“Drugs di maa di!”
You already know what’s in store when a film arrives with a tagline such as that one. But what you probably didn’t know is that Abhishek Chaubey’s vivaciously spirited visualization of the fast-moving drug scene in Punjab is nothing short of an appalling masterpiece – one that does not shy away from showing the raw ugliness of its characters, and the wild atmosphere surrounding them. There is absolutely no soft-pedaling here. Amidst all the recent controversy, the only question that remains to be answered is whether the film actually lives up to all the hype surrounding it. And here’s my answer to that –
The central plot of the film revolves around the lives of our four principal characters – Tommy Singh aka “the f#@king Gabbru”, ASI Sartaj Singh, Dr. Preet Sahni and Kumari Pinky. Their lives get entangled with the lawless drug scene in more ways than one, and the consequences of their actions form the basis of the plotline. Shahid Kapoor’s take on Tommy Singh deserves an ovation. Remember the scene from Haider where Kapoor goes “Mic testing…Hello?” Now imagine the same thing on steroids (literally!), that’sTommy “Gabbru” Singh. Things take quite a turn for the crazy rock star when he realizes the false messiah he’s been turned into by the youth. Not far behind is Alia Bhat. She brings both strength and vulnerability to Bihari migrant, Kumari Pinky, the genuine show-stealer of Udta Punjab. Her performance is likely to be the one best remembered from the film. Without Kareena Kapoor’s unflagging enactment as the bold Dr. Preet Sahni, the film would have lost half its punch. Despite not being given much to do, her character becomes our guide to the new anarchic Mexico in the making. Last, but not the least, Diljit Dosanjh makes quite an impact as ASI Sartaj Singh, a cop who was very happy to let the drugs slide into the system until his younger brother fell prey to cheap, lethal drugs. Among the rest of the supporting cast, Satish Kaushik walks away with the most amazing performance as Taayaji, the man who made “Gabbru” da star!
The storytelling is almost impeccable; the relentless drama with the mordant humor keeps you engrossed all the way through. Amongst the countless brilliantly crafted sequences, there was one that overshadowed the rest. Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhat’s characters share a moment of vulnerability, as the Bihari migrant and accidental “rock star” try to explain to each other, exactly how their past actions landed them in the current respective puddles they were both in and form a fragile bond in the process. That particular scene was commendably performed by both actors.
What stands truly remarkable is the fact that all songs in Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack album mesh perfectly with the sequences, and nothing truly seems forced or out-of-place which is quite a rarity in Indian cinema these days. “Chitta Ve”, “Ik Kudi” and “Ud-Daa Punjab” will stay with you long after you’ve walked out of the theatres. There are quite a few things that were bound to mess with our heads, but I did not expect Kareena Kapoor’s fake overdubbing in multiple scenes to be one of them. Also, there are a few sequences that could’ve been done away with in the editing room, but they hardly take away much from the overall viewing experience.
Films depicting the lives of their characters with gut-wrenching clarity deserve to be put out there for the world to witness, and that is where the recent drama caused by the Censor Board seems atrociously nonsensical. In the end, Udta Punjab is a strong reminder of how someone’s actions can shape their life choices, relationships and morals. It has its highs and lows (okay, make that more “highs”; pun intended), but it definitely warrants a viewing, if you’re up for what it has to offer. I’m going with a 3/5 for Udta Punjab. Whether a gabbru or a fuddu, don’t miss it!