Last few weeks one saw the high-octane drama between the Censor Board Cheif Pahlaj Nihalani and the producers of Udta Punjab. The board objected to most of the scenes and suggested 89 cuts which were revoked by the Mumbai High Court who passed the movie with one cut and 3 disclaimers. The entire drama upped the ante of the movie and built up curiosity among the viewers. Did the entire controversy live up to the hype, let’s find out!

Disclaimer: If you are a fan of candy floss movies made by Karan Johars and Yash Chopras of the world (where you find the sweet natured and honey coated Punjabis who only speak the sweetest of the sweetest language) then this movie is not for you as Udta Punjab will make you sit in disbelief and cover your face. Every character in the movie uses choicest of the choicest expletives whether it is an old man or a small kid. Every dialogue, every word a character speaks is backed by gaalis. If you feel that you will find some romantic couples romancing in the fields then this movie is not for you, as you will be shocked to find syringes scattered and packets of heroin flying into the fields from the other side of the border. If you feel people are lively and jovial in Punjab then this movie is not for you, as you will be shocked to see that almost everyone in the movie are under the influence of drugs. )

The movie showcases the story of four characters played by Shahid (a rockstar – Tommy), Diljit Dosanjh (a policeman – Sartej), Kareena ( a doctor – Preet) and Alia (a Bihari-migrant – Pinky). Tommy is into heavy drugs and one day he gets fired by his producers for delaying their recordings. If that wasn’t enough, Tommy Singh also gets arrested by the Punjab police amidst his birthday party, on grounds of drug abuse. When he gets released from jail, despite the jitters, he somehow manages to gear up to perform before an eagerly awaiting audience. Just before the performance, he acts strange and pisses on the audience in the front row, who, then, run after him for his blood. Sartej is oblivious and ignorant of the drug problem in the State until he finds his brother hospitalized after ‘OD’ing and joins hands with Preet in her crusade against drugs and exposing the drug mafias. Pinky Kumari finds a 3 kg drug packet in the fields and to make a quick buck she goes finding users and in turn becomes a prey to the drug peddlers after she dumps the entire packet into a well. The peddlers hold her captive and rape her repeatedly after drugging her. Repeated attempts to escape bear no fruits. What happens to these four characters in the end forms the crux of the story.

The story is interesting on the paper and to one extent the director Abhishek Chaubey tries to justify, however, a weak screenplay and bad climax act as the deterrent. The first half is quite repetitive with every character doping and ODing. The second half is faster, however, the climax is quite filmy and does not go with the tone set by the movie in totality.

Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have delivered their career best performances. Shahid Kapoor as the druggie Rockstar lives his part while Alia is a sheer pleasure to watch. She is one of the most promising actresses in Bollywood today among the younger brigade. In comparison to Alia, Kareena is wasted in the part of Preet. The role and character are not meaty enough to justify the acting prowess of this versatile actor. Diljit Dosanjh passes the muster for a debut role in Bollywood.

The film does have decent music by Amit Trivedi but not an extraordinary one. There are a couple of hummable tracks like ‘Chitta Ve‘ and ‘Ik Kudi‘. However, the film’s background score (Benedict Taylor, Naren Chandavarkar) is quite impressive and helps the film’s narrative.

Dialogues by Sudip Sharma are mainly in Punjabi and they should have had English subtitles for audiences who don’t speak the language to find a connect. Cinematography (Rajeev Ravi) is passable however, the film’s editing (Meghna Sen) could have been tighter like I pointed out earlier the first half is totally dragging.

On the whole, UDTA PUNJAB is not a traditional potboiler but a dark and serious film however, does not justify the ‘Faff’ it generated through it’s recent publicity stunt.

My Verdict: **1/2

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