An Jo on Udta Punjab

The best shot in Chaubey’s Udta Punjab is at the start when a breezy, too-good-to-be-true romantic night with swaying branches and twinkling stars is interjected with three men stealthily riding a scooter. That the men are from across the border is finely conveyed through a 180 degree shot that reveals the moon-lighting discus-thrower’s homeland. He exercises, huffs, puffs, warms his arms, and finally, throws a majestic throw that will land in Punjab. As soon as it crosses the fence, the parcel stares at us with a cartoonish title-card across the parcel – UDTA PUNJAB. The scene then cuts directly to Shahid Kapoor’s Tommy Singh, a Punjabi rapper high on heroin and consequently music. One waits for more of such directorial quirks; sadly, they hardly come again. It’s uncanny but this scene immediately brought to my mind a segment from John Oliver’s show where he talked about the futility of The-Great-Wall-of-Trump in stopping drugs.

Cross-cutting through different classes, Chaubey hits home the drug menace in Punjab with characters inhabiting the different stairs of the social hierarchy ladder. They are all threaded together with heroin polluting their bloodstreams, but circumstances and societal standing are what separates them. The framing is as in Paul Haggis’ Crash, where the lone ‘ism’of race rips across and seeps through different characters and their social identity and status in Los Angeles. However, while Crash was a serious drama, Chaubey uses profanity and tragicomedy to let his characters float in. Tommy Singh aka Gabru [Shahid Kapoor] is a rapper who is struggling with ‘inspiration’ to lock down a new track; Diljit’s Sartaj Singh is a single-starred cop who is struggling to recoup his younger brother from addiction; and Alia Bhatt’s Mary Jane is a migrant from Bihar held in the drug lord’s den after being caught trying to sell the aforementioned stock to a henchman for the lure of a few quick-bucks. Guilt over-takes Sartaj when he discovers his own brother falling prey to heroin, and he decides to help Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Preet Sahani, a doctor, in getting to the main person behind the drugs’ supply chain. Till then, he was quite happy siphoning off some kilos of contraband and selling to third parties, making money on the side.

The film delves into the whole logistics part less and invests more time in the characters and their travails through the drug-infested lanes of Punjab and the fight with themselves and drugs. Tommy Singh who has ‘fuddu’ styled on his head is jolted when he is thrown in a jail along with other junkies. [There’s a fine scene where two junkies play out one of his songs claiming to be his fans. He is later stunned to discover that the boys killed their mother when she refused to give money to buy drugs.] Alia gets into the iron-grip of the drug-lords when she tries to sell of a luckily-gotten parcel. She is kept as a slave literally and used to trade with policemen and other acolytes up and down the supply-chain. She tries her best to rid herself of the addiction inflicted on her in captivity. There are some great scenes that show her fighting against her captors, and more strongly, against her slippage when it comes to the needle.

The film’s main USP are its performances. Shahid Kapoor starts off with Tom Cruise’s Rock Of Ages inspiration and is quite grating. But as he reveals himself behind the stage, he comes into his own and gives into the mad-cap role designed for him. It’s quite an unexpected but fine exit as he starts revealing his idiosyncrasies and his drug-infested mood-swings. Chaubey smashes to bits the cliché of a rock-star-that-can-bed-any-woman-anytime and devolves the persona into a caricature! From a rockstar who it seems has the world under his feet, Shahid’s Tommy down-grades from a partier to a jail-inmate to a ‘fuddu’ to possibly a ‘kutta’ as Alia wonders. Chaubey directs Tommy as someone slipping down a one-way path and Shahid plays it very well as the fool-in-every-one’s eyes through stoned expressions and wide-open eyes. He knows he is devolving into a fool and the world sees him for that fool, nothing but a laughing-stock. I am not an expert on Bhojpuri but Alia for sure hits the right notes and makes one empathise with her, even though she is unnecessarily transformed into a heavily-freckled migrant. She is great in the first exchange between her and Shahid. Their debate about the difference between a ‘Lullu’ and a ‘Fuddu’ is a hoot. Diljit Dosanjh as Sartaj Singh is fine as the guilt-ridden love-lorn inspector and makes quite an impression. Kareena Kapoor Khan as the doctor doesn’t have a meaty role and comes across a female version of Dr. Phil but manages to impart dignity to her role as a doctor and a rehabilitator. Both Dosanjh and Kareena display fine chemistry. Satish Kaushik as Tommy’s relative-cum-manager is hilarious.

