Film Review: ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’

Diljit Dosanjh Brings Alive Amar Singh Chamkila in Imtiaz Ali’s Directorial Masterpiece!

A Review by Dr Priyaankaa Mathur

The very first shot of the film shook me, when the greatest Punjabi Pop Star of his times Amar Singh Chamkila (Diljit Dosanjh) and his wife Amarjot (Pareeniti Chopra), are shown shot dead before they performed their last Akhada (an open folk music performance). The film captures at the very first instant, the gloomy reality of how an artist and his artistic creativity were shut down at gunpoint, 36 years ago in Mehsampur, Jalandhar district, from where the Netflix film begins!

Directed by Imtiaz Ali and Scripted by Sajid Ali, the film captures well the nuances from Chamkila’s childhood to his stardom. Young Dhani Ram alias Amar Singh, born in a poor Dalit family was an inquisitive child, who wrote his observations on sexual encounters in a poetic form and created his melodies with the help of an Ektara at night. While he worked in a socks-making factory during the day, to earn his living. He eventually made connections with a local music organiser to introduce him to a Punjabi folk sensation, Jatinder Jinda(Surinder Shinda), who eventually became his mentor and sang his compositions in return for money.

The story unfolds how Amar Singh became a star by chance, as he got to do a proxy concert. Incidentally, the announcer mispronounced his village name as Chamkila (Sparkling), and thus coined his name as ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’, which in a way acted as a prophesy. This indeed was the starting point of his Sparkling musical journey, as the audience loved his presentation with raunchy, provocative, vulgar lyrics that objectified women, which he performed in male-female duet format. The film captures well his life’s twists and turns, and how he eventually meets Amarjot (Parineeti Chopra) who not only ends up as his singing partner,but a partner in life and death too!

Known as the Elvis Presley of Punjab, Chamkila became the then icon of Punjabi pop, who sold the maximum number of records, succeeding all his contemporaries in his lifetime. His songs broke the shackles of society, displaying free will, which perhaps attracted criticism from the orthodox when he reached the pinnacle of his unprecedented stardom.

The biographical drama master-crafted by director Imtiaz Ali deep dives into the life of this fearless musician, his innocence and how he validates himself against growing criticism, and how evil takes over, while he eventually receives death threats. The script eventually shows how the insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s impacted Chamkila’s music, while he made people happy with his concerts in the middle of the chaos, as he felt it was his duty to give them pleasure, which sadly instigated Terrorists and Khalistanis against him.

The film documents the society and the times in which Chamkila lived, which has been shot at original locations, creating the same vibe of weddings and festivities, showcasing how even older women and young girls sang and danced on his so-called obscene music,behind the closed doors, which are still popular in his village.

The script goes back and forth, every time showcasing Chamkila and Amarjot’s real-time images in comparison to the real-life characters, which certainly gives insights into the superstar’s actual life. The actors have done a remarkable job in getting into the skin of the characters and completely transported themselves into Chamkila and Amarjot under the ace direction of Imtiaz Ali.Rightly asserted by Music Director A R Rehman in an interview, Imtiaz Ali has reinvented himself with this film, which is an immersive experience in itself, while he has created a perfect life sketch of the musical icon of 70s and 80s, hardly known today.

The film has become a masterpiece not only for its script and treatment, but also for its original tracks like Ishq Mitaye’ sung by Diljit, composed  A R Rehman, embodies rustic lyrics by Irshad Kamil. The tracks like ‘Baaja’ sung by Mohit Chauhan takes you through Chamkila’s rise to fame. Chamkila’s and Amarjot’s original tracks maintain well the earthly flavour of their music are rendered and enacted  to perfection by Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra.

As told by Imtiaz Ali, it’s interesting to know that these songs were recorded live in an Akhada set up in the villages, as Chamkila and Amarjot used to perform. Chamkila’s original songs are  used in the film untampered not only to recreate the nostalgia for his existing fans, but also to introduce his music to newer audiences including me to understand his creations!

Overall a must-watch masterpiece for all music lovers, art affectionates and lovers of good cinema!

FF Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