* * * 1/2
Alright, so this is a brilliant work by Kashyap and co, though it makes you uncomfortable and concerned about more than one cause.
- The problem that the movie very effectively portrays – that of drug menace in Punjab. Reading about it print is different from watching it unfold in front of you, and the movie makes you very uncomfortable about the situation in the state. But more than anything, it makes you aware (and in a much better way than those anti-smoking ads before the movie) of how substance abuse is injurious to health and life!
- The problem that the movie inadvertently drew attention of the country towards – the actions and logic (or lack of it) behind them of CBFC, voiced by our very own Mr. Nihlani. It is strange to think that someone could perceive this movie as promoting substance abuse, verbal abuse or defaming Punjab. This shamefully points towards a severe handicap in artistic understanding, or worse, a political hidden agenda.
Abhishek Chaubey, who already impressed the critics and audience with his Ishqiya franchise, ups the ante here and succeeds in giving the audience a film which is cool, fun, entertaining, explicit, bold, socially relevant, and technically brilliant without ever being preachy. Despite having easy temptation to fall into the trap, the movie not for a single moment glamorizes drugs and that is a major achievement. Yes, there is a lot of cussing but nothing seems unjustified or out of the place given the characters and their milieu. Infact one shudders to think what the CBFC would have made of the movie if the makers hadn’t gone to the court.
The film tells the stories of 4 characters in a drug laden Punjab. Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor) is a coke snorting rockstar idolized by many in the state, Sartaj (Diljit Dosanh) a cop living in cartels with the drug mafia and police until his own family gets affected by it, Preet (Kareena Kapoor) a doctor and drug rehabilitation worker who along with Sartaj tries to fight the problem, and an unnamed Bihari migrant worker (Alia Bhatt) whose encounters with the powder lead her places, not all being the ones where she’d have wanted to. Though all the performances are good, stars of the show are definitely Alia and Shahid (arguably, in that order). Alia Bhatt has to be seen to be believed. The way she has modified herself completely- right from accent to body language, she is a revelation. Hats off to the young actor, she is no more a student, rather actor of the year! Shahid Kapoor excels once again his role, bringing alive both the madness and humane side of the rockstar. Diljit makes an impressive debut and is very likable. Amit Trivedi scores big again, and the way music has been integrated into the script is commendable. The abuse-laden dialogues are as real as they get hence are effective in conveying the intent of the story.
To nitpick, the first half cold have been a bit more clear, the deliberate steps to say ‘’drugs are bad’’ often come into the way of story-telling. Also, a particular sequence in the end seems to be a deliberate attempt to take the story in a certain direction instead of flowing free and organically. But even with these, Udta Punjab scores high, scales new heights and makes you care for the characters, people and the beautiful state in a strong way. Go watch it, not to be missed at any cost!