Music by Amit Trivedi is top-notch, especially ‘Chitti Ve’, ‘Ikk Kudi’ and ‘Da Da Dasse’. ‘Da Da Dasse’ and ‘Ikk Kudi’ leave a strong impact. This is quite an album and worth investing in.

Finally, the writers and director come up with some great writing and some fine direction even though all is not quite well. Chaubey displays his virtuosity in some scenes and they are truly worthy, if not better than the opening scene. A couple of Alia’s shots are inter-cut with Shahid’s, in a way, indicating that they are destined to meet. Alia’s hallucination after a hit takes her on a free-fall into the river bed. She starts swimming toward a ray of light and as she tries to catch the source, Tommy splashes up from the swimming pool with a light stuck around his fore-head. In another indicator, Alia’s scene is cut to a shot of Tommy sitting in jail. Both are fine touches. And then there’s the scene where Tommy sings to a patient in the hospital with cops banging at the door just to get the location of Alia. Or the scene where Tommy berates his audience that they cannot listen to two minutes of sane-talk while they were quite happy to hear and absorb 4 years of coke-snorted hog-was as philosophy. There is a chilling scene where the drug-lord patriarch calls Alia a daughter gently and then leaves her at the mercy of men behaving like hawks. Alia travelling to sell the dough in the hopes of some quick and dirty money with ‘Da Da Dasse’ playing in the background is fantastically shot. It captures the dreams in her eyes of busy malls, high-end clothes, and varieties of food; all coming to an abrupt end as she realises she’s walked into a trap. Alia’s entry shot as a migrant sitting in a crowded bus with a hockey stick is a pre-cursor to another shot later where the significance of the hockey-stick is realised. Tommy is going on and on about the troubles he’s facing thanks to his drug addiction— in reality, he is hallucinating and just making a joke of himself—and Alia shuts him up and talks of her misery; she kisses him on the lips and tells him that except this, EVERYTHING else has been forced on her.

There are many downfalls too: Kareena and Dosanjh trying to accomplish some private investigation to gather proof are not strongly shot and remind one of Biswajeet’s ‘thrillers.’ The film is uneven and appears elongated post-interval. A running length of 145 minutes feels that – 145 minutes. Though Kareena’s and Dosanjh’s flirtations and exchanges are quite genuine, their scenes do appear to go on and on. (Where’s Nihalani when we need him?!)

With regard to the politics of the movie, well, it isn’t as specific as one would have believed thanks to the controversy. It does show, however, that everybody is hands-in-glove in pushing the state toward addiction, from the politician to the bureaucrat to the police. A shop-keeper casually remarks that nobody drinks tea in Punjab now-a-days since they are drunk on something else.

This is an uneven film but still, has a lot going for it and worth visiting; either at the movies or on DVD. Of course, this is no patch on the directors’ Dedh Ishqiya. Coming to profanity, yes, this one has abuses galore and in almost every other line. There is so much of BC that I felt Virat Kohli had missed out on a grand Bollywood launch here!


48 Responses to “An Jo on Udta Punjab”

  1. continuing the discussion from HERE

    On Sippy we’ll just have to disagree. I’ve never really referred to KNK but I hold BM and DMD in the highest esteem. By the way I wrote a critical piece on Nautanki Saala which Sippy himself appreciated. I wish he’d do more work. I won’t get into the originality debate here. Think there’s a difference between homage and copying. But even otherwise one must be precise about what one means by originality. There are only three original stories in the 37 or so plays Shakespeare wrote. Every other plot comes from a well-establshed source. I use an extreme example but I could multiply these references. Practically every moment of Once upon a time in the west references an iconic Western but it is nonetheless uniquely Leone’s film. I am not of course suggesting that every act of homage is meaningful on its own. Just saying that this is the case for Sippy in those two films (BM references Nine Queens for instance).

