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AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA - A director’s film with its own set of well-executed sequences, complexities, bias, irresponsible exaggerations, and appreciable, restrained performances leaving a mixed impact. (Comprehensive notes on the subject by Bobby Sing)

20 Apr, 2024 | Just In / Movie Reviews / 2024 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / A / ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Articles on Cinema

It has been more than a decade, but Bollywood is still obsessed with biopics coming one after another, continuing with a blindly followed trend. Director Imtiaz Ali also jumps into the race, but he courageously chooses an icon who was more known for his controversial songs and tragic end to be straight.
There are two kinds of biopics made in the world of cinema
One - Films based on the lives of inspiring legendary personalities who set an example to follow and are worthy of being influenced by.
Two - Films made on notorious/controversial personalities who have a lot of spice in their life stories, perfect for a commercially viable biopic. But they are not inspiring personalities or Legends who have done something worth following.
While the recently released MAIDAAN represents the first category, Imtiaz Ali’s AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA falls in the second, talking about a hit bestselling artist who was immensely popular in a specific region because of his outrageous double-meaning songs, titillating the audience (particularly males) giving them a guilty pleasure. So, if you are considering this biopic of any legend or inspiring personality, then you have already been tricked by powerful marketing forces and big names creating the desired perceptions.
Then Why a biopic on Chamkila?
I have already written a long, informative, and reflective article asking the question that can be read at the following link:
Why a biopic on Chamkila – By Bobby Sing
The above-detailed account paints a precise picture of that era, and Imtiaz tries his best to create an artistic film on the Star, incorporating some innovative tools on screen. As a result, what we see is entirely a director’s film, much more than Diljit or Chamkila, which it constantly talks about.
It is an overly crafted film representing the director more than the icon.
With AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA, Imtiaz Ali returns to his storytelling craft. Still, he makes it overly stuffed with too many things happening on the screen that appear innovative only in the beginning.
In other words, CHAMKILA is a director’s film with its own set of well-executed sequences, drawbacks, and complexities. It largely keeps you engaged even when it has nothing novel or entirely fresh in terms of content or story progression. The initial struggle of an ambitious artist, his first break, finding a female co-performer, their first album, the success, the post-success conflicts, the opposition, the revolt—everything has already been exploited in several other films in different forms, including Imtiaz’s ROCKSTAR.
But here, he presents Chamkila in an artistic style, entirely in flashback, narrated by the other fellow characters on the screen. The film begins with a ‘Sutradhaar’ kind of song, with the singers breaking the fourth wall and announcing that this is not going to be any routine drama. The format takes time to convince, but it finds its hold as soon as Parineeti walks in and forms a team. The narration also gets enhanced by the way Imtiaz uses animated VFX sequences throughout the film, making it more appealing. However, these animated graphics become annoying after a while, coming at crucial points in the movie creating a caricature kind of impact.
The overly creative approach also complicates the film as it moves further, missing the entertainment quotient. As it comes to the second act (mid of its length), you already know everything about it and where it is heading towards widely publicized on social networks. That makes the film appear stretched, with forced events and songs added to the narration. One also finds ROCKSTAR's tones in its final hour because of a few similar sequences. 
A sad, poetic film on the life of an entertaining performer. 

A film about an entertainer like Chamkila must ideally be an entertaining film representing the artist and his art. But Imtiaz Ali comes up with a SAD FILM, made in sharp contrast to the fact. 
Amar Singh Chamkila straight away begins with the last day of his life, and then the story is narrated as a tragedy. The entire feel of the film remains the same as if it is a sad story about a famous star. Sad, indeed, was Chamkila’s end, but he was never known as any sober singer. His performances were loved as he made his audience happy, laughing and dancing to his obscene and provocative lyrics, just like people laughed listening to Dada Kondke’s dialogues in his films. Here it needs to be mentioned, that he also sang simple duets in his albums and shows. But his suggestive, teasing duets brought the couple instant popularity and thus they continued focusing on the same. In short, he was in great demand as an entertainer paid to entertain the people, and the audience had a good jolly time in his akharas, enjoying their guilty pleasure.
Contradicting the fact Imtiaz’s Chamkila isn’t any happy film.

