Udta Punjab

The Highs and Lows!


News - India & You

June 20, 2016

/ By / New Delhi

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Alia Bhatt's performance as Bihari immigrant, caught in trying circumstances in Punjab, was one of the highs of the film

Alia Bhatt’s performance as Bihari immigrant, caught in trying circumstances in Punjab, was one of the highs of the film

While Udta Punjab created a buzz much before its release with disagreements between Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and filmmakers over its content and cuss words, the drug-themed film that underlines addiction issues among the youth in Punjab was given a green signal for its release on June 17 from the Bombay High Court.

As countries such as Mexico, US and even France are fighting war against drug or substance abuse, the north Indian state of Punjab is nowhere behind. The film Udta Punjab underlines the same. From the picture perfect image of good-humoured Punjab painted by many filmmakers such as Yash Chopra, Udta Punjab takes you on a different ride to the dark side of the state, much beyond the yellow mustard farms, tractors and the jovial turban-clad men. For those who are aware with Punjab’s drug problem it comes as no surprise; for the ignorant souls, however, it breaks the stereotypical image of the state.

A drugged fate

After controversies over censor with CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) that had reservation in allowing a few scenes, cuss words and ‘defaming’ Punjab, the Bombay High Court gave a go ahead to its release, with just one cut, on June 17. The CBFC that had proposed a total of 89 cuts and had faced multiple disapprovals from the film fraternity including the co-producer Anurag Kashyap (who has had his share of disagreements with CBFC before with his films such as Gangs of Wasseypur as director in 2012, again for the use of cuss words!) , gave an ‘A’ certification to the film. The film, however, a couple of days before its theatrical release, went viral on the internet, allegedly by CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani. And Anurag Kashyap once again found himself on the social network appealing people to wait until its theatrical release.

The plot

The drug-themed film that already created much sensation its pre-release, infact, walks you through the lives of people actively/passively affected and of those who have been fighting for a long time and the new ones to join the band-wagon. There is Punjabi rockstar, Tommy Singh (played by Shahid Kapoor), a drug addict whose music is dependent on how much he sniffs, much in a stereotypical way and realizes his cult status in jail that leads to gradual transformation; Kumari Pinky (Alia Bhatt), a hockey playing immigrant from Bihar who moved out of circumstances to work in the farms of the state and finds herself with a 5 kilogram packet of heroin that fell from sky and leads to greed and ‘bad time’ where she experiences molestation to drug injection. Then there is Dr Preet Sahani (Kareena Kapoor) who not only treats those affected by drugs but also runs a rehab and fights against it and cop Sartaj Singh (Punjabi actor Diljit Dosanjh who made his debut in Bollywood), a self-confessed small cog in the wheel who regains humanity on seeing his brother get affected by the overdose of drug cocktail easily available in pharmacies. Together the doctor and the cop investigate and reach the makers and promoters of drugs who, mostly the MLA’s and MP’s.

While there are moments that may infuse the feeling of ‘how filmy!’ and typical Bollywood-ness such as the forced romantic scene when Kareena Kapoor rides back the motorcycle with drug-afflicted Diljit Dosanjh, the film also has high points such as Shahid Kapoor’s outburst in concert where he comes with fuddu (idiot) carved on his head (It was here that Shahid’s Urinating scene on the audience was cut by the Bombay High Court) or Alia Bhatt’s monologue when she meets Shahid Kapoor while both of them were running away from the predators in their lives. This is the only scene where the actress really got the chance to vent and vent she did! The character definitely left more to ask for. Although with broken Bihari diction, she manages to reach out to the soft spots of the audience. The film also stores moments when you feel the characters had it too easy such as getting to the base of the drug production by Kareena and Diljit or the end where Diljit kills the local dealer and his associates in his isolated home, including the elderly woman of the family involved in the ‘ganda dhanda’ (a shocker, reserved for end!).

The film does show the scary reflection of the situation in Punjab – once known to be a farming state and now traumatised by its drug-abused youth – and to think that the CBFC was keeping the country away from the harsh reality!

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