    On the deeper meaning point I am not at all suggesting there’s only one kind of meaning. There are many films that I think highly of where I don’t like their ‘meaning’ as I understand it. And vice versa. Notice that I have a certain reading of ‘New India’, of Bombay film history, of ‘Bollywood’ and so on. You might not agree with it but within that framework I find certain kinds of meaning more praiseworthy than others. But to bring it all together I have been the toughest critic of Bachchan (father and son though the former is more significant in terms of making this point) I know of (anywhere!) so I’m not somehow favoring them. Similarly with Aamir I was something of a naysayer on RDB in real time (though Mehra is otherwise in fine form as a director here). I probably like Talaash more than almost all of his more iconic hits since Lagaan. In any case there is never one kind of meaning. But the question is whether a work can open itself to a wider range of meanings and/or if it has more limited meaning whether the latter is stronger in some ultimate sense or weaker. I loved the recent Sicario. I thought it was more interesting on this subject than many other (equally acclaimed) Hollywood efforts I’ve seen. For me Black though an impressive film at certain levels is not as ‘meaningful’ as Dev. Black of course means something but I think this is so in a much more limited sense. The same for Paa. On the other hand Aks is a much more flawed film perhaps but I’d take it over those two as a more interesting effort. Again not because I think Aks has ‘one’ meaning. It’s really a variety of things and depends on the film. I think Guru is not an easy a film as it might be thought of by its fans but it’s certainly not Raavan. From the narrative to the politics (ideology) to the formal choices (which after all are not something grafted onto a film but very much part of the film’s meaning.. this is why Gupta is problematic.. because even when he’s slick his films are rarely interesting enough to do anything with his formal choices.. on that note my favorite shot in contemporary Hindi cinema might be that ‘invisible’ wipe where Abhishek wakes up from a dream and double decker swishes across the screen and functions effectively like a wipe.. this is skillful because a literal wipe would seem anachronistic.. beyond this you snap out of Abhishek’s dream and the double decker runs across the screen and beautifully opens onto a street scene.. it’s very fluidly and effortlessly done.. this kind of ‘care’ doesn’t just come about.. Gupta wouldn’t be capable of this in a million years.. much as note how ‘quiet’ the Bombay of BM usually is.. almost a city of solitude.. this is not the way Bombay is shown in every other film of any kind these days.. nor is any other major metropolis given anything other than the frenzied treatment most big cities receive in a number of films around the globe..I could go on about BM but this was just a contrast I wanted to offer) meaning is determined in all sorts of ways.

    It might be appropriate to end with Black Friday as an example of everything I’ve tried to clarify here. I love watching this film, it’s impressive at a number of levels. I don’t think Kashyap has so far made a better overall film than this (haven’t seen BV though I’d be surprised if this changed my mind). But the ultimate meaning of this film is again somewhat limited. It’s a fantastic procedural, it’s very well-shot throughout, the characters are all well done. On the other hand the vastly less impressive Trishul (on a formal level) has enormously more ‘meaning’ than this film. One could say the same about Satya vis-a-vis Deewar. To my mind Kashyap never became the director (at least not so far) who could get all his BF strengths and do something more ambitious with it. I do like some of his other films (Gulaal especially showed great promise) but he’s not really maturing as a filmmaker (GoW is in someways his greatest failure because its meaning is the most banal).

    So I’m not really agreeing with Rangan’s notion of banality. Just that my own instincts often force me to come to similar conclusion on actually vastly more Bollywood films than he does.


    • I again notice that you don’t find Badlapur interesting or even subversive (a film that challenges its audience to sympathize with a murderer!) and you find Nautanki Saala to be an inferior work compared to Bluffmaster or DMD. I’m pretty sure you find Nautanki Saala to be a better film compared to Badlapur as well.

      Isn’t the reason obvious? Maybe not to you, but I guess others can hazard a guess or two…


      • I don’t watch as many movie as Satyam or many movie fans here but I also find Badlapur very banal. Within context it is better movie but in age when people watch Game of Thrones same day as US audience, I find the treatment very average. Infant Varun was ill cast with his limitations in dialogue delivery. Nawazudin was okay (though many people say he was real good). On higher level isn’t this same as say Darr?


      • “Isn’t the reason obvious? Maybe not to you, but I guess others can hazard a guess or two…”

        I’m sure they can and I’d pity their intelligence for it..!

        On Nautanki not a fan at all.. nor of the French original for that matter. On Raghavan I’d easily take his Johnny Gadaar and EHT over this one. Actually a great fan of EHT’s first half. On that note if SRK did more films like Dil Se (which I adore) or even Swades (which I like despite it hardly being a Lagan-like effort) I’d cite those too. The same for most of the other stars. But again if I’m an unthinking fan of the Bachchans they’d be the most surprised to hear it!


        • Yes, Dil Se is a fine film. Perhaps the only SRK film that I could sit through and not cringe. I’m not being serious…in fact I quite like the way Rathnam integrated SRK’s excessive energy into the film.