It has been conceived as a tragic, poetic tale with sadness written all over it right from start to finish. The film has no dull moments that bore, but it is not an entertaining film either, talking about a popular entertainer. The narrative and story progression are dry, without any relief moments, which is not the other side of the coin when one talks about double-meaning songs and dialogues. Perhaps Imtiaz intentionally kept it that way, but it doesn’t represent Chamkila and his performances as they were.
In an official biopic made on Chamkila, you never get to taste and know what used to happen in his shows, why the people loved him, what he used to do in his shows, how he used to talk and converse with his audience, how he used to engage them or tackle them if they get angry. Nothing in the film focuses on his shows, which was a significant lack in the biopic of a hit-stage artist. The film keeps narrating the events of his life along with short clips of original songs sung live by Diljit and Parneeti. These short songs keep coming one after the other like a musical, but we do not get any taste of their real akhadas (stage performances), to be honest. 
Many would love to read an anecdote here explaining the above.
Around 86-87, Chamkila started singing devotional songs in his shows, and he repeatedly received requests to sing ‘his earlier songs’ from the people. Now, how such a popular star managed to do a complete show of two hours without singing any of his ‘popular songs’ but only ‘devotional’ would have been a great enlightening treat to watch. The film tells you nothing about that, but YouTube does.
In one of those Akhaadas (live shows), Chamkila asks Amarjot to come forward, and he announces that they are now going to sing one of their famous Dharmik geet (Devotional song), so please, it is requested not to make any pegs (consume alcohol) during the show!
Just when he is about to begin, an old man in the audience says, “Chal Phir Ik Dharmik Chaunda Chaunda La De” (It roughly means - Then please sing a delicious devotional song - Honestly, I cannot translate the meaning of ‘Chaunda Chaunda’ in English or Hindi).
Listening to the old man, Chamkila laughs and says, “Lo Sun Lo Gal, Baba kehnda dharmik vi chaunda chaunda la de…….. Balle bai tere, Bada Siyaana Tu” (He laughingly ridicules the old man, making the silly request). The people laugh out loud at his remark.
That was the kind of humor enjoyed in his akharas, but one needs guts to show that on the screen in the present religiously charged scenario in the country. This real rural and unapologetic humour of his shows is simply missing in the film, but you can easily catch it on the various uploads at YouTube.
Therefore, after watching the film, you will know the story of his struggle, success, and highest sales, but you will not get any idea of the artist in him, his creative process, how his local stage shows used to be, or what happened in them that they were in such great demand.
Maintains the mystery, avoiding any finger-pointing.

The murder of Amar Singh Chamkila and Amarjot, along with others, remains an unsolved mystery to date, and there are several theories in circulation about the culprits. 
The most famous theory is that the militants killed him for again singing vulgar songs and not keeping his promise. The second says that it resulted from jealousy felt by his competitors, who also felt defeated by a lower-caste singer in such a short time. 
The third theory is of honour killing, pointing towards the family of Amarjot Kaur, his second wife. It was not only Chamkila’s second marriage but also an inter-caste one, as Amarjot came from an upper-class caste, while Chamkila was a Dalit-Sikh. The fourth is least heard, in which it is said that the team had a scuffle in their last program, and the killing was an act of revenge. The last speculates that he was murdered by fake militants, as there were incidents reported in those years wherein people were killed by gunmen posing as militants just to maintain fear and tension in the region. 
Here, Imtiaz Ali neither gets into the details nor does finger-pointing towards anyone, sticking to the inner trauma of his protagonist, keeping the mystery as it is, avoiding the controversies. 
The impressive, restrained performances maintaining a sad feel throughout. 

The film has two immensely likable performances: Diljit and Parineeti, who play Chamkila, and his wife, Amarjot Kaur. They both excel in their restrained portrayals and transform into their characters with an amazing ease. Diljit is already known for his acting skills, and his performance does not surprise you. But Parineeti is a pleasant surprise singing her songs live in the shoots, looking and enacting exactly like a Punjabi duet singer on stage. The way she comes on the mike, bends forward, and sings with a great throw is just splendid. Honestly, I loved watching her much more than Diljit, and it was disappointing to see her limited scenes as an injustice to the artist, Amarjot, who was equally responsible for Chamkila’s success (discussed in detail in the later part of the write-up).
