After witnessing the major brouhaha that surrounded Udta Punjab in the recent past, I had my fingers crossed while entering the theatre last night. I wondered, ‘What if it doesn’t live up to all the hype?’ Fortunately, it not only lived up to my expectations but also surpassed them and how!
The film begins with a shot of two men handing out a packet of drugs to a discus throw player, who throws it across the border, aiming to deliver it to their client. And that sequence is so brilliantly done that I instantly knew I was in for an extremely intriguing ride.
I’m afraid this might sound clichéd but yes, the script is definitely THE hero of the movie. Abhishek Chaubey and Sudip Sharma have dished out a story that stays with you. However, the performers (each and every one of them so to speak) and the music (Amit Trivedi‘s tub-thumping numbers as well as the soulful Ikk Kudi) are also THE heroes in this one. That’s right – Udta Punjab is a true multi-starer.
Now, let’s talk about the performances –
Alia Bhatt plays a Bihari village girl who works in the farms of Punjab to earn her bread. An array of unfortunate events change her life from bad to worse. But she epitomizes hope and strength even during her darkest moments. She holds on to one single dream and deals with all the sh*t coming her way with the kind of bravery that a very few people can boast of.
Alia blew everyone’s minds with her performance in Highway. But little did we know that it was not even half of what the li’l firecracker had in store for us. From the Bihari dialect to the raw nonchalance on her face – Bhatt was spot on with EVERYTHING that her role demanded.
No girl will walk out of the theatres without losing her heart to Diljit Dosanjh. He plays a Punjabi cop, Sartaj Singh, who finds himself entangled in the drug menace in his state. Along with Dr. Preet Sahni aka Kareena Kapoor, he tries to get to the bottom of the scenario. His camaraderie with Preet is platonic and subtle. I don’t want to give out more than that here. But Diljit is just too endearing and absolutely delightful to watch.
Kareena plays her character to the T. Preet is compassionate, bold and opinionated. But there’s nothing that Bebo does in this movie that we haven’t seen her doing before. I’m not saying that she hasn’t delivered a great performance. I’m just saying that her act pales in comparison to the other three performances.
Which brings me to Shahid Kapoor – Tommy Singh AKA The Gabru. A Punjabi rockstar, who has an entire generation worshipping him, Tommy is a drug addict. He is crass, loud and reckless… until he meets Ikk Kudi. Once again, I don’t want to divulge much of anything here because I really really really want you guys to watch Udta Punjab.
Nonetheless, Shahid delivers an outstanding performance. And there are sequences in the film where he’s bound to have the audience in splits with his slapstick humour. Towards the end, his character undergoes a change of heart and Kapoor managed to bring that out rather effortlessly.
For me, the highlight of the movie is a conversation between Alia’s character and Tommy. It marks a fresh beginning for both of them in more ways than one.
And personally, I am very thankful to director Abhishek for beautifully capturing the essence of platonic bonds.
A special shoutout to Satish Kaushik, Prabhjyot Singh as Balli and Harpreet Singh as Samsheer and the guy who plays’s Tommy’s sidekick cousin – Jassi. All of them have delivered noteworthy performances in Udta Punjab. You will also see glimpses of Shahid’s brother, Ishaan Khattar in this one. I guess it won’t be wrong to say that he seems quite promising.
Hats off to Phantom Films (Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap,Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena) and Balaji Motion Pictures for taking a chance and producing this one.
And how can I not mention the top-notch cinematography by Rajeev Ravi? Even a simple shot of a man feeding some meat to a dog and the moon surrounded by the clouds have been captured impressively. Meghna Sen‘s editing is totally on point. Sudip Sharma‘s dialogues make Udta Punjab an easy and authentic watch.
Just when you begin to comfortably float with the film’s not-too-fast-neither-too-slow pace, BOOM and you are left with a gaping mouth. The ending is slightly Game Of Throne-ish but not caricaturish or unnecessary.
Udta Punjab is loaded with many high-points – there are some gut-wrenching moments, some comical ones, some that will make you angry, some that will leave you teary-eyed and some that will make you smile. There’s not a single emotion that this movie won’t make you feel.
RATING: **** 1/2