          Johnny Gaddar and EHT are not as thematically rich as Badlapur. I quite like the two films as well, but Badlapur is just excessive to handle…if one is looking for easy answers from a revenge drama. I did find problems with Varun Dhawan’s portrayal though…didn’t find it convincing enough.

          As for the Bachchans, I think there’s a genuine bias from your side. Not for the father, whom you often criticize, but for the son. This might be wrong but this is just an observation.

          By the way, I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong in all of this. You’re obviously entitled to your own opinion. Your own predilections etc. But like others (or maybe not like others; I often act alone!) I question the wisdom of your words when it comes to films that do not star your favourites.

          To be even more polemic, I think you are diverting your obvious talents in defense of lesser mortals. You ought to be reviewing more films and appreciating the virtues of great ‘trash’ as Pauline Kael would say…


          • On Badlapur to be honest and at the risk of sounding pompous I’ve seen too much from Korea and Japan to ever be able to find anything elsewhere as excessive let alone by way of Bollywood remakes or inspirations. And yes beyond those inspirations I did not find anything remotely interesting in Badlapur. It’s not bad narratively but again if you see enough of those Korean films you are never quite captivated enough by Badlapur. For that matter EHT is also inspired enough but here I felt something interesting did come about. Specially with the Saif character in the first half (probably my favorite role of his). The second half was a lot more predictable.

            On father and son the greatest credit I can give them is that they have taken a great deal of what any person in their position (or any public figure for that matter) would take as plain and simple insults. Obviously it’s a lot more creditable that the father endures all of this. Given that this comes from a nobody like me. But either way I can assure you both father and son have heard a great deal from me on very many of their film choices. Now it’s true that I talk about Bachchan’s films more. But that’s because I am ultimately much more interested in many films of his. Even the Abhishek films I love I am not as interested in and so I don’t talk about them to the same degree. I have done it in the past and in various debates when these films released but not very much later on. On the other hand I’m still quite happy to discuss a still from Kasme Vaade!


    • I won’t get into the originality debate here. Think there’s a difference between homage and copying. But even otherwise one must be precise about what one means by originality. There are only three original stories in the 37 or so plays Shakespeare wrote. Every other plot comes from a well-establshed source. I use an extreme example but I could multiply these references. Practically every moment of Once upon a time in the west references an iconic Western but it is nonetheless uniquely Leone’s film. I am not of course suggesting that every act of homage is meaningful on its own. Just saying that this is the case for Sippy in those two films (BM references Nine Queens for instance).

      I can understand homage. But your whole specter ‘meaning’ derived from DMD flies in the face of the fact that this whole plot point has been derived from Max Payne. There too the hero sees ‘visions’ of his dead daughter and wife, not to mention his suicidal tendencies are also a directly replicated in DMD. Moreover, you are also contradicting yourself by appreciating the new-age Indian cinema of Rohan Sippy, which is Hollywood ‘inspired’ let’s say but denying the opportunity to other filmmakers who might have better stories to tell, more to show, while being inspired in the same fashion. Put in another way, if new-age filmmakers in India are making films with global concerns and not Indian, Rohan Sippy isn’t exactly setting the scene for you to be rolling out the red carpet for him.

      I can understand your love for Raavan or even Talaash but you massively contradict yourself with Sippy’s films, which offer almost nothing beyond the formal gestures of a competent director. And those are not ‘original’ in any way! I know you said we disagree on him, but still…

      It might be appropriate to end with Black Friday as an example of everything I’ve tried to clarify here. I love watching this film, it’s impressive at a number of levels. I don’t think Kashyap has so far made a better overall film than this (haven’t seen BV though I’d be surprised if this changed my mind). But the ultimate meaning of this film is again somewhat limited. It’s a fantastic procedural, it’s very well-shot throughout, the characters are all well done. On the other hand the vastly less impressive Trishul (on a formal level) has enormously more ‘meaning’ than this film. One could say the same about Satya vis-a-vis Deewar. To my mind Kashyap never became the director (at least not so far) who could get all his BF strengths and do something more ambitious with it. I do like some of his other films (Gulaal especially showed great promise) but he’s not really maturing as a filmmaker (GoW is in someways his greatest failure because its meaning is the most banal).

      So I’m not really agreeing with Rangan’s notion of banality. Just that my own instincts often force me to come to similar conclusion on actually vastly more Bollywood films than he does.

