In her first of three releases in 2016, Bhatt played the supporting part of a lively young girl with a buried past in Kapoor & Sons, a drama about a dysfunctional family starring Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. The film proved to be a critical and commercial success. She then took on the part of a poverty-stricken Bihari migrant in the Indian state of Punjab in Udta Punjab (2016), a crime drama about substance abuse from the director Abhishek Chaubey. The intense role marked a significant departure from the mostly light-hearted parts she had previously played, and in preparation, she watched documentaries on drug abuse and learned to speak a Bihari dialect. The film, co-starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, and Diljit Dosanjh, generated controversy when the Central Board of Film Certification deemed that the film represented Punjab in a negative light and demanded extensive censorship before its theatrical release. The Bombay High Court later cleared the film for exhibition with one scene cut. Bhatt's performance was critically acclaimed, with several commentators believing that it was her best performance to that point.  Raja Sen of Rediff. com wrote that Bhatt "commits to her accent and deals with the film's most unsavoury section, and is stunning during an incendiary speech that elevates the entire film to a whole other level. "