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Udta Punjab  : High On Narco-politics
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Friday, June 17, 2016
Abhishek Chaubey
Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor,Diljit Dosanjh

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.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author

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