      Kashyap’s Ugly is far more subversive than Black Friday. I haven’t seen Bombay Velvet myself but in the latter’s case, Kashyap himself has admitted to making certain compromises due to the high budgeting cost of the film. I actually prefer Vikramaditya Motwane’s sensibilities as a director but there’s no doubt that his production house is reshaping what one can expect from Hindi cinema today and in the future. And finally, Gangs Of Wasseypur doesn’t need Satyam’s or Saket’s stamp of approval. No really, the film has been appreciated by Martin Scorsese of all people. You could argue that’s not enough but not many people are going to listen!


      • Liked Udaan a lot.. and now that I’ve got that out of the way…

        I didn’t think that much of Ugly. for one it was a bit plodding at points. The overall device of a murder basically involving a much larger social framework is one that I have seen elsewhere. But this film is a good example of my larger reservations on this subject (Girl with yellow boots is an even better example). It’s one thing to make a film which borrows form or content or both from other influences but to then give it a very distinctive voice or feel in a different set of contexts and quite another to make a film hat seems like a ‘foreign’ effort in Hindi. The latter effort might still make for a very accomplished film but is sort of pointless otherwise in terms of making a singular contribution of any sort. I just gave the example of how there is a certain visual grammar of major cities in global cinema. Where there is often a certain ‘commonality’ in this sense to Mexico City or Shanghai or Bombay or whatever. In each case you still have a very specific film with its specific contexts and so forth but the larger visual format is very ‘translatable’. Much as there are Scorsese-like efforts in just about every part of the world, most of which might be impressive bits of filmmaking at some level or the other but that don’t manage to provide as much meaning for their own contexts as Scorsese does for his.

        Some examples would be in order here. Take Sholay. At one level there are all the obvious cinematic references from The Professionals to the Magnificent Seven to Once Upon a Time in the West to the Great Dictator to even specific moments like the Ben Hur chariot scene and the wheel coming off and so on. On the other hand Sippy fashions a film that for all these references and homages is distinctive. The same for Deewar. It is very much like On the Waterfront in some ways and yet very different. I could go on just using 70s examples (Kaala Pathar on that note offers an interesting take on Conrad’s Lord Jim.. have commented on this elsewhere). On the other hand what you see in most of today’s films is precisely the form without the spirit. I in fact hazarded such a guess on Bachchans blog the other day with respect to Teen. Alright you ‘remake’ a Korean film but what is the greater meaning of this film besides the obvious narrative? Specially given that it is being ‘translated’ from different contexts. I would say the same for Indian remakes as well. What is the ‘meaning’ of Farhan Akhtar’s Don remake or the Agneepath one? This isn’t just about inadequate actors playing Bachchan’s parts (an absurd enterprise in itself) but about the fact that the films have no meaning beyond the obvious commercial decision of remaking a classic. I am actually not opposed to any remake but it must have some kind of thought behind it. Otherwise it’s only a cynical enterprise. The other day I think you mentioned Devdas in the context of MKS. I too have talked about this but to argue exactly the opposite. I see MKS as the ‘un-Devdas’ or a film which resembles Devas superficially in some ways but is otherwise animated by a completely different spirit. Originality is hazardous to insist on in cinema, specially at this late date, but what is more to the point is whether something interesting can be done with the source material.

        In this regard GoW is a rather impressive film at certain levels. But that’s not what my argument is directed against. I don’t need a tenth film of his or whatever to tell me that Kashyap is an interesting talent, that he’s an accomplished maker and so on. I want to know whether he can do something important with these gifts. What Scorsese finds admirable about GoW we can too. Whether Scorsese is the best judge of the meaning and contexts of the same seems to me rather more questionable. If the debate is about Kashyap making something significant in this sense most days one can happily agree that he is doing something worthwhile. But I don’t end the discussion there. Nor do I find Scorsese impossible to argue with here or elsewhere. But again it depends on what one is arguing about. And of course one can only do this relative to what one understands or not about the work in question. In one kind of debate on GoW I would concede the point to Scorsese and walk away (I’d do this with many others too who are not let’s say ‘famous’). In another kind I’d be quite happy to try and persuade him of my other perspective. And it’s not just about GoW either.

        On your Sippy argument you’re again missing the point. My issue isn’t about ‘Hollywood-inspired’ otherwise I’d have to dismiss many of the hallmark attempts of the 50s as well! It’s about the final result. You don’t see anything terribly significant in DMD or BM. Fair enough. I disagree and have made the case for both a number of times. Saying ‘it’s like this or that film’ or whatever is pointless because I could say the same for many vastly greater films. Just naming the inspiration doesn’t end the debate. Otherwise Deewar would just be a ‘copy’ or something.

