UDTA PUNJAB REVIEW:
It’s not the same Punjab you have seen before in movies. No familiar sarson ke khet, no Punjabi munda standing in those fields with arms wide open for his dulhaniya and no shaadi wala naach gaana. Anurag Kashyap co-produced and Abhishek Chaubey directed Udta Punjab is dark, grim, shocking, ultra violent and extremely disturbing piece of cinema.
Tommy Singh Gabru (Shahid Kapoor) rocks to nonsensical “coke cock” lyrics only under substance influence. He’s the icon for Punjabi youth getting their high from the contraband smuggled easily from across the Pakistan border. One such consignment inadvertently falls in to hands of a Bihari migrant (Alia Bhatt), who gets involved with the drug dealers and is forced to prostitute herself for a shot of cocaine.
At the same time, Inspector Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) declares war on the drug mafia after his kid bro falls prey to the menace. A doctor (Kareena Kapoor) who runs a rehab clinic helps him nail the culprits which include his fellow cops as well as top politicians otherwise known for their fiery anti drug abuse speeches .
Abhishek Chaubey structures his narrative like Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) – different subplots involving the four main leads converge in to one leading to the climax.
Of the cast, Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh is completely convincing as the cop out to redeem himself. His performance is superlative. Shahid Kapoor gets in to the skin of the character and though he may sound loud at times, it befits the druggie rockstar he plays on screen. He was better in ‘Haider’ (2014) though. Kareena Kapoor’s role is somewhat limited in scope but she makes the best out of it. After Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ (2014), Alia Bhatt once again proves that she’s much more than just a glam sham doll.
The film is full of disturbing visuals and excessive cuss words (mostly bc’s and mc’s) but yes, it is realistically depicted and pertinent to the subject matter. More importantly, the anti drug message is strongly conveyed and the vicious narco politics is also thoroughly exposed. Am glad the High Court passed the film in this form – uncut and hard hitting.
The story – screenplay is a mixed bag. Certain scenes stand out – like the jail sequence where Shahid Kapoor meets his druggie fans is awesome. Also, his candid conversation with Alia Bhatt when the two are hiding is well written. As for that underwater trance effect on a druggie, Feroz Khan depicted the drug overdose impact far better in Janbaaz (1986). Also, the angle of cop avenging his brother’s drug addiction is borrowed from the Naseerudin Shah starrer ‘Jalwa’ (1987).
On the tech front, cinematography by Rajeev Ravi is in sync with the movie’s content. So are the editing cuts by Meghna Sen. Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack is a must have on cd.
To sum up, Udta Punjab shows you the ugly side of the state we had come to identify from its sunflower fields and elaborately loud weddings. For this is a Punjab quite unlike Yash Chopra’s. Go for it.
Ratings on some of the technical aspects :
1. Direction : 3.5/5
2. Music : 4/5
3. Story, Screenplay and Dialogues : 2.5/5
4. Cinematography : 4/5.
5. Production Quality : 3.5/5