Amar Singh Chamkila

Amar Singh Chamkila
Amar Singh Chamkila
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A start from the end by Imtiaz Ali in ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’. Since everything is over. In his brutal assassination, which ended a glorious career, Diljit Dosanjh plays the lead role as an enigmatic Chamkila, a Punjabi folk musician.

There is a change in mood amidst this lamentation as we find ourselves in the conversation between the investigating police officer and grieving Ustaad. The sight of Chamkila and his wife Amarjot Kaur covered with white sheets and their bloodstains on Punjabi music industry are so pitiful.

This film incredibly captures two events happening at once; one man’s rise to stardom aided by his no fear attitude and subsequent destruction. What makes it remarkable is that in most cases we can almost see how he became famous and also decayed at the same time. There are very few moments when, even though faced with death threats from music rivals and Khalistani terrorists, Chamkila does not have his charisma on display.

Though it appears like ‘Amar Singh Chamikla’ is a biographical drama later it goes further into exploring what innocence means, evil existence as well as a man’s need for validation against increasing criticism. As described by AR Rahman in The Hindu “Imtiaz has reinvented himself” with this film after veering away from adolescent romance tropes that he is known for.

It’s not meant to be a documentary about double-entendre songs of Chamkila that made him and his listeners ‘ganda banda’ (dirty man) according to self-appointed moral high society guardians. But it also talks about the society they lived in during those days of Amar Singh Chamkila. The script writers Nidhi Sethia and Richa Nanda along with Imtiaz show us how Punjab insurgency had affected both life and career of Chamkila through their screenplays.

The Amar Singh Chamkila’ jumps back and forth through time and uses archival footage from various sources including Chamkila and Amarjot’s housefull akhaadas (stage shows) in Punjab thereby enhancing emotional connect. Some scenes are caricaturish, and it is hard to comprehend why. They don’t work, but their presence on the screen is, thankfully, short.

This film succeeds not only because of its strong script but also its music playing in the background and performances.

The original songs by Chamkila have been left untouched by Imtiaz and Rahman that evoke nostalgia for his fans while at the same time introducing many like me to his four decades old music. AR Rahman has along with Irshad Kamil retained the earthy flavor of Amar Singh Chamkila’s music in their original compositions apart from the title track

The song ‘Baaja’ sung by Mohit Chauhan perfectly describes how Chamkila rose to fame during 1984 riots: ‘Sakht waqt tha, woh bhay bhayyanak tha..Chamkila chamka aise mein…Chhedta chhabeela, bistaron ki leela…sexy geet gaata tha…(Those times were tough; he was very much terrified…chamkilla shone then…he used to sing erotic songs).’

However, Diljit and Parineeti’s ‘live’ performance on songs of Amar Singh Chamkila are outstanding while Punjabi number ‘Bol Mohabbat’ rendered by Rahman leaves you spellbound.

The role which Diljit Dosanjh plays is extraordinary; it is so electrifying, vulnerable, naive, aggressive and anything else that he turns into just to be the true reflection of this person who shook Punjab to its very core in the 1980s. He is one among several causes of the film’s magnetism. Parineeti fits well as Amarjot who is shy, quiet and submissive.

Every friend of Chamkila, some looking spookily like their real selves do excellent work in a short span of time. Anjum Batra as Kesar Singh Tikki steals it with his spot-on comic timing and controlled emotional scenes.

Amar Singh Chamkila was a man who brought happiness to many but had little for himself because he never accepted his elevation from being an untouchable labourer to being hailed as a legendary artiste: brutalizing lessons from this film. He always thought he was a servant for these people on stage.

Swarn Sivia played by Apinderdeep Singh is shown saying in the movie “Ek baat Chamkila ki bohot galat si, apne sunne vaalon ka ghulam tha woh (There was a major flaw in Chamkila. He remained a servant to his listeners).”

Whatever else ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ has or lacks; it is worth seeing because of its music and how it has been performed by Diljit Dosanjh. It looks beneath the surface and leaves us with something about what kind of man he was at least. Imtiaz Ali makes us quickly feel sorry for Chamkila as both an artiste and human being.

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