Udta Punjab (Flying Punjab) is a film that aims to underline the extent and consequences of drug abuse in the state of Punjab and does so by bringing together the stories of numerous characters: a drug addict Punjabi singer, a Bihari migrant, a doctor and a policeman, played by Shahid, Alia, Kareena and Diljit respectively. After much initial controversy over content and language, the film passed with flying colors through the Film Board with only a single cut.
Written and directed by Sudip Sharma and Abhishek Chaubey, cinematography by Rajeev Ravi, and released by Balaji and Phantom, I think that Udta Punjab was quite spectacular. If you checked some reviews of the film already, I’m sure you’ve come across both criticism and praise. My opinion is that the film is worth watching for the following reasons– Shahid and Alia’s fantastic performances and the quirky and creative symbolism in the film that will have you pondering for all the right reasons.
I want to share with you one such scene, a concept that left a lasting impression on me. It’s a scene where an unnamed Bihari migrant (Alia), held captive, forced into drug addiction and prostitution is given a heavy dose before she’s raped by a police officer. Her pupils grow large and she is unconscious and dreaming. She dreams of falling into dark and deep waters, like a doll and helpless. She looks and sees a bright light and begins to swim towards it. She swims and swims and reaches to that light. Then suddenly emerges Tommy the singer from a pool with a headlight. It’s a premonition of how Alia’s character is to be saved. The film is full of such symbolism and becomes all the more valuable for it.
I was once again, after Highway, mesmerized and dumbfounded by the impeccable delivery of character by Alia Bhatt in this film. That combined with the act of Shahid, reminding me at times of his craze from Haider, was like a glorious talent buffet for a cinema lover like myself. I felt that these characters and performances became the highlight of the film and overshadowed the other two characters completely.
I don’t want to get into the lessons of the film and how the lessons were delivered. The topic is very important and was in need of being made. I dislike when reviewers criticize such films saying that it was like a lecture and so forth. Udta Punjabs don’t get made very often in Bollywood and I don’t find such discussions to be at all helpful. If anything, these topics in cinema need to be encouraged. And when such a valid topic is delivered with such creativity, depth and enthusiasm, what else are you looking for?
Just watch Udta Punjab.