Udta Punjab is about the prevalence of drugs in Punjab and the lives affected by this menace. There are four main protagonists here: Punjabi rockstar Tommy Singh (Shahid) who's always high on cocaine, Dr. Preet Sahani (Kareena) who runs a detox-clinic, policeman Sartaj Singh (Dosanjh) who's younger brother is addicted to a drug-cocktail, and day laborer Pinky (Bhatt) who's life gets very messy when she tries to sell a packet of drugs she's found. These four lives weave around and intersect, searching for answers.
The film was interesting although the pace was a little sporadic. The perspective of each of the protagonists is so different that each individual storyline affords us a different view of the drug problem. While the Punjab drug problem has received some news exposure, this film brings out the severity of it in the open. From the easily available and affordable pharmaceutical cocktails, which should be restricted by prescription but aren't, to the drugs being smuggled from across the border, the drug onslaught is real and rampant because of the complicity of the law and the powers that be.
All the actors do very well in their respective roles. I wasn't too impressed with Dosanjh who I had read a lot about an had had high expectations from, given that he's such a star of Punjabi films. In some scenes he came across a little over the top and smarmy. Alia's role was very different from what she usually does. Pinky was from rural Bihar, so the role was of an unglamorous small town kid, who can barely speak grammatical Hindi let alone English. Bhatt did do well, although her Hindi accent seemed a little too urban.
Shahid, playing the weak, drug-addled Tommy, lets his inner monkey loose; Tommy, hopped-up we assume, is prone to a lot of jumping around, scowling, contorting his face this way and that. Kareena as Dr. Sahani was makeup-less and looked quite pretty, fresh and earnest. My favorite was the magnificent Satish Kaushik in his role of Tommy's wheeling-dealing Tayaji.
I would not call Udta Punjab a commercial film - it has got nice characterization and subtle situational humor, but it is on the spare, artsy side of things. A lot of the dialog is in Punjabi, and colorful. The music is apt and varied - theres the hip-hoppy Chitta Ve, the peppy Uddaa Punjab and the soulful Ik Kudi. The The characters in the film are fleshed out well and there is a well-meaning sincerity behind each of them, so I felt for each one. They each have their own mountains to climb and climb they do. Go watch the film to see how.