BizAsia Movie Review: ‘Udta Punjab’

Raj Baddhan

Senior Editor


‘Udta Punjab’ has remained in the news since it rolled. There were various reasons for this with one of the biggest being the star-cast. Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and debutante Diljit Dosanjh are enough to whet any cine-goer’s appetite but when the subject is a little out of ordinary, it rightfully ups the excitement level. In recent weeks, the film has taken over the news due to its incredible feat with the Censor Board and the run upto that result. The entire film fraternity united to stand against the cuts the Board was proposing, showing that they all believed that a film should not be cut but certified. As the film came up for release, it was sadly leaked online which could harm its overall business. BizAsia had the opportunity to attend the London press screening a day prior to the films release.

Udta Punjab posters x4 340x

The film’s story revolves around the Punjab state and its drug problem. Tommy Singh (Kapoor) is a big superstar but his energy is all about him being high. Kumari Pinky (Bhatt), one day, comes across a huge amount of heroin and goes about trying to sell it to be able to make money and live a better life. Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) is a policeman who is part of the force which turns a blind eye to the drug trade entering the state but when his own brother suffers from a life-threatening overdose, he relies on Dr Preet Sahni (Kapoor Khan) to try and make him break the habit. All four stories come together at various parts and the intermingling makes the soul of the film.

It has to be said that the film is definitely hard-hitting and there are parts which might not be entirely for family viewing. There are swear words and there are excruciating aspects to the story which highlight how affected by drugs a person’s life can become. Director and writer Abhishek Chaubey seems to have kept to the mood he is known for as a writer. As a director, he seems to have outdone himself. His depiction of all four stories, taking into account the limitations and feelings of each character, is truly admirable. Although the film’s start is quite slow and it takes a good 20-30 minutes for a viewer to fully get upto speed with what the characters and story are about, as the plot unravels, it’s hard to see this film without the actors in the roles they’re in.

Right from the first trailer, it was evident that performances would be quite something in ‘Udta Punjab’. Kapoor’s performance as a rockstar who is reliant on drugs until he comes face to face with the influence he has on young people is truly inspiring. He seems to have delved into the character of Tommy Singh completely and gives a more than decent performance. Bhatt as an underprivileged ex hockey player looking for her big break from life is equally poignant and, when she has a ‘Highway’ (2014) behind her, it was hard to think she might depict this character even better but she does. Bhatt seems to play Kumari with such authenticity and such depth that the audiences seem to get mesmerized with her every emotion and her plight. Kapoor Khan as a doctor wanting to get to the drugs suppliers and as someone who wants to help youngsters overcome their drug addiction is indeed portraying many who have that everyday struggle to provide good care. Her look is absolutely de-glam and she is a natural in the role. Her chemistry with newbie Dosanjh is one of the lighter points of the film, allowing for some romance and comedy to creep in to an otherwise dark plot. Dosanjh makes a strong debut as Sartaj and shows the emotions well of a family hit hard by drugs. His character’s pain and his slight infatuation with Preet are equally easy to watch and it seems ‘Udta Punjab’ is a perfect film for him to make his initial mark on Indian cinema. Also, if you look very carefully, you might spot a short appearance from Kapoor’s brother Ishan, soon to make his official Bollywood debut.

Diljit & Kareena in 'Udta Punjab'
Diljit & Kareena in ‘Udta Punjab’

There are scenes in the film which particularly stand out but the ones that define the entire movie are between the main characters. A scene in the second half when Tommy and Kumari meet for the first time brings in some comedy and seems to come as a realisation to both that the other is going through a drug problem but under very different circumstances. At the same time, the disturbing scenes of Kumari’s situation as well as a prison scene featuring Kapoor are both effectively humane in the overall narrative. The climax scenes are a hard watch; in fact at many parts there are times when you might feel you have an “Oh My God” moment because it’s all too much to take in. This only emphasises why such a film needed to be hard-hitting and not shy of showing the truth of the extent the problem goes to. The Censor Board may well have tried to cut some of the most important parts of the film but it’s only when you watch it you realise how much of the story could have been lost in the process.

‘Udta Punjab’ is definitely not an easy film to watch from start til end. It will make you emotional, it will make you question the actions of the lead characters and it will definitely make you pull your hair out. However, it will also make you appreciate Chaubey’s absolutely commendable style of writing and direction which should remain at the forefront of the film’s success. Out of the four brilliant performances, it is Bhatt’s heartbreaking tale which will tug at your heartstrings the most but you’ll come away remembering her strength. You’ll also remember the strength when you think about why the film’s intensity was such an important thing for Indian cinema, despite it’s very few shortcomings. Films like ‘Udta Punjab’ don’t come about everyday and the bravery of all those involved in making the film will definitely make you want to recommend it to others.

BizAsia Showbiz rating: 4/5