Udta Punjab (lit. Punjab on a high) is a 2016 Indian black comedy crime film co-written and directed by Abhishek Chaubey. It is loosely based on and revolves around the drug abuse by the youth population in the Indian state of Punjab and the various conspiracies surrounding it. Produced by Shobha Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor under their banner Balaji Motion Pictures, in association with Anurag Kashyap’s production house Phantom Films, it features an ensemble cast consisting of Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh.
On 4 June 2016, the Central Board of Film Certification sought a stay on the film’s release citing that the themes dealt with in the film were too vulgar for the general audience. As a result, the producers were directed to make a total of 89 cuts in the film. However, on 13 June 2016, the Bombay High Court struck down the stay and gave permission for the film’s national release, albeit with a single cut in the screenplay. The film was released worldwide on 17 June 2016. Made on a budget of ₹470 million (US$6.6 million), Udta Punjab was an average grosser domestically and earned approximately ₹960 million (US$13 million) worldwide. It was critically acclaimed, and at the 62nd Filmfare Awards, the film won four awards, including Best Actress (Alia Bhatt) and Critics Award for Best Actor (Shahid Kapoor).
Three Pakistani youths throw packets of drugs across the border to India for it to be picked up later. Tejinder “Tommy” Singh (Shahid Kapoor), also known as “Gabru” among his fans, is a young and successful Punjabi musician who lives a luxurious lifestyle. Together with an ostentatious crew led by Tayaji (Satish Kaushik) and cousin Jassi (Suhail Nayyar), he indulges in uncontrolled consumption of cocaine. Tommy is popular for his energetic songs with lyrics that often glorify violence and drug addiction. However, his addiction costs him his music contract and lands him in jail. In prison, he meets two of his die-hard fans who remark how Tommy’s lifestyle had ‘inspired’ theirs, leading them to commit the murder of their own mother. Realizing that his songs have negatively affected teenagers, Tommy decides to change his ways upon release. A few days later, he engages in an altercation with Tayaji and accidentally shoots him, injuring his ear. Tayaji sends Tommy and his crew away to a farmhouse so that he can prepare for an upcoming concert.
Working on the farm is a Bihari migrant worker named Bauria (Alia Bhatt). Bauria’s dreams of playing national-level hockey for the country were shattered, so she came to Punjab to work as a laborer. She works for a local landlord who uses agriculture as a front for drug-peddling. One night, she finds a suspicious packet on the farm and realizes that it is some kind of drug. She resolves to sell it but her search for a potential buyer lands her in trouble as she unwittingly contacts the original owners of the heroin. She is captured by the gang of drug peddlers but not before she discards it into a well. As a compensation for their lost drugs, the peddlers forcibly keep her at their house, where she is sexually and physically abused, given drugs, and prostituted to men. Some weeks later, she manages to escape.
In the neighboring town lives Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor), a doctor and activist who runs a rehabilitation center. Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) is a junior policeman who knows about the drug smuggling his seniors are allowing. But when it affects his family, as his brother, Balli, overdoses and is brought to Preet’s clinic, he realizes the grave situation. Preet and Sartaj decide to find the root cause of the problem together. Balli is admitted into her drug rehabilitation centre against his will.
At his concert, instead of singing, Tommy starts preaching. Infuriated by his speech about how one should lead one’s life, his fans start throwing bottles at him. Tommy gets angry and urinates in front of the crowd before fleeing. He hides in an old structure and meets Bauria, also hiding. The two share their stories and bond. However, Bauria is recaptured by the same gang. Tommy learns the next day that an arrest warrant has been issued for him because of the public ruckus at the concert. He sets out to find Bauria after realising he is in love with her.
Preet and Sartaj find that the driving force behind the drug problem in Punjab is an elderly man called Virender Singh, who has flourished with the support of MP Maninder Brar. The two go to extreme measures to collect evidence against the politician and put together a report to be sent to the state’s Election Commission to thwart Brar’s campaign for another term in power. Sartaj and Preet fall in love; however, one night, Preet sees a manic Balli trying to escape from her rehab center. On trying to stop him, she is accidentally stabbed by him. The policemen who investigate her homicide, including senior officer Jhujar Singh, come across the report made by her and Sartaj. Since he is Sartaj’s close friend, Jhujar decides to protect Balli by sending him underground. However, he is infuriated when he sees that he too has been named in the drug racket and calls Sartaj.
In the presence of the local drug mafia at their farmhouse (where Bauria is confined), a bruised and beaten Sartaj is questioned by Jhujar, who is a key member in the drug racket. Sartaj says whatever he did was for the sake of Punjab. At the same time, Tommy enters the house. Sartaj grabs Jhujar’s pistol and shoots the whole gang before freeing Balli. Tommy helps Bauria escape from her captors. Balli kneels and cries in front of his brother, whose face is expressionless.
It is shown that the government issued an inquiry into Maninder Brar’s activities and there has been a huge crackdown on the drug menace. In Goa, amidst his crew members, Tommy calls Bauria to ask for her real name. Sitting by the beach, she catches sight of a foreigner having fun. Inspired, she utters “Mary Jane”.
Shahid Kapoor as Tejinder “Tommy” Singh a.k.a. Gabru
Kareena Kapoor as Dr. Preet Sahni
Alia Bhatt as Bauria a.k.a. Mary Jane
Diljit Dosanjh as ASI Sartaj Singh
Satish Kaushik as Tayaji
Suhail Nayyar as Jassi
Prabhjyot Singh as Balli Singh
Jaswinder Kaur as Sartaj’s mother
Manav Vij as Jhujar Singh, Sartaj’s senior officer
Ishaan Khatter in ‘Cameo’ Appearance