Udta Punjab - Movie Review

An eye-opening account of the Punjab drug crisis

By Murtaza Ali Khan (@apotofvestiges)

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Udta Punjab, Movie Poster, shahid kapoor, kareena kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Satish Kaushik
Udta Punjab (2016) By Abhishek Chaubey

Udta Punjab is an Indian crime film, based on drug abuse in the North Indian state of Punjab, co-written and directed by Abhishek Chaubey who has previously made films like Ishqiya and Dedh Ishqiya. Produced by Balaji Motion Pictures and Phantom Films, Udta Punjab stars Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, and Diljit Dosanjh in the lead roles. Udta Punjab got engulfed in a major controversy even before its release with the Central Board of Film Certification directing the producers to make as many as 89 cuts in the film citing that the themes dealt with in the film were too mature for the general audience. However, the Bombay High Court gave the permission for the film's national release with just a solitary cut.
Shahid Kapoor as Rockstar Tommy 'Gabru' Singh in Abhishek chaubey's Udta Punjab
Shahid Kapoor as Rockstar Tommy 'Gabru' Singh in Abhishek Chaubey's Udta Punjab
Our Rating: 7.5
IMDb Ratings: 8.2
Genre: Crime Drama Thriller
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Runtime: 148 min
Color: Color

Udta Punjab is an eye-opening account of the ongoing drug crisis in Punjab that is fast engulfing the youth of the state. The film shows how drugs consume the mind, body and soul. The disturbing reality that Punjab has become makes one’s heart boil with anger and eyes wet with tears. The movie presents a kaleidoscopic account of how drugs enter the border state via Pakistan. How the ruthless drug lords operate under the aegis of the state machinery. How easily the youngsters get sucked into the maw of darkness, choosing to live in drug-induced utopias rather than face reality. How hard it is for their families to rehabilitate them. How badly the addicts suffer, both physically and mentally, during the withdrawal phase.
Kareena Kapoor as Dr. Preet in Udta Punjab, Directed by Abhishek Chaubey
Kareena Kapoor as Dr. Preet in Udta Punjab
Udta Punjab revolves around a rockstar junkie named Tommy 'Gabru' Singh (inspired by Yo Yo Honey Singh), a Punjab Police ASI named Sartaj, a lady doctor named Preet, and a female Bihari migrant named Pinky, each of whom find themselves at the centre of the drugs crisis. Tommy Singh is a youth icon who through his revolting songs and junkie ways has convinced the youth that doing drugs is supposed to be cool. The youngsters copy his mannerisms, hailing him as their idol. But little do they know that Tommy is himself a victim of drug abuse. Tommy’s days are numbered. While his clients have deserted him, the politicians and the police are desperate to make a scapegoat out of him. Sartaj, a corrupt policeman, becomes aware of  the menace of drugs and joins Dr. Preet in her fight against drugs. As for Pinky, she gets victimized by a gang of mangy drug peddlers. Thus, each of the four individuals must find courage within themselves to fight the all pervasive evil.
Alia Bhatt in Abhishek Chaubey's Udta Punjab, directed by Abhishek Chaubey
Alia Bhatt in Abhishek Chaubey's Udta Punjab
The acting is solid all credit. Credit goes to Chaubey for eliciting worthy performances from all his actors. Again, just like in Haider, Shahid gets to play a character on the brink of madness. And, although, he appears a bit over the top during a couple of sequences, he succeeds in pulling it off. Also, it’s good to see Alia in a completely different avatar. It is never easy for a young actress who regularly gets type casted to step out of the comfort zone but Alia here proves that she is certainly not averse to trying out new things. Kareena has really matured well as an actress. She puts up another solid show here to follow her brilliant turn in R. Balki’s Ki & Ka. But, the movie's biggest surprise package is Diljit Dosanjh who delivers an absolutely unforgettable performance. It looks like Dosanjh is here to stay. The principal cast is well backed by the supporting actors led by the veteran Satish Kaushik himself.
Diljit Dosanj as Sartaj in Udta Punjab,Directed by Abhishek Chaubey
Diljit Dosanj as Sartaj in Udta Punjab
Overall, Udta Punjab is a historical film in many ways. In spite of being an out and out commercial film, not only does Udta Punjab succeed in tackling a controversial subject like cross border drug trafficking with great conviction, but it also serves as a potent case study that dares to question the relevance of adhering to obsolete censorship norms in modern India, perhaps ushering in a new era of filmmaking. The support that the movie has received from both inside and outside the industry is unprecedented and hopefully would go a long way in giving a new lease of life to Hindi cinema. The movie’s cinematography and music give it a completely different dimension. The use of dream sequences to accentuate the psychedelic influence of drugs is nothing short of a masterstroke. One such sequence involving Alia is absolutely brilliant to watch. Making a movie entirely on drugs is quite new for Hindi cinema. It is a genre that the West excels at. Films like Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, and Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic come to mind. Udta Punjab is certainly not in that class but its socio-political commentary, heavily laced with satire, is nonetheless quite effective. Here is a film that needs to be watched by addicts and non-addicts alike. 

Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions in the comment box below. As always your insightful comments are highly appreciated!

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  1. Nicely written without any spoilers !!

  2. An apt review Murtaza! Captures the essences well. Cheers :)

  3. "It is never easy for a young actress who regularly gets type casted to step out of the comfort zone but Alia here proves that she is certainly averse to trying out new things."

    I think you meant to write "...she is certainly not averse...".

  4. But of course... will make the correction, thanks for bringing it to my notice! :-)

  5. nataranjan bohidarJune 24, 2016 at 12:37 AM

    In cine-style it perhaps recalls Anurag Kashyap...but i'm going to tell the world to be very very very afraid of Abhishek Chaubey...the terrifying new name of modern India cine-direction...."Udta" stuns in ways unexplainable and unexplored...take Satish Kaushik's piece, his loving haranguing fascist undercurrent.."all in the family" emasculating madness...as a substrate of the entire film... Moderated violence, unmoderated realism. Not Pahlaj Nihalani nor the entire military can keep audiences away from such mesmerizing work..well done, v.well done...only a fool will blunt the piercing point of "Udta" by calling it a Shahid-Alia film...Kareena's greatest effort...with the ease of "3 Idiots"....Dosanj does Indian acting proud...Alia & Shahid are Ophelia and Hamlet and Juliet and Romeo rolled into one...It's a miracle they are alive at the end of the movie...in, uh huh, on, omg, is that Anjuna? Udta Goa , anyone? -bohidar

  6. Great review... I still havent gotten around to watch it... :( Uh life...

  7. Well, you better watch this fast :-)

    P.S. Thank you!

  8. Nice review, Murtaza. I'm not sure if I would call UDTA PUNJAB an "out and out commercial film," though. But yes, the reason it did garner much attention was due to its star cast.

    I wrote about the film for Yam Magazine here: http://www.yam-mag.com/reviews/film-reviews/udta-punjab

  9. The movie is meant to be an out and out commercial film... btw, thanks for sharing the link!


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