There are films and there are experiences. While one is about story, camerawork, editing, screenplay, the other is about smiles, gasps, sighs, awe, tears, and hope. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, Udta Punjab, right from its first frame to the end credits, is all about experience, which lingers on your mind days after you’ve watched it. Correction: Experienced it.
The first ten minutes gently suck you inside its quagmire of five rivers i.e. the five key characters: Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor in his career-best performance), Unnamed Bihari Girl (A brilliant actress who resembles Alia Bhatt. Wait a minute, was it her?), One-star cop (Diljit Dosanjh makes an interesting debut), Doctor (Kareena Kapoor in a brief yet memorable role), and Amit Trivedi’s music, which is undoubtedly one of the key characters of Udta Punjab.
Drugs in our films haven’t graduated from a white powder packet hidden in luggage, apparel or body. One song montage and we’re done with the entire rehabilitation process in the films we’ve grown up watching. Wish it was as easy in real life. What does it to the drug addict (by choice), drug peddler (by accident), corrupt cop (by convenience), and activist doc (by conscience)? Udta Punjab ponders over these questions through its key characters, whose lives collide at a common point, which is by far, the best ‘climax’ we’ve ever seen in our films.
Alia Bhatt owns the screen in every frame she appears in, especially the ‘Kab aayega acha bakhat?’ (Ache din?) scene and her first meeting with Tommy Singh (Can we avoid the name, Shahid Kapoor here). The transition scene of Tommy Singh is stuff classics are made of. Diljit Dosanjh, with those earnest eyes, makes his character the most endearing one. While Tommy Singh, the Unnamed Bihari Girl and the Doctor Activist need words to express their fear, frustration or anger, Diljit Dosanjh does it effortlessly with a single glance and eloquent silences.
Like mentioned earlier, Amit Trivedi’s music is one of the key characters of this gem of a film. ‘Chitta ve’, though kicks off like a rock song performance, chronicles the ‘drug journey’ with the ease of a documentary film. ‘Da da dase’ resonates with the vulnerability of the Unnamed Bihari Girl and smartly makes you root for her.
The song ‘Ik Kudi’ is sure to leave an everlasting impact on you as audience. Perhaps the screenplay writers Sudip Sharma and Abhishek Chaubey knew the power of this song and its lyrics, beautifully penned by Shiv Kumar Batalvi, a celebrated Punjabi romantic poet (1936 – 1973). ‘Ik Kudi’ is built up over the film’s second half, where you keep anticipating it. And when the song finally shows up, it catches you unawares.
Well, before the sum up, I still can’t figure out why this film was stopped from being released. On the contrary, Udta Punjab, in all its ‘gory glory’ must be screened at high schools and colleges (Don’t worry about those gaalis – students today have richer vocab than the ones used in this film) to know the current state of the state in question.
In hindsight, one feels that the filmmakers could have done away with those expletives. The film would have been as real, raw and rustic experience anyway. Thanks Anurag Kashyap for battling it out for not only the filmmakers, but also the audience. Udta Punjab has its message loud and clear: Papa don’t preach.