At one end, the lead performances are a delight to watch, but again, they are not happy people in the film. Neither Diljit as Chamkila nor Parineeti as Amarjot ever appear to be smiling, happy with their life, or enjoying their success. They both constantly pose as sad and thoughtful on screen, even in the scenes of their stage performances, as if they are not enjoying what they are doing. A stage performer must be smiling in a playful mood and joyfully interacting with the audience, exactly as you see Diljit in his stage acts. However, in the film, both Diljit and Parineeti never appear to be enjoying themselves on stage with long faces, mechanically singing their parts and then moving back.
A Punjabi film forcibly made in Hindi for commercial reasons.

Imtiaz chooses a compelling supporting cast, and all contribute as required in their respective scenes, especially Anjum Batra as Tikki. It was nice to see Mohit Chauhan in the cameo of the Sutradhar Sikh in the opening song, and the way the director depicted the militants of that era was different from the typical Bollywood format. 
Yet, the problem of fake Hindi and Punjabi accents remains and becomes annoying. This repeated fake accent makes you ask Why this Punjabi film was made in Hindi? It would have been an even bigger project if a Bollywood director had made this in Punjabi, returning to the times when Punjabi films were made by Mumbai (then Bombay) producers and directors.
But then, this is the era of corporates making more decisions than the director, and these big production houses always focus on selling their film instead of making it in a deserving manner.
The Two Soundtracks in Hindi and Punjabi.

The most noteworthy and questionable innovation Imtiaz tries in Amar Singh Chamkila is to record two different soundtracks for the script. At one end, he gets six fresh Hindi songs recorded by A. R. Rahman as the official soundtrack of the film, sung by his favourite and renowned Bollywood singers. On the other hand, he makes Diljit and Parineeti sing the original Punjabi songs of the Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur live during the shoots, not officially released in the soundtrack. That is also why SAREGAMA is associated with the film, as they are the original copyright holders of all Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur albums. 
This was the exact assumption expressed in my music review of the soundtrack, and I still assume they would release all those live performances of Diljit and Parineeti in a separate soundtrack soon, after a few weeks or so.
That said, the soundtrack by A R Rahman did not work for me, sounding like a complete misfit for the period drama of the 1980s. ‘Ishq Mitaye’ is a winner, but it is not the sound of a biopic depicting the times of the 1980s, and only 'Mainu Vida Karo' stays with you, taking its vital inspiration from the swan song of Shiv Kumar Batalvi.
I wonder, when we care so much about the buildings, cars, roads, costumes, looks, and backdrop of a scene in a period drama, why forget the same while composing and arranging the music of such a film (using new-age sounds)?
Anyway, here is the link to my detailed review of its 6-track album, written before the release, and the film could not change how I rated and commented on the songs in the following write-up.
AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA – Six Track Soundtrack Review by Bobby Sing
The complexity and confusion of onscreen subtitles in Hinglish – Romanised Hindi
Using two kinds of soundtracks in a film—one in Hindi and the other in Punjabi—is no doubt novel, but it is also complex for different audiences watching the film in different regions of India and abroad. 
While the Punjabi-speaking audience, well versed with the original Chamkila songs, would easily get the twin soundtrack, it would be confusing for the others with the Hindi translation of the songs displayed on the screen in flashy styles and colours. Here, I would like to inform you that even in the Punjabi-speaking audience, the ones born and brought up in other cities of the country and abroad do not get all the original ‘theth’ Punjabi words fluently used in these songs.
Besides, the Hindi translation is strangely written in English on the screen, like the words 'Mainu Chatt Lai' become 'Mujhe Chaat Le' appearing on the screen in a romanised form, meaning, 'Lick Me.'
It is because of this Punjabi-Hindi-English mess that the non-Punjabi speaking audience would always fail to get the actual vulgarity in the lyrics lost in the translation and quickly coming subtitles. As a result, most of the audience would never realize what was so vulgar in Chamkila’s lyrics and how they used to cross the limit, even shaming close family members, providing a titillating pleasure along with provocation to go to any extreme with the girls (including randomly picking them from the road).
This unclear presentation of the lyrics, in turn, converts the film into a soft, likable biopic of a hit Punjabi artist for all the non-Punjabi audience, who have no clarity of what his songs were about, what they conveyed, and why he was hugely popular in the rural regions.
