“Imtiaz Ali Pays A Warm Tribute To Punjab’s Elvis Presley In Netflix’s Amar Singh Chamkila” – A Subhash K Jha Review

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Amar Singh Chamkila (Netflix)
Starring Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra
Director: Imtiaz Ali

Hum chetaawani nahin denge, marenge,” a Sikh committee warns Amar Singh Chamkila, who is too far gone into 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. The 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 an 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 the 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 till 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 Chamkila have curbed his exuberance and saved his own life and his wife’s?

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 charge of art 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?

Our Rating

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