Udta Punjab: Fly High on Cinema!

I got the feeling that the reviews were getting monotonous. Hence, a change in format.

Much has been made of Udta Punjab. Embroiled in controversy from all sides (Thank you, Censor Board aka Mr Nihalani), the film’s prospects of releasing on June 17th looked bleak. Yet, with a great judgement from the Bombay High Court, the makers managed to reach the deadline.

The film revolves around four characters: a coked-up musician, a Bihari migrant labourer, a doctor-cum-activist and a crooked-turned-cracking cop. Set against the backdrop of the drug menace in Punjab, the film starts off with drugs being hurled across the IB. That scene pretty much sets the tone for the film. Dark, gritty, eye-opening and humourous, the film breaks into all genres in one way or another. Some scenes stand out, especially the climax.

The film does lag a bit. The screenplay seems to be a little too long at times and there are certain areas where the editing could have been sharper.

Abhishek Chaubey directs beautifully, cutting across to each of his leads without hampering the pace of the film. The screenplay by Chaubey and Sudip Sharma does its job efficiently, though it lacks grittiness in places. Sharma deserves a huge round of applause for his script, though the ending was a bit abrupt. The dialogue, mainly in four languages (Hindi, Punjabi, a Bihari dialect and Profanity), suits the film well, though the last of the languages can be embarrassing if you watch the film with your parents. Amit Trivedi’s music hits all the right chords, as does the background score by Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar. Rajeev Ravi’s camerawork is brilliant and captures the essence of the film. Satish Kaushik and Manav Vij lead the pack of fine supporting performances. Kareena Kapoor Khan is good in most of her scenes but spoils her performance with some Geet moments. Diljit Dosanjh proves why Punjab loves him so much in his debut performance in Hindi cinema. Quiet, composed and the antithesis of Bollywood’s depiction of Sardars, Diljit holds his own in a film packed with and backed by some of Bollywood’s biggest names. Shahid Kapoor’s eccentric and dark performance as Tommy ‘Gabru/Fuddu/Lallu’ Singh is great. He transforms into the character and leaves one lost for words about Tommy. Alia Bhatt is the clear winner of all the actors in the film. Her portrayal of a district-level hockey player from Bihar who is forced (by circumstances) to move to Punjab and work as a farmhand is powerful in its silent, brooding nature. Her fiery speech after the interval is the longest she speaks in the film at a stretch. She melts into the character, looking and sounding as unlike her previous performances as possible. Her expressions and on-screen actions do more than enough to boost her performance.

Udta Punjab does a fine job of bringing the drug menace in Punjab to the fore in a most cinematic yet realistic way as is possible. A tighter screenplay and better editing would’ve made it a perfect film. Those minor glitches aside, I’d recommend it to anyone above the age of 13.

“Baat aapki aur meri nahin hai, Yeh baat hai Punjab Hindustan ki!” Also, Drugs Di Maa Di!


Udta Punjab: 4/5

Image: Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Varun Bhakay Writing 2016


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