CAST: Diljit Dosanjh, Parineeti Chopra, Anjum Batra, Nisha Bano, Rahul Mittra, Apinderdeep Singh, Kumud Mishra

DIRECTOR: Imtiaz Ali

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Imtiaz Ali has triumphantly regained his form with this latest film, ending a lengthy slump that had persisted since his 2015 hit, ‘Tamasha’. Furthermore, Diljit Dosanjh proves incomparable in his portrayal of Chamkila, whose music continues to top sales charts not only in Punjab but also in regions that resonate with the unique interplay of the artist’s background, his music, and the era he represents.

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Who was Amar Singh Chamkila? Why do his songs, laden with sexually explicit content and playful innuendos about intimate family roles and forbidden desires, stand out as iconic? What makes him tower above other Punjabi folk musicians who have navigated a complicated relationship with a society that both adores and despises their contributions and faces opposition from religious and political gatekeepers? Why does Chamkila’s voice still echo today, and why is his message still considered vital?

Chamkila, often called the ‘Elvis of Punjab’, was a true revolutionary. He challenged the entrenched social boundaries of caste and class that dictate societal roles. He transcended these constraints to claim a rare position: that of a performer, entertainer, and storyteller, emblematic of resistance against oppression, simultaneously scorned and celebrated.

Amar Singh Chamkila Movie Review: Imtiaz Ali Weaves Magic On Screen With  His Vibrant Take On Chamkila & Amarjot's Life And Art

Ali’s film employs various techniques to reconstruct Chamkila’s narrative, including multiple layers of flashbacks, several narrators, computer graphics, and deliberate dramatic interpretation. At nearly 2.5 hours, the movie emerges as one of the more robust and detailed biographical portrayals in Hindi cinema. It meticulously attends to minor details to compose a comprehensive portrait, unflinchingly presenting even the less savory aspects of its subject.

The film vividly portrays his remarkable journey from living in a humble abode with his alcoholic father and family to becoming a celebrated performer with sold-out shows in the Middle East and Canada. It explores his relationships with early friends who became rivals and his meeting and subsequent partnership with Amarjot Kaur (played by Parineeti Chopra, who provides strong support), both on stage and in life. The narrative also includes his circle of supporters and his ongoing efforts to remain humble despite his fame—a task made easier by his never forgetting his roots and true identity.

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Dosanjh, who has deeply absorbed Chamkila’s challenging life and experiences, showcases this through his nuanced performance, effectively portraying it as a candid reflection of reality.

Throughout his rising career, from the wrestling rings of Punjab to the Toronto stages—where he performed just after Amitabh Bachchan—and the under-the-table sales of his cassettes akin to black market ticket sales for Bachchan’s films, Chamkila faces opposition. His bold lyrics about desire and lust, which resonate with his audience, provoke discomfort among both religious authorities and militant groups. The latter period is marked by the rise of militant outfits and the events leading to Operation Bluestar. Chamkila finds himself pressured by religious leaders to cease his provocative songs and militants demanding money.

Chamkila’s story is that of a lower-caste man rising from poverty, an “ordinary man” who knew the power of delivering what his peers sought. His flaws are evident in how he leaves his first wife for Kaur, avoids harsh truths, and departs from his faithful ally, Tikki Paaji (Anjum Batra), with calculated pragmatism.

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The narrative suffers from issues typical to web platforms, like the awkward English translations of lyrics presented in italicized graphics. The numerous flashbacks, switching between real and fictional representations of Chamkila and Amarjot, achieve a remarkable resemblance but can feel excessive; similarly, the frequent use of multiple narrators feels overdone.

Ali deserves commendation for not simplifying Chamkila’s complex story. He skillfully employs A.R. Rahman’s compositions to enhance the bold, spirited lyrics, confidently allowing the audience to fully experience Chamkila’s songs as they were meant to be heard. This approach represents a significant triumph. Additionally, the authenticity of the performances is enriched by the actors singing live. Through the evocative music and Dosanjh’s authentic portrayal, we receive a compelling and emotive depiction of an artist who passionately lived and ultimately died for his convictions.


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