Based on true events, there is a war on drugs in Punjab, India and Udta Punjab is about the impact of the flood of drugs on three characters with intertwining stories, the mass decimation of the youth and the ripple effect illegal drug use has on individuals, families and communities.
Tommy (played by Shahid Kapoor) is a pop star who earns his fortune and fame by glorifying the fact that Punjab is flooded with drugs and how everybody is high or should be high, through his songs. He’s like Justin Bieber in terms of popularity, but he’s a coke-head and all his songs are about dope. And they are quite catchy too. You take a journey with him through an awakening about how his lyrics impact his community. Another character (played by Alia Bhatt) stumbles into the drug trade quite accidentally and tries to “play with the big boys.” As a result, her entire life is very nearly permanently ruined. Sartaj (played by Diljit Dosanjh) is a corrupt cop who doesn’t even consider the possibility that he has the power to stop the flow of drugs, so he may as well capitalize off the trade and accept kickbacks; until the drugs he is paid to allow in to Punjab hit very close to home and he has a change of heart.
This movie touches on a lot of issues not exclusive to India, naturally, but how the drug trade, police corruption, political corruption and sometimes corporate corruption, go hand-in-hand and can destroy a community – even a country – and how such an epidemic can seem impossible to slow or stop. Each character makes decisions or fails to make decisions which allow them to thoughtlessly go along with the drug culture in Punjab; then they each have an epiphany of some sort about how these drugs have touched and/or are ruining their lives – and decide to make different choices. In these ways, Udta Punjab is universally relatable to anyone who has ever had anything in their life that they had to make a decision to fight to overcome – anyone who has ever been addicted to anything or been close to an addict in any way.
Also, some women’s issues are addressed, but I won’t go into it in depth lest I give anything away. But I thought this added another interesting element of the movie and deserved mention.
Udta Punjab earned 8 bloops out of 10. The movie does an excellent job of demonstrating the serious impact drugs have on individuals, families and communities. I laughed, I cried, my jaw hit the floor a couple of times, I was entertained, the story was woven together well, it was really well-acted and creatively written, the end was neither too happy, nor too tragic, nor too corny (and it easily could have been very corny), and it had some good music in it as well. It is a good movie that you shouldn’t miss.