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Review: ‘Udta Punjab’ Is A Brave Film Made Better By The Actors

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By Shivansh Mishra:

Cinema is essentially a part of our lives. Conversely, it is and it should be reflective of the society that we’re all parts of. But is there supposed to be a line which should be drawn in the endeavour to express the so-called ‘social realities’ or is it fine if this supposed line is blurred?

The drama that unfolded in the whole circus around ‘Udta Punjab’, the intention of its makers and the potential repercussions this ‘inflammatory propaganda piece’ disguised as a work of art could have on the state of Punjab and for it, seems like an exercise in futility because right from the get-go, the film is an honest and unflinching portrayal of the drug menace that engulfs the state.

Shahid Kapoor’s Tommy Singh, ‘The Gabru’, is a cocaine addict, well past his prime but still able to sell records because of his on-stage antics. Alia Bhatt, the girl with no name, is a migrant worker from Bihar who unwittingly becomes a part of the deadly circle of heroin smuggling. Diljit Dosanjh’s policeman Sartaj Singh is but a pawn in the gargantuan chess board of smuggling and Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Dr. Preet Sahni is waging a war on the whole system through her own efforts.

What transpires on the screen is something that we as viewers have either seen or at the least heard about one way or another and this is the movie’s biggest strength. This is what helps us to both distinguish as well as connect fact and fiction as we perceive the goings-on.

The movie very smartly focuses on the state of Punjab and the movement of drugs therein. Now, some may call such a portrayal politically motivated but for me, it is simply akin to a finely crafted piece of clothing from a fictional yarn. The pacing of the movie is brisk and it touches all the points of a movie starring some of the biggest names of Hindi and Punjabi films. But there are some exceptionally well-written scenes that showcase the power of writing.

Now, for director Abhishek Chaubey, writing has been a big problem for his previous two directorial efforts, ‘Ishqiya’ and Dedh Ishqiya, where the movie crumbles in the final half hour because it has no idea where to take its characters and how to meaningfully conclude their journey. Here, co-writer Sudip Sharma doesn’t let that happen. The film, a part of his resurgence alongside the bold ‘NH10’, is absolutely sure of what and how it wants to do what it ends up doing. Yes, there are cinematic or ‘filmy’ moments aplenty but it never loses focus of the subject-matter.

This is frankly a hallmark of the abilities of Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor as actors. Both Diljit Dosanjh and Kareena Kapoor Khan excel at their roles but Shahid and Alia bring a profound sense of respect towards their characters. There’s a sequence post-interval that has their hard-work under the spotlight and boy, do they excel! Here are two characters from different strata of society, hiding in a ruin from the rest of the world and bonding over their miseries brought about by their addiction to ‘maal’. Bravo!

‘Udta Punjab’ is a brave film and it needs to be watched by all those who appreciate cinema. But more importantly, it needs to be watched for the ferocious way it celebrates the brave face of Hindi cinema. One which is not blinded by facades of shitty works in the name of ‘popcorn entertainment’. One which stands proudly on its feet and has the ability to soar on its own.

Udo, khoob udo!

My Rating: 5/5.

Featured and banner image credit: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images.

You must be to comment.
  1. Merril Diniz

    This is one of the sharpest reviews I’ve read of a film that embodies seminal cinema. Bravo!

  2. Shivansh Mishra

    Thank you Merril. Much appreciated!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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