        I’d say finally that for anyone who has followed me for a long time on this larger subject it would be hard to come away with the impression that I simply support films or not for prejudiced reasons. A lot of the judgments might come across as provocative (sometimes they’re meant to be so) but this does not automatically privilege one star or the other. I am often tougher on stars I like more than the ones I don’t. But to end this comment I’ve often said and I’ll repeat it here that I don’t think there has been a stronger commercial film in Hindi since Ghulami in 1985. So I’m basically saying nothing in the last 30 years that compares with that film. Now unless you think I say this because Bachchan has a voiceover at the beginning you’d have to admit this doesn’t privilege one star or the other. Bachchan in any case knows very well (because there are probably only a few hundred comments on his blog to this effect) that I’ve argued against more or less the last thirty years of his career on his very blog. He would be amazed to discover that I’ve been supporting films in the present just because they feature him!

        Now since I like to keep doubling my bets in some of these discussions let me leave you with another claim. One where I’ve had lots of fierce debates with friends elsewhere. I consider Hollywood to be overrated as an industry in the historic sense. More influential than any other without doubt but otherwise overrated by and large. This doesn’t mean that there haven’t been titanic films or works out of this industry. But I think that the terms of the debate change when we compare say great Italian films to great Hollywood ones. That gap is then bridged by ‘imperial cultural politics’. All of this would take too long to unpack but I’m just offering possibly the most provocative example I can think of in terms of my thinking about these things.

        I think one can ignore all of ‘Bollywood’ after the very early 80s or so and one hasn’t missed very much. One might have cultural reasons for nonetheless being invested in it (I do as well) and that’s perfectly fine. But whether anything very significant has happened in all these decades barring on the exceptional day is something I rather doubt. Do I have other versions of this claim? Sure! I believe that if you don’t have similar reasons to be invested in Tamil cinema you could skip everything before the late to mid 70s and really till Ratnam arrives on the scene. If you are not invested in Bengali cinema you can more or less stop watching after the mid-70s and not miss much. The Japanese cinema that truly counts runs through the early 70s. I could keep multiplying these examples. I’m not trying to make hyperbolic claims or something. It’s just about whether something matters beyond the cultural identifications of the immediate audience of a cinema. That is not the only reason to watch films of course. One does things for pleasure and/or personal reasons of culture or whatever. That’s absolutely ok. But if one is ‘judging’ things and specially if a more historical perspective is implied these things come into play. One might think a lot of my opinions are crazy in this regard (and one would probably be right!). all I’m saying is that there’s a lot more where that Kashyap or Sippy judgment came from!


    • I am not sure Khakhee will fall in the same category as rest of the movies. Khakhee had lot of crowd pleasing moments and it was an amazing masala movie probably the best masala movies in last decade. But I am not sure if it will come under even the non escapist cinema for New India you are referring to.
      In fact Badlapur might not be a surprise for you considering you have seen lot of Korean movies but for most multiplex audience it was kind of a shocking movie…And not escapist too…

      Whats your thought on Mardaani? I think Mardaani was to child prostitution what DMD was to drugs..

      Actually Rockstar is also a movie on the same lines I guess…

      On DMD I don’t rate that movie too high…Infact I didn’t even know it was rated highly by anyone till I started visiting this blog. I do think Ravan, Talaash are interesting at many levels but DMD didn’t work for me at all..


      • Again my point isn’t about ‘dark’ movies but those that have are ‘dark’ on the idea (and ideologies) of New India. There’s a big difference between those two characterizations.


  2. I read the review..will come back to this after I watch the movie.

    It seems you liked the movie but wanted more!


  3. Apologies in advance for what I’m going to write next. It’s about profanities or their use in Udta Punjab. So if this isn’t something you’d like to read about, you have been warned!

    Someone commented on twitter that before Anurag Kashyap retires he’s going to teach everyone how to say Bhenchod in every dialect possible. This is an obvious reference to how many times the word has been used in Udta Punjab and Gangs Of Wasseypur.

    Despite being a witty comment, I was reminded of the myriad uses of the infamous F word, which has a sexual connotation but also has situational uses attached to it. For example, to express surprise (What the F—!; the most common use); greetings (How the F— are you?) and even appreciation (He’s a F—— genius!).

    There’s something similar going on in Udta Punjab. The use and intonation of Bhenchod changes with the character who uses it.

