With ‘Udta Punjab’ there’s more code-mixing in Bollywood

Indrani Medhi Thies, Microsoft Research India

Saare Gabru toh sooiyan lagake tight hai madam, Ab Ladies ko hi kuch karna padega na”, says Assistant Sub-Inspector Sartaj to Dr. Preet Sahni in ‘Udta Punjab’.

(English: ‘All the young hunks are wasted from injecting needles, so it’s the women who’ll have to do something”.)

‘Udta Punjab’ is Bollywood’s attempt at creating awareness about the drug menace of Punjab. In recent years drugs have crippled the youth of this state and things are only getting worse. Udta Punjab looks at the drug problem from the perspective of three intertwining stories of its four protagonists. The stories have one connection, how drugs are affecting lives across the socio-economic strata and how people are fighting back in their own way. However, another connection that you can’t help noticing is the use of code-mixed language across these stories, of Punjabi, Hindi, Bhojpuri, and English.

In Udta Punjab Sartaj’s (Diljit Dosanjh) teenaged brother Balli has turned an addict and the family has no idea about his situation. Sartaj gets sensitized about the drug problem with the help of the beautiful, strong, independent Dr. Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor), a crusader against drugs. Together Sartaj and Preet carry out a series of sting operations that will expose the drug racket to the entire nation.

And it’s not just teenaged boys like Balli, but the London-born Punjabi rockstar Tommy Singh, (Shahid Kapoor) is also a drug addict. Known by his fans as ‘Gabru’, he’s a youth icon. He has composed music about drugs:

Enough is enough

Kutte se bhi tough

Life ho jaaye toh maaro 10 puff

Match fix lagega toh pitch khodenge

Hoke besharam bandi rich khojenge

Emo-panti apne ko to suit na kare

Gabru hi kya jo hip se shoot na kare

(English: Enough is enough

Tougher than a dog

When life gets to you, then take in 10 puffs

If we think that a match is fixed, we will dig up the pitch

We’ll be shameless, we will search for a rich girl

Being emotional doesn’t suit us

One who doesn’t shoot from his hip isn’t a young man)

Powder ki line’o ka rakhega kaun hisaab…

Haan ud-daa Punjab

(English: Who’ll keep track of the lines of powder [cocaine]…

Yes, Punjab’s flying).

Tommy’s street-smart ‘Tayaji’ (Uncle, Satish Kaushik) has used every opportunity to make money off Tommy’s popularity, but is also very loyal and supportive. He speaks in a chaste Punjabi accent,

Puttar, Honda hai cocaine chaddo toh withdrawal symptom hote hain“.

(English: Son, it happens, when you stop using cocaine, you experience withdrawal symptoms).

The third story is of migrant Bihari labourer (name not revealed till the end, Alia Bhatt) who gets dragged into drug peddling by accident, and lands into the worst situation amongst all of the film’s protagonists. It’s only later revealed that she’s a district-level hockey champion who is forced to give up her dream to work as a labourer in the fields in Punjab so she can support her family. Tommy and she meet in the most unusual of circumstances. Tommy tells her:

Agar tujhe koi bole jo nikal gaya woh teri life ka sabse accha time tha….Maal khatam…Party over. Go Home“.

(English: If someone were to tell you, what’s past was the best time of your life… Stuff’s over (now), party over, go home).

Alia’s character doesn’t do much code-mixing; there’s just one English word or two in her utterances:

“Kaise na aya acha time re, sala acha time khojte khojte toh ye hal ho gya…”

(English: How will good times not come, idiot, see what situation searching for good times has landed me in…).

‘Udta Punjab’ exposes its audience to gut-wrenching reality about the drug problem in Punjab. Time is running out and something needs to be done soon. The situation is bleak, but a ray of hope flickers. Udta Punjab is also a great instantiation of how code-mixing is becoming increasingly commonplace in films. So if you’re interested in some realistic cinema, or just curious how code-mixing overlaps with Bollywood,

Go, aglaa show book karo, jaldi, if you haven’t already!

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