The central theme of the movie is: fight. Fight against oneself to be freed from the clutches of drugs. All the pivotal roles face this in different proportions all through the movie. Udta Punjab became a highly expected movie post its controversy with the CBFC and one can say that it has lived up to the expectations.
The movie follows the life of 4 characters: A Pop singer, a wannabe hockey player, a doctor who wishes to abolish drugs from Punjab and a policeman whose brother is a victim of the drugs. The director carefully treads along the lives of all these people and their nexus with drugs – some intentionally and some not. He brilliantly captures the way they fall for the drugs; how they fight to come out of it and whether or not they are successful. Also, of interest is the way how he makes the paths of these characters meet!
In between he throws on your face the facts about the drug menace in Punjab and the underlying threat is painstakingly horrible – the plight of the victim’s families, the ease of access, the indifference of the people who should curb it etc. He’s clear about what he wants to say and the way he says is blatant. Like when he addresses a typical characteristic of every Indian parent with this dialog “Sadde munde theek, horan de kharab” (our kids are fine, it’s the others who have turned wayward)
Dialogues in this movie are a character on their own. When Kareena Kapoor says, “There are two types of wars going on in Punjab. One that we fight against the system. The one that people like Balli fight with themselves. If they win, we will win.” the director drives home the actual problem in Punjab. And when the (mentally) rehabilitated Tommy says, “I knew only one thing: Drugs. I wrote about drugs and you thought it is philosophy! You are the biggest losers than I am!” he makes clear that every individual is to be blamed for the current predicament of Punjab as much as other societal influences (or the lack of it).
The director also captures vividly the mental inability and the inner battle of the victims to quit drugs in two scenes – one where Tommy (Shahid) tries hard and fails; other where Mary Jane (Alia Bhatt) succeeds.
Also, Chaubey has been very conscious not to get carried away. Throw in drugs, explicit language, addiction and violence – ta da – you have the magic ingredients to glamorize/commercialize the whole movie. But he had used them all in the right doses. Neither does he create a hero out of the characters. And that’s another plus to the movie.
The acting department is galore with Shahid Kapoor, who had given yet another near-to-Haider performance (Yes I know! I’m letting Haider be the benchmark), Alia Bhatt deserves a pat in the back for the raw, uncanny portrayal of the girl-with-the-dreams character, Kareena with her calm composure amidst all this turmoil adds a serene feel to the movie. Diljit Dosanjh, Balli, and other supporting characters have sailed through with ease as well.
Chaubey with his latest flick has exposed the eerie side of Punjab that many might not be aware of and the best part is he’s done a good job of it. A must watch for any casual moviegoer as much as it’s for movie buffs! Overall, Udta Punjab does fly high!