For instance, if you ask any non-Punjabi viewer who has watched the film what kind of songs he sings with his wife on the stage, the answer would be double-meaning songs. But if you ask what kind of double meaning, what thoughts were expressed in those lyrics? The answer would be, “It may be vulgar, but I can’t say what kind of vulgar! Still, I really liked the film.”
This is the actual scenario whether one wishes to accept it or not, putting it bluntly.
Imtiaz avoids touching on any caste-based issue widely prevalent in Punjab.
For a moment, try to recall any Punjabi film made in the history of cinema about the broad caste divide prevalent in Punjab (Sikhs) and among the Punjabis living all over the globe. A Punjabi film showcasing caste discrimination within Sikhs, focusing on a low-caste protagonist rising before the Jatt dominance as a winner. If you get hold of any such Punjabi film, please inform me, too, as I have not seen any.
Punjab suffers from the same caste divide as in other regions and religions, and that is the hidden reality behind the most recent sect of the world initially formed on the thought of “There is one God, and all are one on this planet living with His Blessings.” The sect, which in its conception abolished all the concepts of any caste or gotr in a society, has even got a massive divide in its upper castes itself namely the Jatts and the Bhapas, forget the lower castes or Dalits. Moreover, the worst has happened in the last few decades, with even the Gurdwaras being made as per the caste division.
So, while making a film about a Dalit protagonist rising from the soil, standing tall against all the other singers, Imtiaz had a huge opportunity to break the set pattern and make an essential breakthrough in Indian cinema. 
But he chose to remain silent, with only a one-line dialogue in the film depicting the caste divide, avoiding any objection or controversy hurting the film. 
Therefore, even when you are watching the biopic of a Dalit Sikh fighting against the system, you never realize the fact as the film never presents in any prominent manner avoiding a conflict.
The film also ignores the real Legend – CHARANJIT AHUJA – the veteran music director behind most of Chamkila’s hit songs and albums.
In our part of the world, we follow a faulty trend of remembering and crediting any song to just the singer, completely ignoring the people behind the creation as a team. That is the reason we recall and quote Hindi film songs as a Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh song without mentioning either the lyricist or the music director (forget the uncredited arrangers)
Along with singing, Chamkila also wrote his lyrics (except for the famous devotional ones) and composed his own compositions. However, singing live in a stage show in front of the public and recording a song in the studio in front of a hyper-sensitive mike, along with the musicians, is an entirely different game altogether. A great stage artist often finds it too hard to sing in a studio, focusing on the mike controlling his physical movements. That is where the expert guidance of an experienced music director is required to get the job done in the desired manner. In Chamkila and Amarjot’s case, the King-Maker was Charanjit Ahuja, the music director of almost all his albums except a couple, including the one released after the couple’s untimely demise.
For the people not aware of his stature, Charanjit Ahuja is the real Living Legend of Punjabi music who not only introduced many reputed artists but also composed and recorded albums for almost all the key singers active in Punjab from the 1980s to the first decade of the new millennium. More appropriately, he is the “Baba Borh of Punjabi Music” – The Banyan Tree who constantly supports the new entrants and is a witness to the next generations and new forms of music developing with the changing eras.
Chamkila started doing live shows as an artist, but his popularity grew when he recorded his first album (with Sonia), which became a big hit. Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur's names reached the masses through these vinyl records and cassettes, which had a great reach and were even sold in the interiors. The majority of these albums (with just a couple of exceptions) were recorded under the music direction of Charanjit Ahuja. 
So, the way Chamkila and Amarjot’s voices reached the people was all designed and mastered by Charanjit Ahuja. How they sounded in the final tapes, how an elemental composition by Chamkila was recorded, with an intro/prelude (opening music), interlude (the music between the various antras), and what instruments would suit the songs the most, it was all skilfully conducted by Charanjit Ahuja as the solid pillar behind the couple’s instant commercial success. 
Unfortunately, the film does not mention the veteran music director except in the opening credits. In the scene where the couple is recording in the studio for the first time, Imtiaz shows a music director who looks more like a spoof than a serious insertion. Imtiaz must have his reasons for this big omission, but for me, Chamkila’s biopic is incomplete without a strong reference to Charanjt Ahuja.
Incidentally, when I mentioned it to an enthusiastic correspondent of INDIA TODAY, he did a complete feature on it with an interview with me and the director, Imtiaz Ali.
