He does a brilliant job overall, but takes a slight beating in the editing department in the second half, due to which the film feels slightly sluggish. Rest it is a brilliant effort and a must watch for one and all for its performances.
Kudos to Anurag Kashyap and the Phantoms for giving us a movie worth such performances.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
By: Yusuf Poonawala