Udta Punjab begins at night, in the lush green fields swaying merrily in the winter breeze. A disc that lands flying on the crops costs millions and is picked up by a young immigrant contract labourer from Bihar. And the mayhem commences.
With all the controversy that the film has garnered over the past months, might I say that it is worth almost every minute of watch. The scenario it reveals about Punjab is astounding. Despite the motley of disclaimers that label the film as a work of fiction, it seems shockingly real. I have never been to Punjab but had doses of the silky yellow mustard fields – courtesy Bollywood. I know that romance in those fields is not what Punjab is only about; just like Calcutta that is not entirely resting on Howrah Bridge and roshogolla. The innocence of that romance has long been veiled by the white powder that rules. It seems, the penetration of powder (and liquid) in Punjab is an issue that has been carefully concealed from the rest of the country. In a humongous nation like ours, keeping track of the maladies in each state is something that even Governments haven’t managed to accomplish. It is not an excuse to be oblivious of that scenario in Punjab, it’s a shame that a state is gradually crumbling into ruins.
‘Khet banjar te aulaad kanjar’ – probably sums up the film’s true essence.
Meet Johnny W – Will, not Walker – named thus by his alcoholic father who died under mysterious circumstances. Johnny is the founder of Thy Will, a dead diction centre for the rich and the famous and the fiance of Mira Kermani, daughter of the richest man in town. His questionable methods aside, Johnny’s commitment to ridding his patients of alcohol and drug abuse is beyond doubt. How ironic then that Mira is found dead in her apartment from an overdose of morphine. But why is Officer Ray convinced that Johnny is the killer? Johnny’s assistant Sera, who secretly love him and his half-brother Zac are working hard to protect him from the officer. Or are they? Could Aunt Adele’s hunger for what was rightfully her sons inheritance have driven her to murder? Or is the murderer an unhappy patient? From the author of the disturbing and controversial Jacob Hills, an unputdownable story of crime and passion in the hill station town of Monele.
I had wanted to read Ismita Tandon since she’s one of the few women authors penning thrillers with love as the core theme. As the title suggests, this is a tale of love and death. Literally. It is intriguing whether love blooms on dead bodies or death comes riding in a love carriage. Meet the riders in this carriage Johnny, Mira, Sera, Zac, Adele and Officer Ray.
Set in a beautiful and obscure hill station called Monele near Ooty, ‘Thy Will’ is an alcohol rehabilitation center run by Johnny Will. He prescribes things to his patients that are not strictly legal in a rehab. The idea is pretty unique in its own way. Johnny and Zac, half brothers and cousins have a dark and grimy past that is trapped in the vestiges of Thy Will. Zac’s mother and Johnny’s aunt Adele is a pretty but wasted lady torn in the dilemma of raising a child out of the wedlock.