So, what I had to say about the big miss and what Imtiaz Ali said about it can be read at the following link. The quotes should ideally give you much to think about, how even biopics are strangely conceived, skipping such important facts.
INDIA TODAY Article Link
The strange act also reminded me of the famous biopic DHONI, in which they did not show any elder brother in his story for some undisclosed reasons.
THE BIAS in the film.
They started together, performed together, were icons together, lived together and got killed together, too, but the film maintains its focus on only AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA.
Suppose a film is made about the music director duo Shankar-Jaikishan or Laxmikant Pyarelal. Can it be titled Shankar or Pyarelal alone, irrespective of who made the compositions and who used to musically arrange them? They were never written or discussed alone, as they worked as a team, and even when one of them passed away, the other continued to give music in their name together.
Chamkila mostly wrote and sang male-oriented songs in which the woman used to be the target. The film also remains the same, with a male-oriented approach, not giving complete justice to Amarjot Kaur and her big contribution to their success together. In terms of talent, while Chamkila had the exceptional gift of writing and composing songs, he was not known for his singing skills. On the other hand, Amarjot Kaur was a much better and trained singer playing a significant role in their stage performances-a widely known fact to all.
Moreover, Chamkila was never booked for the akhadas (stage shows) alone. They were both together booked by the people, and he could rarely perform solo as he always wrote duets based on a conversation between a male and female teasing each other. So whatever success they had, it belonged to both as duet singers and a couple. They had an inter-caste marriage, and Amarjot had to make a bigger and bold decision to marry a Dalit Sikh. Such was the couple's demand that Amarjot even had to perform when she was pregnant, which is also documented rightly in the film.
Contradicting the facts, we don’t get to witness the balance focusing on both the artists together in Imtiaz’s presentation. The film begins with Chamkila even showcasing his childhood and then continues revolving around him right until the end, introducing Amarjot as his co-singer and wife but nothing more than that. The director never bothers to show how Amarjot started, how she contributed to the live shows, how people loved her singing, her style, and her boldness, and how they did not prefer or allow Chamkila to perform alone.
Strangely, the film also has a sequence of a female journalist coming to interview only Chamkila but not Chamkila and Amarjot together. To my surprise, the journalist never even asked anything about Amarjot, whereas the best-selling albums were all of Chamkila and Amarjot together and not just of Chamkila as a solo artist. 
This is the reason it is tagged as ‘a biased film’ in the title of this write-up, as it doesn’t have any balanced focus on both the artists who performed together and were killed together, too, with Amarjot taking the first bullet.
To give you the information, a Punjabi biopic was made just a year back unofficially based on the same couple (also featuring Diljit), and it was titled JODI (The Couple)—a title that credited both performers together as it deserved to be.
The transformed look of Diljit Dosanjh (a Sikh) wearing a wig and having a small French-cut beard is a first in the history of Indian Cinema.
There are two firsts related to this film in the history of Indian Cinema.
There is probably no example in the 110+ years of history of our cinema wherein two films were made almost simultaneously as a biopic of the same icon, in two different languages (not any remakes), by two different makers, featuring the same actor in the lead in two different get-ups.
In 2023, it was director Amberdeep’s Punjabi film - an unofficial biopic of Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur aptly titled JODI (The Couple). In this film, Diljit plays Chamkila with a charming, joyful personality, and he does not take off his turban or shave his beard to play the character, remaining a turbaned Sikh throughout, obviously because it was a Punjabi film to be presented before Punjabi audiences in Punjab and abroad.
In contrast, in 2024, we have Imtiaz Ali’s Hindi film—an official biopic of Chamkila and Amarjit Kaur with a biased title of AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA, forgetting Amarjot. In this film, Diljit again plays Chamkila as a not-so-joyful personality who decides to cut his hair and take off the turban in his youth, keeping a small beard, as it reportedly happened in real life. 
Now, here in the Hindi film, shockingly, Diljit, who proudly represents Sikhism all over the globe as a Sikh icon, decided to wear a wig and shave for having a small French cut kind of beard resembling Chamkila. 
That is the other first in the history of Indian cinema to date. Let me explain how.