    In a drug-infused state one character says “Oh Bhenchooood! Yeh tou Tommy lagta hai!”

    Another wiseguy (Tommy’s cousin) utters “Pencho” whenever he feigns anger or just wishes to sound cool.

    The cops in the movie use real force in uttering “O Bhenchod” before throwing a few slaps around.

    Then there’s the frustrated cry of “Bhenchodddd” coming from Satish Kaushik whenever he’s really annoyed.

    It’s the same word but it’s still different in each case. The director (Abhishek Chaubey) has handled this frivolous nicety quite well! In the hands of a capable director, there’s nuance to be had in spoken gaalis as well…which I find quite interesting!

    Or maybe I’m just sleep deprived and letting my imagination run wild.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great note Saket! Ha! This is the kind of close reading I enjoy! Not joking..


      • lol thanks. By the way, just to clarify, I would never endorse the use of profanities in public life.

        It’s not cool at all and even though there’s the risk that films like Udta Punjab might glorify their usage, it’s also important to note that even without the effect of films, profanities are part and parcel of any male-centric conversation in Northern India. It’s a case of art imitating life and that’s how it should be viewed.

        People argue that movies shouldn’t include profanities…but in a scenario where hyperrealism is the modus operandi, it’d be self-defeating to filter out profanities.


        • Sometime movies take things from society and sometimes society imbues things from cinema.

          So there might be gruesome murders happening in India but when you see Ek Villain, the chances of that happening increases many fold. I think people get idea that they can do something like this. At same time people have access to world cinema; Korean movies are filled with brutality, blood and gore. It is part and parcel of Globalization.

          One other example I take is use of word “Ch…a”; It is used freely at my in-laws place by everyone to say fool/dumb. At my place it is considered abuse and no one uses it. I am derided when I remind people of literal meaning of the word (When you are in hostel, in ragging you are asked to explain the difference between C, B and BB word ) 🙂


  4. omrocky786 Says:

    Good review AnnJo….. seems like I will have to watch it now when the DVD comes out !!


  5. Interesting review.
    I was waiting for some such review as I don’t really bother with the regular ones except Rangan’s.
    That you liked it is clear, which is ‘unusual’ for you as far as my memory goes.
    Thanks An Jo


    • PS: BTW what was Nihalani trying to hide?
      Story seems pretty straight forward.
      The chain involving ‘everyone’?


      • According to Kashayp he was settling an old score with him.

        Having said that, Assembly elections are due next year and the ruling Akali Dal, which has an alliance with the BJP, might have felt threatened by the timing of this film’s release. Hence the diktat to remove Punjab from the title. The other cuts had to do with removing actual names of cities from the film. Basically, the film couldn’t show it had anything to do with the state of Punjab!

        There isn’t any overt political connections except perhaps one scene where Alia Bhatt bemoans her fate by proclaiming “Kab Aayega Mera Achcha Time?“…a sly take on the Achche Din promise? Surprisingly, this scene wasn’t on the chopping list!

        Maybe the censor board never made that connection or I’m just imagining things where none exist!


        • My friend’s friend was flying within India, from Delhi, recently. A couple of Sikhs were talking about the film, the controversy. Apparently one of them proclaimed them that the’present CM’s son is the kingpin of the state’s drug trade.’😶 I honestly do not know what to believe.


          • Satyam, pl delete the above. Better left unspoken.


          • oldgold Says:

            Many AAP leaders are being sued for exposing him so as an ardent supporter I won’t hesitate to name the Boss! Majithia.

            The film it seems didnt even do that so I think they were just scared for the future of SAD/BJP alliance.


          • ‘My friend’s friend was flying within India, from Delhi, ”
            ls..This is sau taka accurate. Also the religious leaders are in tune with the ruling party. So basically purey state kaa phata hai. Also today I heard of Nigerian drug pushers in punjab! No wonder!


        • oldgold Says:

          >Maybe the censor board never made that connection …

          I’m sure they didn’t. LOL


    • Thanks OldGold.

      Why do you think it’s unusual for me to like a movie?? I am one of the kindest receptor of movies!!

      It’s only the designer stuff that doesn’t interest it AD or BC!!!

      Jokes apart, as I said, this is an uneven film but has many things going for it.


  6. Nice review,An Jo.
    However the movie is not for me. Iveruse of profanity is a big turn off for me. May be a touch old fashioned that way but too much profanity on my view is a sign of trying too hard.
    Plus, drugs is not an interesting subject even if it is quite topical for Punjab.


