“Saare Gabru toh sooiyan lagake tight hai madam, Ab Ladies ko hi kuch karna padega na.”
-Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab
Disclaimer 1: This post is rated ‘MS’ for mild spoilers. Disclaimer 2: Keeping in the mind the guidelines from honorable Pankaj Nihalani and CBFC, the writer has kept the usage of the word ‘Punjab’ in the below post to a minimum (one).
Years after the first green revolution, one Indian state is going through a revolution of another kind. This time, the revolution is represented best not by green but white; cocaine and heroin leading the way. ‘Udta…’ takes you into the innards of a state’s drug crisis, and does so through the journeys of four characters. The unifying elements of the four disparate lives being, you guessed it, drugs.
Enter Tommy Singh, Asia’s latest pop sensation and an icon the state’s youth looks up to. He is all set to drop his next hit, ‘Cock Coke’; you heard it right. Snorting the good stuff and living the good life, Tommy has it all. That is, until the fallout from a failed music deal and a subsequent car chase on the streets of green state send his life into a spiral.
While Tommy has been letting his words and sermons flow, we see some proactive police officers ensuring that their pockets don’t go dry. But when a corrupt cop’s brother falls prey to the dreaded needle, his conscience and inner Sikh wakes up. Of course, a motivational speech from the beautiful doctor who takes charge of his brother’s rehabilitation helps. Together, they set out to take on the drug cartel and while doing so, develop a romantic storyline, the old-school Bollywood way.
However, the most stellar performance, with Tommy being a close second, is that of the actress playing a nameless Bihari labourer/ex-hockey player. She’s someone who has neither been party to the side promoting drug abuse (read Tommy) or those trying to fight it (read Cop and Doc). Instead, she represents the majority who were caught in the crossfire while strolling on the side-lines. Despite having suffered the most amongst all the characters, she won’t give up on her dream to holiday in Goa. The conviction is there to see when she rebukes one failed pop sensation for asking her to commit suicide with him. The exchange between her and Tommy is thought-provoking, funny and arguably, the best scene of the movie.
Udta Punjab represents the best of what mainstream Bollywood has to offer. It is hard-hitting without being overwhelming. It will leave you with a sense of introspection but provides plenty of light-hearted moments as well. It takes you deep into the darkness of a state plagued by corruption and provides a glimpse of the worst it has to offer. Yet, it offers you a glimmer of hope as well. That’s all it can afford to offer when dealing with a subject as dark as this. At times though, a glimmer is all we need to find our way.