British-Pakistani star Riz Ahmed was in the running for Shahid Kapoor’s role in the Bollywood film ‘Udta Punjab’

Shahid Kapoor in Udta Punjab and Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
Shahid Kapoor in Udta Punjab and Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal Image Credit: IMDB

It’s been five years since the controversial Bollywood film Udta Punjab released globally, winning accolades and awards for its lead stars and makers.

Yet, it comes as a surprise to many that Shahid Kapoor, who walked away with the Best Actor trophy for his role as rockstar Tommy Singh, was not the first choice for the character.

In an interview with Film Companion, the film’s screenwriter Sudip Sharma has revealed that the team was initially interested in casting ‘Sound of Metal’ star Riz Ahmed for the role to Tommy Singh.

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Shahid Kapoor in ‘Udta Punjab’. Image Credit: Supplied

“We also dabbled with the idea of Riz Ahmed at one point of time. We never thought of a Bollywood actor for that role (Tommy Singh). We thought, why don’t we go for a British-South Asian character? Because we really wanted that whole London thing in it. And Riz is a great actor,” Sharma said.

“I remember walking out of ‘Nightcrawler’ – he had a small-ish part in that film. He wasn’t that big a star, so we weren’t being that unrealistic and foolish about it. I remember calling Abhishek [Chaubey, the director] and saying, ‘Yaar, aap please picture dekho [Please watch this movie], he’s outstanding and he can really fit Tommy’s part.’ Wishes can be horses when you’re casting.”

The role, of course, went to Kapoor, who played the drug-addled musician to perfection.

The film was mired in controversies starting with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) demanded a total of 89 cuts from the profanity-laden film. The producer, including Anurag Kashyap, had to move to the Bombay High Court. In the end, the decision came in favour of the makers. The Bombay High Court had directed the CBFC to issue an ‘A’ certificate to the movie with the deletion of one scene and a modified disclaimer.

Alia Bhatt in Udta Punjab
Alia Bhatt in Udta Punjab Image Credit: IMDB

Later, two days ahead of the release, the censor copy of the film was leaked online, resulting in a backlash from several members of the film fraternity. From Karan Johar to Shraddha Kapoor, everyone slammed the leak and requested people to only the watch the film in theatres.

Shortly after the release, the film’s lead actress Alia Bhatt was also in the spotlight for being brownfaced to play the role of a Bihari migrant worker.

Meanwhile, all eyes were also on Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, who had come together in a film years after splitting up.

‘Udta Punjab’ was based on the growing drug menace in the Indian state of Punjab.