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.