The Higher Powers



Censorship is an issue, be it in our cinema, in our education system, in our houses or basically in every walk of life.
Don’t do this, don’t do that, do that but only in this particular way, so on and so forth. So the latest toast of national media, the censorship issue isn’t new and revelatory.

CBFC (Central board of film certification) is supposed to be a certifying body which has powers to suggest a few cuts here and there, if it challenges the ‘moral fibre’ of the society or scenes/dialogues that might prove to be a deterrent to the peace prevailing among the various classes/religions/factions in our otherwise civil and sensible India.

Over the years, somehow the filmmakers always found their way around the CBFC to get a certification that would guarantee them maximum box office returns, without considerably sabotaging the final product. Otherwise, I can’t fathom a “U” certification for movies that have suggestive sexual references, songs with lyrics that are similar to the ones written in bathroom walls, bloodshed in grotesque details and the roving cameras in suggestive areas of the actresses on screen.

Then came the ‘advisory’ against the practice of smoking and drinking that were to be screened before the commencement of the movie and after the intermission. It then percolated to every scene where something would be lit up or something was poured down the throat on screen.

Then came UDTA PUNJAB.

A lot has been said about the proposed cuts, the court verdict, the resigned tone of the chairman of CBFC and the political undertones to this debate.

Do I think it was worth the hype and hoopla???
Does anyone give a damn as to what I think???

I’m not going to play the devil’s advocate and vouch for the veracity of the issues and claims of the ones supporting the proposed cuts or even the entire ban of this movie. But yeah, I get where their problems might have crept up.

Udta Punjab is a bold movie. It deals with an issue that I’ve been reading about in the newspapers and magazines for the past few years. An issue that had been simplified to me by social media experts. An issue plaguing the beautiful and prosperous state of Punjab and this issue was continuously reiterated by the media houses. Basically, an issue that everybody with a voice and concern had been speaking about. So I completely understand the need to stifle the voice of a single movie that somehow would have had a major impact on the serenity, peace and purity of Punjab as a state.

Though inconsequential, there’s this other small factor that one necessarily needn’t take into account. I am just mentioning it for, let’s call it bookkeeping purposes.

Punjab is going into elections early next year.

But again, no one cares what I think anyway. So let’s get on with what I felt about this movie.

Udta Punjab is a reflection of what happens to a society rifled up with drugs, through the eyes of four protagonists.
1. Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor getting better with every film)
2. Dr.Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor in top form)
3. Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh making an impact in his very first bollywood role)
4. A bihari immigrant (Alia Bhatt… Wow… just Wow)

Tommy is a perennially high and eccentric musician who is ‘widely’ perceived as the one responsible for the rampant drug problem among the youth of Punjab. Dr Sahni tries to uproot the problem of drugs from its very roots. Sartaj Singh is a police officer deep entrenched into the system, who has a change of heart due to a certain turn of events. Alia plays a unnamed labourer who unwittingly gets caught in the web of drugs and deceit.

It is a commentary on how the system has gone so defunct, certain section of politicians, police and the public, work hand in glove to make money out of drugs and the systemic destruction of a few generations of people.

Considering the star-cast and the budget of this movie, technical expertise is a thing that should be top notch. It was personally a high to note that the film was shot by the supremely talented Rajeev Ravi, the director of the Malayalam movie Kammatipadam(The best movie I’ve seen this year).

The music is trippy, psychedelic, coercive, manipulative and kick-in-the-guts awesome. An excellent work by Amit Trivedi and the background music composers for the entire soundtrack.

The third movie by Abhishek Chaubey whose first two movies were poetically mindblowing (Ishqiya series), is a beautiful film. I loved the screenplay; each and every scene had a reason to be in the movie and not a single shot felt out of place.

The lead actors, supporting actors and even the ones in the smallest parts were competent and did a wonderful job in the portrayal of their complex characters. But personally I felt the standout performance in this movie was by a few films old, young star kid named Alia Bhatt, who in a supremely well written role as a Bihari immigrant labour in the fields of Punjab, excels beyond any comparison.

Though I do accept that an actor should be ready to do any scene the role demands, it was refreshing to see Alia’s first scene in this movie. The labourer openly defecating(I think…) in the fields of Punjab before daybreak.
Alia is definitely a star and also one excellent performer, or rather the only actress in Bollywood now that doesn’t have any such bifurcations between being a star and a performer.

Alia Bhatt is phenomenal.

Well… as the really long disclaimer rightly points out, this movie doesn’t belong to any particular state but is about the drug issues that are plaguing other places like Delhi, Mumbai and Goa too. I believe it can happen in any state if the problem is left to rot itself into becoming an epidemic.

I prefer terming it generically as a problem, only because this movie could have just as well tackled infanticide/caste discrimination/sexual abuse/ education system/linguistic discrimination/prostitution/economic disparity/caste-based politics/casting couch/illegal excavation of resources/religious fanaticism/honour killings/alcoholism/diseases/professional malpractices/loan sharks/rapes/murders/criminal activities among the youth/juvenile crimes/dowry harassment/acid-attacks etc… and unfortunately still be relevant in any state across India.

Yeah, I do agree a movie does influence sections of the society. The dressing styles are followed, the places they shoot becomes a tourist destination, actors become demi-gods, above the law, faultless and many a time even the Chief Minister of a state.

But… never to an extent as portrayed by fringe elements in the political fray who decide to call for a blanket ban over certain movies and in this case, the CBFC too became such a fringe group…

If Cinema could bring about a tectonic change in the mindset of the society, movies by K.Balachander, Kamal Haasan, Mani Ratnam, Visu, V.Sekar and many other visionaries would have transformed India into a country where social evils are next to unknown and the country would be in a never ending golden period…




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