Udta Punjab shows the menace of drugs in Punjab that is eating away at a whole generation. Abhishek Chaubey has researched his subject well. He has gone in the details of how drugs have become a source of riches for a large section of the population – the politicians, who use it to secure votes, police who are indebted to politicians or taken tainted money, the punk culture imported by NRIs from UK who have become stars in their own right in Punjab and the younger generation, who aspire to live the lifestyle that these rockers push. Slowly, Punjab is turning into Mexico, a scary thought if one is following the law and order and the impact to society that drugs have had in Mexico.
There are three parallel tracks that intersect each other at times. There is Tony Singh (Shahid Kapoor), a guy who never went to college, landed in UK, made underground music fueled on drugs and became a youth icon back home in Punjab. He can make music only when he is coked-up. Most of his fans follow the same drug routine and end up destroyed for life. Second track is of Pinky (Alia Bhatt), a girl from Bihar who wanted to be a hockey player but had to work the fields in Punjab due to penury after her father’s death. She chances upon a consignment of drugs that was thrown across the border by a Pakistani shot-put thrower. She tries to use the drugs as her passport to riches, but gets caught in a tragic situation in the process. Third track is Sub Inspector Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) who is happy looking the other way while drugs are distributed, only to realize the effects of his corruption when his own brother falls prey to drugs. He teams up with a doctor cum anti-drugs crusader Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor) to strike at the roots of drugs logistics.
The film has a realistic feel but doesn’t shy from including masala elements when needed. Sartaj and Preeti’s track strays away from the realistic treatment of the film. Also, Tony’s tracking down Pinky when he himself is an injured fugitive feels farfetched. At times the film tends to get slow.
The film is elevated by superb performances. Diljit Dosanjh, already a superstar in Punjabi cinema, makes an impressive debut in Hindi film. He effortlessly transitions from a corrupt officer to a concerned brother. Alia Bhatt is slowly emerging as a talent powerhouse. Her diction is sometimes not perfect but she more than makes up for it in her feisty portrayal. Shahid Kapoor as a perpetually stoned singer is suitably unhinged. Despite limited scope, Kareena Kapoor has performed well.
There are some questions that the film left unanswered. How did Tony and Pinky get out after the gunfight? What happened to Sartaj Singh and his brother? That said, the film is an honest portrayal of a state reeling under the influence of drugs.
Like many, my image of Punjab was hardworking people with an industrious mindset that achieved success despite all odds. Udta Punjab will change that forever.
Film Poster: By Balaji Motion Pictures, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50137156
Rating : 3/5
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhat, Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor
Director: Abhishek Chaubey