Amar Singh Chamkila review: Diljit Dosanjh delivers a delectable act in this melodious yet tragic musical biopic | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Amar Singh Chamkila review: Diljit Dosanjh delivers a delectable act in this melodious yet tragic musical biopic

Apr 12, 2024 04:11 PM IST

Amar Singh Chamkila review: Diljit Dosanjh is perfect as Punjabi singer Amar Singh Chamkila in Imtiaz Ali's latest musical.

Amar Singh Chamkila review: Jis wajah se chamka woh, uss wajah se tapka woh - These words in the introductory song of Amar Singh Chamkila, a biopic on one of the most famous singers in Punjab, pretty much sets the premise of what's going to unfold. Returning to direction after four years, Imtiaz Ali picks the minutest of details from the singer's life, weaves them into a compelling narrative, and presents us a beautiful film with flawless storytelling. Immersing you in Chamkila's story from the word go, the film takes you through his rise and fall as a musician and how the very reason for his fame and success led to his untimely death. (Also read: Before Amar Singh Chamkila, 5 must-watch musical biopics for your binge-list)

Amar Singh Chamkila review: Parineeti Chopra stars with Diljit Dosanjh in this Imtiaz Ali movie.
Amar Singh Chamkila review: Parineeti Chopra stars with Diljit Dosanjh in this Imtiaz Ali movie.

In a bid to cover varied aspects of a person's life, biopics often tend to go off track, but here, Imtiaz is focused on showing us who Amar Singh Chamkila — also known as the 'Elvis Presley of Punjab' — was in real life. Casting Diljit Dosanjh turns out to be quite a safe move not only for linguistic reasons, but also because the actor-singer hails from the same state, and must have grown up knowing about Chamkila's music. Therefore, watching him portray the part looks so convincing, and the way Dosanjh imbibes the late singer's mannerisms, physical traits and singing style is as close as it gets to reality. So much so that Diljit even let go of his turban to look exactly like Chamkila, and he delivers a delectable performance that leaves you craving for more. On the other hand, Parineeti Chopra as Amarjot is decent but she evidently gets overshadowed by the star power that Diljit carries. They sing 15 songs together in the film, but honestly, Parineeti's singing doesn't leave any lasting impact.

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The plot

The film opens with Chamkila (Diljit Dosanjh), and wife, Amarjot aka Babbi (Parineeti Chopra), being shot dead in Mehsampur as they arrive for a performance. As their bodies were thrown at the Phillaur station, we are shown through a series of flashbacks, how he emerged as one of the most influential singers in Punjab, and what led to his death.

Through a non-linear narrative, the film travels through 1977 to 1988, and tells us how aspiring singer Chamkila, working in a socks-knitting factory, is looking for that one break, which he gets after meeting Shinda, an already established musician. Chamkila starts writing songs for him, and one day while filling up for Shinda on stage at an akhada (crowd that gathers to listen to live music), he makes audiences fall in love with his style. He becomes an instant sensation, and his records start selling like hot cakes. He is often referred to as 'ganda banda' but despite writing, composing and singing objectionable songs with brash lyrics, there's always a demand for his music among fans across age groups.

Great dialogues, emotional scenes

Written by Imtiaz and his brother Sajid, the film has some powerful and thought-provoking dialogues that make you sit up and take notice. On being questioned about how he justifies the vulgar songs he writes and sings, 'Har kisi ki sahi galat sochne ki aukaat nahi hoti. Meri toh nahi hai. Mujhe toh bas zinda rehna hai'.

There's a portion in the film where a press reporter comes to interview Chamkila and insists on talking to him alone and ask some personal questions. He's reluctant to an extent that he won't even make an eye contact with her, because she is wearing pants. Here, the film unapologetically showcases the hypocrisy that has plagued our society for long where a singer can write songs about women's sexuality, objectify them in unimaginable ways but has issues with their modern clothing.

Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra in Chamkila.
Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra in Chamkila.

I loved how Imtiaz doesn't try to do any image correction for Chamkila through this biopic. He presents the singer in his purest form through a melodious musical. If you are fluent in Punjabi, you'll absolutely love every single time Diljit takes the stage and sings a new number, as you'd be able to understand the intended pun and humour in the words he was known for. Even if you don't know the language, Imtiaz has brilliantly used supers (Hindi translation on screen) that make it easy for you to grasp the flow. However, each time the supers come on screen during a song, there's a bit of a distraction and you won't know where to focus - on the words being written or the artists performing on stage. But you can look past that flaw and enjoy the musical. While Chamkila's story in itself is so colourful, Imtiaz has further enhanced it by adding another layer of 2D animation to certain visuals.

There have been several conspiracy theories around Chamkila's death, whether it was separatists that eliminated him, or jealous rivals who got him killed or some religious groups that didn't want him to besmirch the society and mislead and corrupt the mindsets of the youth. Fortunately, the film doesn't delve deep into solving this mystery and turning into a cat and mouse chase. Instead, Imtiaz's sole aim is to familiarise his audiences with Chamkila the person, the singer, the husband and the star he eventually became.

Watch out for several heartwarming moments in the film where you realise that whether out in open or behind the closed doors, Chamkila's music always had takers. For instance, when the investigating cop is shown to silently confess that he also secretly admired Chamkila's music is such a beautiful scene. Or when instead of yelling at his young son for not studying, he politely tells him to listen to Chamkila's songs without fear whenever he felt like, is another moving scene.

The biopic also touches upon the tragic 1984 riots that took Punjab by storm and lefts artistes worried about their future. At this point, the film takes a moment to show how naïve Chamkila has been as a music label's owner (Kumud Mishra) tells him, 'Jab duniya mein tanaav badhta hai, tab junta ke andar entertainment ki bhookh aur bhi badh jati hai', thus convincing Chamkila to continue making music. Further pushing him to not give in to the pressure and continue writing the same old songs that people loved and want to listen, we hear another dialogue, 'Jab chaaron taraf khatra ho, log takleef se tadap rahe ho, toh unhe dukh bhare gaane nahi sunne hote, dukh toh pehle se hi unki zindagi mein hai. Unke koi tadakta gaana chahiye jinse unke raahat mile, aur kuch lamhon ke liye unki zindagi araam ho jaye.' How Chamkila takes it upon himself to entertain people and make them forget their miseries is a written so beautifully that it just stays with you.

Another highlight of the film is its music, composed by the maestro AR Rahman, with lyrics from Irshad Kamil. While Ishq Mitaye offers a perfect mood for a soulful melody, Vida Karo is a sad number that leaves a lump in your throat. The 15 tracks that Diljit and Parineeti have live recorded in their own voice for their stage performances are the highlight of the film. Also, back in those years when women won't be comfortable opening discussing their sexuality, Imtiaz decides to incorporate a peppy number, Naram Kaalja, showing women including college girls, mid-aged women to the elderlies in the house, unabashedly talking about their sexual desires. You just want to stand up and cheer loud!

Watch Amar Singh Chamkila for its honesty, purity, fun, spunk and outstanding music. It's nothing short of attending a live concert, and Diljit, Imtiaz and AR Rahman is a trio that you can't get enough of. The film is now streaming on Netflix.

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