Sunday, June 26, 2016

Udta Punjab, bad film because it is message-oriented, it is incoherent and loud, and the roles of Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt were superfluous


Abhishek Chaubey, the director of Udta Punjab, is part of the new school of film directors from Uttar Pradesh, which includes Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vishal Bhardwaj and Anurag Kashyap. This school is struggling to tell stories in a cinematic form, and the person who seems to have succeeded is Dhulia with his Paan Singh Tomar. Bharadwaj manages to tell a story through cinematic images in Haider. Kashyap too gives glimpses of cinema in his two-part Gangs of Wasseypur. Chaubey made a passably intelligent movie called Ishqiya. One admires the doggedness of this UP school of film directors who want mould cinema to their own mode of narrative. It is a laudable attempt. At the moment they are succeeding only in reducing cinema to Ram Leela, loud and garish but with its own rustic theatrical norms.In a manner of speaking, this UP gang of directors is experimenting with vaudeville in Hindi cinema, a ensemble of unrelated items. The songs in the movies of these directors are never integral to the film narrative.

The problem with Udta Punjab is this. It tries the Brechtian trick of being upfront that it wants to send out a "No to Drugs" message, and the message is made part of the narrative. It looks quite silly when it is done unintelligently as it has been in Udta Punjab. The most unimpressive part of the film are the expletives, which do not make sense and do not carry any poetic charm. The actors are stilted, especially the pop singer played by Shahid Kapoor and the farm labour-girl from Bihar played by Alia Bhatt. Kapoor continues with the psychotic act from Haider, and it lacks artistry as well as dignity. Similarly, the role of Bhatt is dispensable. She stands out like a sore thumb, with no sensible connection to the film's narrative. Chaubey creates a theatrical set-piece with Kapoor and Bhatt walking through a ruined house and hay-stacks, mouthing at the top of their voices cheap existential dialogues in the manner of Samuel Beckett's tramp characters, Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. Chaubey might laugh at his own private joke but it just makes Udta Punjab more foolish than ever.

The film does not address the drug problem. The director does not have the empathy to choose life-like characters to show the menace of drug addiction. Udta Punjab is a film of self-indulgenc on the part of the director. It is only Kareena Kapoor and Daljit Dusangh who inject a certain amount of sanity into this silly film, which is not even loony enough in spite of the Tarantino-like shoot out at the end, where people die in the matter of cardboard props.

It was intellectually dishonest on the part of the film-makers to have made such a noise about the artistic integrity of the film where there is none.

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