In the past century, we have seen non-Sikh actors doing the role of a Sikh on screen (ranging from Prithviraj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra, and Utpal Dutt to Sunny Deol, Akshay Kumar, and Ranbir Kapoor) by wearing a readymade or proper turban and beard, in Hindi and other languages cinema. The same was also seen in Punjabi films in which non-Sikh Punjabi singers-turned-actors often appeared either with or without a turban, properly shaved as per their roles in various Punjabi films. 
Beginning with Gurdas Maan in the 1980s to the recent projects featuring Gippy Grewal, Amrinder Gill, Babbu Maan, Sardar Sohi, and more, we have repeatedly seen them appearing as proper turbaned Sikhs in one film and a non-Sikh, shaved personality in the other (and in their song videos) without any reservations. 
That didn’t hurt and was accepted as they never projected themselves as turbaned Sikhs in real life or in their videos and always appeared in a no beard and shorn hair looks, not representing Sikhism from any angle.
However, in the case of Diljit, here we had an icon proudly representing Sikhs and the sect as a turbaned and bearded Sikh all over the globe, also being vocal about the same with deep respect and devotion towards the Sikh Gurus and their teachings.
For some reason best known to him, Diljit strangely decided to wear a wig and even shave to have a small French-cut beard resembling Chamkila for the Hindi film directed by Imtiaz Ali.
That is a first in the 110+ years history of our Indian cinema, when a Sikh icon, known with his turban and beard, proudly representing Sikhs and Sikhism in the world, decides to wear a wig and shave to have an authentic look in a film. 
I was shocked not only by Diljit’s decision but also by the people’s (particularly Sikhs’) strange response to it, as if it was nothing much and normal. I cannot say if the reaction of people in Punjab will be the same if tomorrow renowned turbaned Sikh singers like Ammy Virk, Ranjeet Bawa, Tarsem Jassar, and youngsters like Shubh also decide to do the same for any offered film.
Interestingly, the above study of singers revealed another shocking truth when I found only these four names as turbaned Sikh Singers in the long list of performers in Punjabi Music at present, other than the most famous, the late Sidhu Moosewala. There certainly would be more, but most Punjabi singers today are not turbaned Sikhs, to be straight, which should be an eye-opener fact for many.
Diljit Dosanjh was the top name among these, and I really cannot guess why he made this decision when he had not done that in a similar Punjabi film based on the life of the same icon made just a year earlier. 
We cannot comment upon what’s right and wrong, as that is for the public to decide. But Diljit’s strange decision does make you think—is the charm and pull of a Hindi film, Bollywood, and a reputed director like Imitaz Ali and A. R. Rahman that big?
The exaggeration about the female audience of Chamkila-Amarjot songs.
At one point in the film, it is portrayed as if all the young girls and women in Punjab used to secretly hear Chamkila’s cassettes and records, enjoying his double-meaning songs.
There certainly was a female audience of Chamkila-Amarjot songs as these happened to be duets to be enjoyed by both genders. But the other fact is that a large number of his songs advocated male supremacy over females and were not the songs that could be enjoyed by women cheering for a wife being ripped apart or a girl being randomly picked from the road. 
That said, it is also not the case that the women in Punjab did not sing and enjoy listening to such raunchy songs. Punjabi folk music (or rather Indian folk music of all languages) has a distinctive genre of double-meaning songs for long, and many of the Boliyan in Gidha (Girls' dance form) can even put Chamkila songs to shame, commenting upon the fake male chauvinism that ironically comes to a halt on the bed at night. 
A bold example of the same is in the film itself in the beginning, with the words ‘Khada Kar Gayi’ being sung and women clapping, along with the word Khada flashing in a big font size on the screen (in English).
Besides, in Punjabi weddings, there used to be a tradition of having only a female guan (sangeet) in the evening/night, where men were not allowed. In those musical parties, the all-women group used to have great fun singing double-meaning songs, at times much ahead of even Chamkila’s lyrics.
However, the film presents as if every woman in Punjab was only hearing Chamkila-Amarjot’s songs at that time, an unnecessary exaggeration of the facts.  
The fake posters of the Punjabi film PATOLA and the coincidence with the short life of Virendra – the superstar of Punjabi Cinema.
