Netflix Review: Daljit Dosanjh shines in ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ biopic

Credit- Netflix

MELBOURNE, 13 April 2024: Biopic’s are engaging, and so is ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ directed by Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met).  It is based on real life character Chamkila (known as the Elvis Presley of Punjab) who was a rage among Punjabi-speakers, in the militancy-ridden Punjab, he was gunned down with his wife in the village Mehsampur on March 8, 1988. Their  murder remains unsolved till now. A sensitive subject laced with politics and controversy coming from Imtiaz Ali, is in itself a statement. One wonders why was the movie not released in theatres. Or, what would be the Indian censors approach to such a subtle cinematic expression?

The story: Chamkila, a Dalit, works in a socks factory barely able to make ends meet. His passion for singing is noticed by friends. After getting rejected by an event organiser, he gets chance to sing with an existing female singer on stage. There is no looking back and he becomes popular. Later with a new female singing partner his popularity charts (Records) keep jumping. They get married, after she escapes from home. So, Chamkila and Amarjot (wife) win the hearts of Punjabi people, with their sexually, naughty suggestive songs. This raises eyebrows in conservative sections. He is warned, but he says, I have to sing what people want. And, the economic benefits of a singing career are welcome. He is forced to abandon his style of songs and starts singing religious songs, which are also hits. But people force him to go back to his popular style. The couple’s overseas trips boost them further. The conservative forces are angered who call their songs as ‘neeche gane’ (lower songs) or ‘gandae gane’ (bad songs).

The movie starts with Chamkila and Amarjot being gunned down in Mehsampur when they arrive for a concert. Their bodies are shifted to his uncles home.  And, the movie moves on with Chamkila’s friends narrating his story to a senior police inspector who has come to enquire the crime. The flashbacks narrate the story.

The ambience is not cozy, as the tale step by step reveals how when Chamkila and Amarjot’s popularity is hitting the sky and a son is born, lurking dangers keep rising. His Manager (Tikki) and friends warn him amid fame and name. Chamkila overcomes the fear and keeps singing. One hears, singers will sing and killers will kill. The die has been cast.

Mumbai, Mar 29 (ANI): Parineeti Chopra and Diljit Dosanjh with AR Rahman during the trailer launch of  ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’, in Mumbai.

Imtiaz Ali handles the subject very well. In-between animation has been used in connecting frames. Looks unique. A. R. Rahaman’s music/songs are mesmerising – a mix of Punjabi vibe and Bollywood. A. R,. Rahman has said, ” … So, we made it like a Broadway kind of thing. We made certain songs like Broadway musicals for the film.” Incredible.

Interestingly, this is not the first movie on Chamkila. A movie ‘Mehsampur’ by Kabir Singh Chowdhry in 2018, dealt with the people around Chamkila. Chowdhry explains in Bollywood Reporter , “The film is more about the ghost of Chamkila and the people who were around him.” Using a film-within-a-film premise, Mehsampur revolves around cash-strapped, self-obsessed filmmaker Devrath (played by Devrath Joshi, who is also a filmmaker in real life), who is researching the life of Chamkila, which leads him to meet the late singer’s associates: percussionist Lal Chand (who survived the assassination), former manager-singer Kesar Singh Tikki and ageing actress-singer Surinder Sonia.”

I liked the end scene where the police inspector reaches home and his son while doing homework is also listening to a Chamkila song. As he enters the home, the son takes out the audio cassette and hides it. It speaks for itself.

‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ has powerful performances by Daljit Dosangh (one of his best) and Parineeta Chopra. The other cast do justice to their roles.

Amar Singh Chamkila premiered April 12, exclusively on Netflix.

Starring Diljit Dosanjh, Parineeti Chopra and others. Direction: Imtiaz Ali; Music: A R Rahman ;Lyrics: Irshad Kamil; Script: Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali; Producer: Mohit Choudhary, Select Media Holdings LLP, Saregama and Window Seat Films.

Rating: 3 and half out of 5.



By Neeraj Nanda

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