Hello World. It feels nice to be back. Ever since I have been home after compres in Pilani, the Saturday morning movie has almost become a ritual. Oh how I love Pune, for its cheap movie tickets!
Following the ritual, I found myself buying a ticket for Udta Punjab yesterday morning.
The film opens with a shot of a discus thrower putting his skills to use when throwing a packet of drugs across the border from Pakistan to India, which is followed by Shahid’s Tommy Singh dancing and singing praises of the ‘chitta’ powder and the magical realism that he associates with it. The whole of the film is filled with such eye-opening trials and tribulations Punjab and its youth today face, with a wonderful background score to amplify things on-screen.
Tommy Singh (Shahid) is a drug addict popstar who is always singing songs about drugs, women and genitals (similarities to Yo Yo, anyone?), until one incident in a lock-up forces him to reconsider his ‘youth icon’ status. He and his sidekicks perfectly describe the stereotype Punjabi youth. Diljit Dosanjh plays Sartaj, the corrupt cop who charges his ‘naake ka rate’ to facilitate the free flow of drugs until one fine day tragedy strikes closer home. Kareena as the daring and frank Dr. Preet Sahni has set her mind to stopping the drug menace in her state. Alia Bhatt, Shahid’s ‘Ikk Kudi’ in the second half, is a nameless hockey-wielding migrant from Bihar, who, in pursuit of some easy money, finds herself deep in some serious, sad shit. The backdrop of all these characters is the drug problem in Punjab with its corruption, negligence and lawlessness. In an effortless amalgamation of the lives of the four characters, director Abhishek Chaubey shows us that he still has the Ishqiya (of Chu**yum Sulphate fame) charm in him, for the tale that ensues is one that shows the Punjab that coexists with the Punjab of its mustard fields and Dilwales.
Shahid plays what he is given to the best of his abilities. I have always felt he is a grossly underrated actor, and he proves his acting mettle in this movie too. His character could have been constructed better though, I felt, as at some points his physical appearance and make up took precedence over his dialogues and performance. Diljit Dosanjh plays the cop with such ease making you wonder if there would have been someone else who could have done justice to the role. Kareena looks absolutely amazing for her part (or probably its just my childhood crush), and even forces you to reminisce Geet from Jab We Met.
The real surprise in this movie was, for me, Alia Bhatt’s character. Very frankly, I had gone in expecting the least from her, as I have learnt to from her past movies. But man, she proved me wrong right from her first dialogue! Her transition from the terrible in Student of the Year to this movie is a matter of awe, and deserves a salute of respect. Her monologue describing her plight in stereotypical Bihari fashion are enough to redeem the worth of your tickets. Add to that Satish Kaushik’s supporting role as Tommy’s tayaji and you’ve got your popcorn covered too.
The cinematography is a bit patchy, oscillating from mindblowing in some parts to utterly mediocre in some. Script and screenplay, at least in the first half, seem to be written as a docudrama. But who’s complaining? Direction is exquisite, and Abhishek Chaubey shows us he’s still got the Ishqiya charm left. The music – uff, Amit Trivedi is a worthy successor to AR Rahman. The lyrics by Varun Grover aptly gel in with the situations in the movie, and that is the beauty of the music. The song ‘Ikk Kudi’, with lyrics by the great Shiv Kumar Batalvi, is gonna remain on my playlist for a long time to come, and so are Batalvi’s poems on my reading list.
Udta Punjab might not a perfect film, let alone a great film, but it is one which is very frank and one which was needed. Every youth must watch it, and take away its lessons. One could see why the Punjab Government was opposing the movie – it is frank to the extent of being offensive to the politicians. It certainly does not glorify drugs as was Pahlaj Nihalani’s opinion; in fact I would think of it as India’s Requiem for a Dream, showcasing the dark side of drugs and junkies.
As Shahid asks in the movie, ‘Who’s the Gabru?’ Anyone can be a Gabru, but certainly not one who does drugs. Drugs di Maa di, guys.