The first question that must be addressed is, did Udta Punjab deserve the beating it got
from the Indian censor board?
The clear answer is ‘No’. From Dev Anand’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna to umpteen films
shot in Goa, drug addiction and the involvement of high-placed authorities, has
been showcased by Hindi cinema time and again. Similarly, the dialogues of many
films like Gangs Of Wasseypur and Omkara have been peppered with gaalis galore in the recent past. So
neither the politics nor the profanity is so unique to Udta Punjab as to have merited such harshness from the censors.
On the contrary, this is well-made, dark, noir cinema
which succeeds in spotlighting the substance abuse that has overrun Punjab and
the politician-policeman nexus that keeps this sub-culture thriving. It’s also
relentlessly brutal in getting its anti-addiction message across with regret written
into every addict’s story. In fact, Abhishek Chaubey’s direction is so gritty
that when he closes in on the filth thrown up all over the face of a drug
addict, you want to turn your face away.
At interval point there are three tracks on the road. Dr
Preet Sahani, dedicated to rehabilitating addicts and ASI Sartaj Singh who is
driven by personal reasons, are on the trail of the manufacture and
distribution of drugs in Punjab. Rock star Tommy Singh, high on stardom and
substance abuse, is wanted for obscenity in public and is on the run. A feisty young
girl from Bihar, a migrant farm hand, lives to regret her one moment of greed.
Drawn unwittingly into the vortex of drugs, she has escaped and is being chased
by her captors.
Writers Abhishek Chaubey and Sudip Sharma segue and
blend the three tracks neatly and briskly with a Tarantino finish. Shahid Kapur
as wayward rock star Tommy Singh, Alia Bhatt as the girl pulled into a shadowy
world and Kareena Kapoor as the proactive doctor, keep the interest alive with their
efficient performances. Diljit Dosanjh’s presence lends sincerity and authenticity
to the ambience.
Despite the theme and the liberal abuses, there’s no
digression into sleaze, not even in Alia Bhatt’s scenes with her abusers. This
absence of glamour and sex with just an undercurrent of romance, might be
counted by some as a negative. But does its limited appeal matter when it’s
effective in what it wants to convey?
For a well-knitted film with a sense of purpose, Udta Punjab gets a 3.5* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author