Cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Prabhjyot Singh, Harpreet Singh, Satish Kaushik
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Rating: * * *
A fairly realistic take on the problem that has assailed Punjab in the last few years, this controversial assay into the dark side of India’s once bounteous wheat granary strikes a harmonious balance between grueling grit and mainstream heroism.
The film opens with a former discuss thrower from Pakistan using his throwing skills to send the roundly packaged powder soaring across the border between Pakistan and India’s Punjab. A de-glam Alia Bhatt playing a Bihari daily wage earner finds the misdirected package and decides to try out her hand at earning some speed money. But her false bravado is not enough to keep the scum from ravaging at her foolhardiness. She ends up as a victim, forcefully injected with drugs and made to prostrate herself for the drug lord’s well wishers.
On the other side there’s Tommy (Shahid Kapoor) the once famous rock star who since his decent into drug induced oblivion, finds that his talent has all but left him. Frustrated and cornered, he just keeps going deeper and deeper into the depths, believing himself to be a superstar and pulling up a stunt that could have proven to be quite a game changer for his life.
And in-between is the cop, an Assistant sub Inspector Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) who is on the take of every raid that occurs on the highway. So it’s only when his younger brother, Balli (Prabhjyot Singh), a crazed Tommy fan, goes into a drug induced coma, that his conscience gets pricked enough to get proactive about ferreting out the roots of the menace(Politicians obviously) , with motivational help from Dr Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor) the resident doctor at the rehab centre his brother is admitted to.
Abhishek Chaubey’s darkly earthy narrative is aided beautifully by haunting impressionism from ace lensman Rajeev Ravi’s camera, a minimalistic (for Bollywood) background score and some fancy frequently-spliced editing by Meghna Sen. The narrative races through in it’s efforts to give the characters and plot enough of an exposition so that the set-up and climax could be doubly impactful. As the dark underpinnings of the story unfurl we are completely captivated by the ravishment designed to make us sit up and take notice. The drama may tend to the hurly-burly, shifting from one location to the other, full of gory incident and depravity. The glimmer of hope comes from Dr Preet’s efforts to help the victims while spreading awareness of the ill-effects of drug-abuse across the state.
The chancy romances may take you away from the depths for a brief bit but the director is swift in getting us back into the thick of things with one fell swoop. The film hits you with some truly defining moments. When Tommy is shifted to a common cell he is confronted by two of his young fans (both in for murder of a family member) singing his meaningless ditties. The bihari farm worker (played by Alia Bhatt) runs scared from the proposed meeting place for a trade-off but finds herself cornered by the drug lord and his henchmen, having to pay a price she never even dreamed about. Balli uses his pocket money to get to his drug induced high but the most integral moment in the film comes when he is shown sitting outside the rehab centre with sweat dripping all over his face, crying at the realization of his own horrifying culpability.
By no means is this film an easy one to digest. The cuss words, the harsh imagery, the viciousness involved in keeping the drug habit going and the unstinting salvo against a political system that thrives on corruption and feeds on human weaknesses are bandied about in repulsive fashion. Sudeep Sharma and Chaubey himself, appear to have fashioned the script with reality as a benchmark. And most of the characters in the film ring true. Alia Bhatt, as the nameless Bihari girl, is singularly impressive, putting in a performance primed on honesty and spunk. Kareena lends the doctor-do-it-all character earthiness and sincerity, Diljit Dosanjh, the Punjab da superstar plays the typical hero game-changer with robust charm and Shahid Kapoor gets into the act of the rockstar-gone-stale with rare gusto.
This Abhishek(Ishqiya) Chaubey helmed film is in fact a cry for help – so that a reversal of fortunes can be engineered in a once robust state that was the heart of the green revolution in India. This may not be a film for the faint-hearted but those who are willing to go the extra mile for a rare experience, it’s a must watch – on the big screen of course!