‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ Review: Diljit Dosanjh Spearheads An Emotional Journey Of A Controversial Singer

Punjab has suddenly become a point of interest for Hindi cinema. For the past few years, many interesting stories have come out of quaint towns in the state, which was previously projected as a place known for merriment, alcohol, and Canada. Starting from Udta Punjab, which incidentally also starred the amazing Diljith Dosanjh, Imtiaz Ali, the director of Amar Singh Chamkila, has also briefly explored Punjab through his classic hit Jab We Met.


Kohrra, Tabbar, Pataallok, and the latest SonyLIV show Chamak extensively covered Punjab meticulously and gave us a different picture of the state. This Punjab is not surrounded by ‘sarson ke kheth’ and people are not always in the mood to sing and dance. Amar Singh Chamkila,  the Netflix original, is based on the famous Punjabi singer of the same name, whose life was tragically cut short.

The movie begins with Amar Singh Chamkila and his wife, Amarjot Kaur, being shot dead by unknown assailants as they got out of their vehicle on the way to their performance. Set in the year 1988, the news of their deaths spreads across the state, and their mortal remains are brought to their hometown in the most hush-hush manner. Their friends and the members of the troop are in a state of shock. The DSP is sent to check up on the bodies of the two controversial singers, and they spend the whole night hearing the story of Amar Singh, his humble beginnings, and how he ended up becoming a sensation in the state of Punjab. His trials and tribulations as a singer who pens down and sings risqué songs that have a huge fan following form the life story of the man and his wife, who were killed in their prime.


This two-hour, twenty-five-minute film is filled with the story of a man who went through many obstacles in the form of society, terrorist groups, and religious leaders offering him advice on giving up on the life of singing vulgar, dirty songs. The director, Imtiaz Ali, covers this subject extensively throughout the film. Sadly, this narrative becomes repetitive. Just like Amar Singh Chamkila in the film is fed up with people requesting and threatening him constantly, the viewers watching the movie would feel the same.  In the film, this was done to make Amar Singh forget the fear for his life, but for the viewers, it gets monotonous and unnecessarily increases the run time. There is no need to bombard the audience with the narrative about people back in the day who were offended by his work.

Imtiaz Ali’s direction is the biggest takeaway, and he is the hero of the movie. He takes the road less traveled and delivers an emotionally rich story of a man who had everything he had asked for but was struggling to sustain his popularity. The direction of the film takes the front seat when the opening credits begin with a song that describes what made Chamkila different from other singers and why people loved him for who he was.  The film is filled with animations that take the viewers through an exposition instead of spoon-feeding and overwhelming them with drama and more backstories. It is an interesting way to present the story of Chamkila, who has remained a legend in the state. There are some brilliant transition shots between a song in the background and the song sung by the leads as the characters. It adds to the intrigue of the storytelling. This is no normal biopic, and Imtiaz Ali makes sure to present this story unusually.


The direction has to be lauded because the maker could have taken the traditional route presenting Chamkila as an underdog, beginning his journey, going through dramatic ups and downs, only to succeed by the end. In this case, everyone is aware of the ending, but the journey is an important element, which includes Chamkila’s wife, friends, and associates. This time, the humor and emotion are subtle, and Imtiaz has full control over the craft. One could not ignore the “Rockstar” elements in some shots. One of the characters in the film talks about people turning to entertainment in times of crisis, and the pain of turmoil gives birth to artists. We like how Imtiaz is trying to retain some bits from Rockstar in this film, but thankfully, it does not overwhelm the movie with it. Unlike Rockstar, which was heavy on feelings, Amar Singh Chamkila is a quiet film but says a lot about social messaging and the journey of the singer. It is the writing that falters. Imtiaz Ali and his brother Sajid Ali, the writers of the film, did not have much to offer in terms of screenplay. It was the direction that practically acted like glue and held the film strong.

The performances made Amar Singh Chamkila emotional, something that should be on the paper as well. The screenplay lacked depth. The viewers were looking for profound pain in the writing, which was felt in the second half of Sajid Ali’s “Laila Majnu” and Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar. The comparison is being made for various reasons because of their past experience with a subject like this one. The writers thankfully write about the caste and class angle in the movie and how hypocrisy and superiority complex amongst the people belonging to the upper caste is normalized. The people who enjoy his music are the same people who criticize him for releasing the so-called ‘vulgar’ songs. The songs, the scenarios, and the language that he has seen around him become part of his lyrics, and Chamkila chooses to sing them out loud. This is where the caste and class angle comes up, and writers subtly add them to the narrative raised by several characters who feel they are somehow superior to Chamkila and people who cater to his music. This is presented with a lot of sensitivity.


Sadly, Parineeti Chopra as Amarjot is only in the backdrop as his singing partner, who becomes his wife eventually. Her character has been given nothing to work on, and it is upsetting since Amarjot Kaur was a crucial part of Chamkila’s journey. Her character needed more dialogue, authority, layers, and complexity. Parineeti is a good actress, and she deserves a better rating than given to her in this film. There is much footage and photographs from the lives of the singer, his wife, and associates shown throughout the film to help people relate to the real incidents. This was done by Kabir Khan in his film 83. The production designers, make-up artists, and stylists need to be hailed for the detailed work done in the film, as it transports the viewers to that world. Editing by Aarti Bajaj is another department that needs to be appreciated for presenting the film in a fashion that parlays with Imtiaz’s vision.

Sylvester Fonseca, the cinematographer of the film has some really interesting visuals that takes viewers through the journey along with the singers. AR Rahman’s music is restricted to many songs in the background, as a lot of Amar Singh Chamkila’s songs have been used and sung by Diljith himself. Yet all the soundtracks add to the charm of the film. The highlight of the movie must be the song about ‘women’s love for being pleasured’ and the way it has been shot. Kudos to Irshad Kamil and AR Rahman, “Naram Kaalja” alone deserves an award. A movie about music and a musician requires a maestro like AR Rahman to work on it. The translation of every Punjabi song sung by Chamkila and his wife is displayed on screen to help the audience understand the meaning of the words.


The performance of Diljith Dosanjh is the cherry on top of the cake. The actor gets into the skin and presents a character who is perpetually in a dilemma about whose voice he should take seriously. Diljith’s eyes ooze the pain and passion he has for singing from a very young age, which is why he wants to be on stage as long as he can. Diljith’s voice may not be like Chamkila’s, but he sings every song with a lot of love and vigor. It is a shame Parineeti did not have as much to do as Amarjot Kaur, but her singing skills have improved remarkably. She has sung all the songs the late couple used to sing on stage. Anurag Arora as the DSP is an excellent addition to the film. He goes through a transition upon hearing Chamkila’s stories from his friends. Apinderdeep Singh, as Sivia, is brilliant as a friend who wants nothing but Chamkila to be alive. Amar Singh Chamkila is a brilliant ode to a singer and his wife who left this world too soon. Imtiaz Ali is back, and how? This movie is an emotional journey. 

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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