    • yhea. Me too. Don’t understand meaning of most and took forever to understand what the D. K. Bose issue and why people took objection to such innocent word 😦


  7. omrocky786 Says:

    Saw Udta last night, and I thought it was pretty hard hitting and gripping ..not for family audience though.
    At certain places Kareena’s voice was dubbed. The disclaimer in the beginning lay the blame entirely on Pakistan.(loved that !!)
    The only time I laughed was when Shahid tells Alia- Tu bhee maar ley behan$$$!! the way he said it was so real !!, and when Alia says -ho gaya naa Chutiyapa !!
    More than Alia I liked Shahid’s performance. I would rate his performance in the following order- Kameeney, JWM, UP and Haider.
    The last twenty minutes were however full of compromises, convenience and chutiyapa !! ( case in point- Shahid singing to extract information )


    • Ha ha I too loved that..He delivered that line marvellously,TU BHI MAAR LE BH………lot of honesty in that.

      Agreed Shahid is in the zone as the cartoon…

      I didn’t realize the disclaimer specifically named Pakistan??


      • That is why I saw it again to make sure….it may have said across the border, but I thought it did say Pakistan.
        Aside- My wife’s take-
        Aliya award ley jayegee iss saal. and she thought that the anti drug message was not convincing enough .



  8. Satyam/ Munna – I tried to post a review by a guy called Bobby Sing here, but it kept going in Spam . I thought that was a pretty balanced review by a sardar jee from Punjab .


  9. UDTA PUNJAB – Deserving to be seen, we have two films here to be straight. A partially realistic, impressive eye-opener in the first half and a slow-routine less satisfying one in the second, taking the easy way out. BUT remember Punjab is not a state of all criminals….. Please! (Review by Bobby Sing)



    1) Why is everyone, from BR to Utkal saying the 3 guys in the opening scene are riding a bike? They are riding a scooter..unless my eyes are really deceiving me.

    2) Another fine scene depicting the extent of drug-menace seeped into the society is the scene where even the watchmen at the factory producing these drugs are passed out with syringes in their hands.

    3) TOILET as a metaphor? High, Tommy looks at his image in the dirty water in his commode [obvious TRAINSPOTTING inspiration] and alludes to him being the greatest, the rock-star. He then pees on his audience in a later scene. Any connection? Is he pissing his own self, the fake, retarded image of a rock-star onto the audience? Because they obviously don’t want to hear his newly realized ‘gyaan.’

    4) In the song IKK KUDI that Shahid sings in the hospital, there is a line –

    ओ.. सूरत ऑस दी, पारियाँ वरगी
    सीरत दी ओ.. मरियम लगदी

    Note the reference to ‘Mariyam.’ Later, Alia might have pulled out of the hat the name MARY JANE, but maybe Chaubey didn’t..

    5) A weak and unintended connection maybe, but the first line of UD-DA PUNJAB song is –

    अंदर दा कुत्ता अज्ज कढ़हिए हा…

    In that hilarious first interaction scene between Alia and Tommy, when Shahid says his name is Tommy, Alia asks, ‘कुत्ता’?

    6) This is just a blooper maybe. Preet says only NEEMUCH and GHAZIPUR are the areas where opium can be processed. In the barrels smuggled into the factory, the barrel screams MAZIPUR. Either a blooper, or are they so damn clever that the players erased GAZIPUR and made it MAZIPUR to avoid suspicion??

    Liked by 1 person

  11. On September 23, The Times of India website speculated about whether the 2016 movie Udta Punjab was based on High Society, a 2002 novel by Ben Elton. The biggest clue lay in the title, the article claimed: the word “high” being translated into Hindi as “udta” and Punjab replacing “society”.

    High Society is a dark comedy about British drug culture. The characters include a rocker Tommy Hanson, who is a drug addict. Tommy meets Jessie, a 17-year-old woman who has run away to London from her home in Scotland. She is exploited by a pimp who drugs her and forces her into prostitution. There’s also commander Barry Leman, a righteous police officer who wants to lay bare the vast drug network supported by top-ranking police officers and politicians.

    All three characters bear a strong resemblance to the three lead characters in Udta Punjab. Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor) is a pop star with a history of substance abuse. Mary Jane (Alia Bhatt) is a runaway who is coerced into drug use and abused as a sex slave. Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) is a police officer who files a report indicting himself and his colleagues for their involvement in drug smuggling from Pakistan into India.


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