In an industry swarming with lacklustre content, Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab shines with an edgy take on a bold, controversial subject. Drug abuse has plagued Punjab for years now. The film brings to the fore it’s impact on the youth; the involvement or rather the facilitation of its use — from the powers that be to the law enforcement agencies. For all the noise Udta Punjab created before the release, it was totally worth the hype. And is, indeed, an important film. Congratulations are in order for the writer (Sudip Sharma) and the director who brought it all together into a story that is translated into an engaging, well-paced screenplay and brilliantly enacted. A few scenes do seem contrived but they do not take away from the overall impact of the film.
The characters share an ease and a rare naturalness. Their exchanges, their reactions are raw, relatable and devoid of needless melodrama. Punjabi singer-actor Diljit Dosanj (Sartaj Singh) holds this film, which isn’t really a surprise. I have seen him in some ridiculous Punjabi films, most of which sell only on his name. He so didn’t belong there. Udta Punjab finally gave him a script worthy of his talent. He together with the terrific Alia Bhatt take the film to another level. Who can tell she’s the same, dolled-up ‘student of the year?’ I’m glad how the younger crop of actors isn’t restricting itself to specific genres. Her Bihari accent takes a bit of getting used to but few minutes into the film, this 23-year-old is on fire. Watch out for her in the second half (which pieces together puzzles strewn over from the first half and is relatively fast paced) where she breaks into a monologue, spewing pent up frustration, as Shahid Kapoor lies there dazed, stunned, enamoured. Her scenes are also some of the most disturbing in the film.
Shahid’s part is the toughest of the four and he gives it his all, although doesn’t come off completely organic. He appears to be ‘playing’ the part. The rockstar attitude doesn’t come naturally to him. Which is what makes it all the more harder. Nevertheless, he pulls out all stops. Kareena Kapoor is back after a long hiatus on screen. Few days ago, I was watching ‘Chameli’ and it struck me how she’d had gone from doing substantial, impactful roles to item numbers. Her last film Bajrangi Bhaijaan, was barely her show. She is back and how in Udta Punjab. The honest, upright Dr Preeti Sahni hits all the right notes and brings some light in an otherwise dark film. What an absolutely delightful chemistry between her and her charming, doting lover cop Sartaj Singh.