Amar Singh Chamkila review: We were expecting a few more fireworks

Unknowingly or not, some portions of Chamkila’s life are filmed more as satire than tragedy when, in fact, the need of the hour was gravitas

Diljit Dosanjh plays the lead in Chamkila (photo: @Bollywoodrank/X)
Diljit Dosanjh plays the lead in Chamkila (photo: @Bollywoodrank/X)

Subhash K Jha

Film: Amar Singh Chamkila

Cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Parineeti Chopra, Nisha Bano, Anjum Batra, Anurag Arora, Samuel John

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Rating: *** ½

Hum chetaawani nahin denge, maarenge,” a Sikh committee warns Amar Singh Chamkila, who is too far gone into the wink-wink-nudge-nudge gaane route to care. When threatened, Chamkila, as played by Diljit Dosanjh, is like, whatever…

Was Chamkila a brave musician who wouldn’t be intimidated by moral policing and creative fascism? Director Imtiaz Ali, who had lately been churning out balderdash-like cringe, When Harry Met Sejal and, double cringe, Love Aaj Kal (Kartik Aaryan’s own Razia Sultan), is back in form.

And in Punjab where he loves to shoot from his hips. Amar Singh Chamkila is shot like a docu-dream. Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca keeps the visuals raw, real and rugged, while editor Aarti Bajaj knows exactly where to cut before the raunchy singing hits the low notes.

Dosanjh, a singer and actor of substantial skills, is the Chamkila we expect: you know, Sikh singer, etc. But there is no surprise element here. No…fireworks. Dosanjh, I think, assumed a cautious attitude to play the controversial musician. Chamkila, as played by Dosanjh, seems to make all the right noises, while making sure that the neighbours don’t wake up.

A part of the moderate experience that is Dosanjh’s Chamkila is the fence-sitting that the writers (Imtiaz and Sajid Ali) have adopted. We don’t know until the end which side the film is on: is it okay for Chamkila to sing all those naughty, slightly lurid songs about devar-bhabhi, etc. Or should he have curbed his exuberance and saved his own life and that of his wife?

Halfway through the film, when the death threats begin to get very serious, Chamkila decides to switch genres. From risqué songs, he is shown going dharmik. The transition is anything but smooth, and the consequences of this change of art are quite calamitous, with fans (understandably) asking for the real Chamkila to please stand up. In a manner of speaking…rather, singing.

Unknowingly or not, some portions of Chamkila’s life are filmed more as satire than tragedy when, in fact, the need of the hour was gravitas. There is this unintentionally hilarious sequence wherein a group of 'fans' barge into Chamkila’s home, praise him to the skies, and then threaten him in the same breath. They are fans with fangs: they love his music but, hell, there is a job to be made.

This brings me to Chamkila’s wife Amarjot Kaur. Parineeti Chopra plays her with impressive quietude. But why does this shy, clear-headed woman agree to sing those dirty ditties on stage with her husband? For her spouse or the love of music?

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines