That’s how I would describe Udta Punjab.
There is a widespread drug abuse problem and it has permeated all sections of the society and the manufacturer-dealer-politician nexus is very strong, almost impenetrable and the youth of the state is falling victim to it – till these victims give it up, the problem won’t be really eradicated; and that is the bigger problem than breaking the unholy trinity! The doctor, played by Kareena Kapoor Khan thus sums this problem up very well.
The first half of the movie keeps the interest stoked, with the story of three drug abusers developing simultaneously and how the not-too-conscientious police officer brother goes from being a money-making policeman to a helpless brother of a drug addict teenager to a policeman willing to make things right and bring the perpetrators to book. The Punjabi heartthrob Diljitsingh Dosanjh does an excellent job as this officer.
Kareena Kapoor Khan in a completely deglamourised role as the doctor is powerful. No excessive footage, no song and dance sequences, no dramatic actions or shiny dialogues – yet she shines!
The coke-snorting rockstar who has an army of people to pander to his rockstar status and success, actually puts someone else before himself and becomes human, once he realises how fickle stardom is. Shahid Kapur as Tommy Singh the rockstar seems like he has lived the role, he does such a good, believable job of it.
The master stroke, however, is Alia Bhatt – to quote someone ” she is the next Shabana Azmi in the making” and I don’t disagree! An addict, a victim of circumstances, a commodity in the flesh trade, a fighter, a survivor, a dreamer – all these shades of her character she has portrayed more than efficiently; she is extremely convincing in all these roles!! I look forward to her performances these days and she definitely did not disappoint in this one!
Where then, does the movie fall short?
The pace slackens in the second half in spite of all the action happening and the fight against eradication just becomes too simplistic! I was looking forward to seeing some snippets of real action that might have been taken to tackle this. Some concrete plan and some follow up to build a case. The bloodbath at the end was not quite the solution that I expected. And about the 89 cuts that the esteemed Director of the Censor Board suggested! If even half of those were for the “maa-behen” gaalis used in the film, then I think the director should have just accepted them and gone ahead, no big deal! Because apart from them, I really did not find anything objectionable; at the same time they were quite unnecessary in this frequency!
All in all, it’s worth a watch, but definitely not worth all the hype generated due to the Censor Board controversy! The hall was packed in spite of multiple shows running, so you think people are really watching to see what all the hype was about – it is indeed a well-developed film, but loses grip towards the end and thus falls short of what could have been an excellent film, given the topic. Yes, it is hardhitting, because it shows the scale of the problem as it is; but does not touch a chord with the solutions that it offers.
My rating would be a 3/5 for the direction and a 5/5 for the performances.