UT 69 movie review: Raj Kundra’s hard-to-digest jail drama is stuffed with poop and pep talk
It may seem too soon for businessman Raj Kundra, better known as actor Shilpa Shetty’s husband, to get a biopic made on him. But when you have the funding and a story to tell, it’s always the right time to go all out. Though after watching UT 69, it seems as if only Kundra and debutant director Shahnawaz Ali saw merit in this so-called story, and decided to make a film on it. After watching the jail drama for 117 minutes, the only thing I asked myself was, ‘What was this? Why was this?’
Making his debut as an actor and narrating his ordeal of spending 63 days in prison, Kundra stars in UT 69 that traces his time spent in Arthur Road Jail after his alleged involvement in a pornography scandal in 2021. While anyone would have thought that the intention behind the film was to clear Kundra’s image or prove his innocence, strangely enough, the film doesn’t touch upon the case at all, maybe because the matter is subjudiced. That somehow was quite a put off for a lot of people who couldn’t see a point or purpose in watching a nearly 2-hour film based on someone’s life in prison. We definitely needed more.
From the first scene till the last, all you get to see is the jail, the barracks and the deplorable conditions of the inmates living there. I am not denying that as a subject it could actually be a hard-hitting, but basing it on one person’s journey was a bit of a hard sell.
Being a star husband, Kundra’s days in prison might be of interest to someone who wishes to see if celebs are treated any differently behind the bars. And UT 69 takes that as the opportunity to discard such notions as Kundra is shown to have spent some terrible time sleeping on the floor with 245 other inmates in a barrack that has a capacity of 46 people, eating food that’s not only uninviting but difficult to digest. And then making the most of ‘indigestion’, there are countless toilet scenes ingested in the script, and each one of them make you want to throw up at the mere sight of it. I mean, why show so many gross things to leave your audience disgusted? On top of that, trying to turn it into toilet humour with pooping and farting noises was just not cool and could have well been avoided.
That being said, yes, UT 69 is a sincere attempt at shedding light on the conditions of jails in India and lack of basic amenities for the inmates. The pain, angst, dilemma and helplessness that Kundra goes through is portrayed well and looks pretty real. His bond with other inmates, finding solace in their words and gestures, forming connections and finding a family – these portions are written well. In scenes when he gets to talk to his wife, Shilpa Shetty on weekly calls, you feel what he would have actually gone through when he didn’t get to speak to his family for initial days. Then there’s a time when the inmates are celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi – it is one of the most beautiful scenes and moves you.
Kundra as an actor brings a balance in his performance, and while living that horror again for the cameras, he makes sure to keep it as real as possible. In fact, all other inmates in that one barrack, and the cops involved, played their parts well and made this pointless drama watchable. Though I felt the humour bit could have been mellowed down a bit because at times it appeared that the harsh realities of staying in a prison was made to look like a cakewalk, which actually is not the case.
Towards the end, there’s an attempt to make the objective of the film clear which is how Kundra, after his bail, informed the Human Rights Commission about the conditions inside, and went on to set up a free legal aid team to help underprivileged families who are stuck in the legal system with family members in jail.
All said and done, UT 69 doesn’t have a clear plot or a story that it wants you to understand, absorb and take back home with you. It’s merely documenting Raj Kudra’s account of being in jail, and the unbelievable conditions of the prison. But for that kind of an in-depth commentary, I’d rather watch a documentary on condition of Indian jails than see Raj Kundra in it as the hero.
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