In my article “Why a biopic on Chamkila?” (Link shared above), I mentioned a fact about Gurdas Mann, who also arrived on the scene around 1980, just like Chamkila. In those days, any singer featuring in a Punjabi film was a considerable achievement and a big sign of success. Gurdas Mann made his debut in 1980-81, and within three years, his song was there in a big Punjabi film, LAUNG DA LISHKARA (1983), in which he also played a decent cameo. On the other hand, while Chamkila debuted in the same year, it took him eight years to get featured in the Punjabi film PATOLA. The movie was released in the same year he was shot dead along with Amarjot Kaur.
Imtiaz Ali presents that in his film but again exaggerates the facts, taking a big cinematic liberty to create a bigger image of his icon. The film shows that PATOLA is being released in Ludhiana’s “Preet Palace” theatre, with only Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur on the posters and no one else, as if they are the film's lead actors. All the posters shown in the movie are not original, specially designed for the biopic.
In reality, PATOLA was one of the biggies of its times, featuring the then superstar of Punjabi cinema, Virendra. A highly successful actor, producer, and director, Virendra was the cousin brother of Bollywood icon Dharmendra, who was active in Punjab cinema as its topmost star with multiple hits to this credit. PATOLA featured Virendra, Daljeet Kaur, Satish Kaul, Mehar Mittal, and also Surinder Shinda, who were all essentially there on the film’s official posters. Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur’s hit track, “Pehle Lalkaare Naal,” was included in the film as merely an item number (as we call it today) portrayed as their stage performance on the screen.
While Virendra enjoyed the status equivalent to a Khan in Punjabi Cinema, Mehar Mittal was exactly like Mehmood, without whom any Punjabi film was hard to conceive and market in those decades. “Mehar Mittal is there” used to be the first assurance demanded by the distributors of Punjab and related territories.
However, in Chamkila, you don’t get to see any of these faces on the posters of PATOLA, as they have specifically been designed to give Chamkila a larger-than-life image in his biopic. So, unaware viewers are most likely to assume that it was Chamkila and Amarjot’s film, whereas they were only included in it as a five-minutes added attraction.
As a tragic coincidence, Virendra, the superstar of Punjabi cinema, was also gunned down by the terrorists in the same year, 1988. He was murdered on the sets of his film ‘Jatt Te Zameen’ in December 88, and his case also remains an unsolved one to date, precisely like Chamkila. Maybe some writer-director will get a clue about making another bio-pic on an icon of Punjabi Cinema after reading this. Talking about clues, Punjabi music also has a history of a renowned singer getting shot by a police officer in his ongoing show on the stage. He died on the spot for reportedly just refusing to sing a song. The interested can go to Google after reading this.
Anyway, as I revealed the similarity of deaths to the senior editor of INDIA TODAY, the publication did a feature on this, too, concluding with my quote. It was “How biopics often blow it up to unnecessary proportions, taking big cinematic liberties, intentionally sacrificing many other stalwarts in the process. It is nothing less than ‘fooling the audience,’ but this is our new world, where even the public doesn’t mind being fooled.”  
The INDIA TODAY article with my quote can be read at the following link:
The irresponsible and sickening depiction of the Sikh Genocide in 1984 and fake encounters with an upbeat, pulsating song.
The film's most famous song is “Ishq Mitaye,” unarguably a melodious composition with an addictive groove. It forces you to tap your feet and move your body along with the rhythm, and I, too, loved it, though it also has forcibly fitted words written on the tune.
But never in my dreams had I imagined that Imtiaz Ali would use this upbeat song along with the visuals of the Sikh Genocide of 1984 in the film.
That is a shockingly insensitive portrayal of the insanely tough times of the mid-80s, along with an upbeat song amalgamating visuals of the Sikh Genocide of 1984, people being killed, burned on the roads, shot in the fake encounters, and public rejoicing in joy and doing Bhangra on Chamkila’s song.
I frankly haven’t seen such a sickening depiction of that era in the past four decades in any film or language about those traumatic times. I cannot say what Imtiaz was thinking, putting both the scenes of merciless killings on the roads and Sikhs dancing and rejoicing on Chamkila’s song together on the editing table along with the most famous song of the film being played in the backdrop.
I can't say why someone who knew the facts and the times didn’t make him aware of the serious contradiction.
It was June 1984 in Amritsar and November 1984 in Delhi and other states when the world witnessed one of most brutal genocides on the roads, randomly picking up Sikhs and killing them as revenge with both the Police and authorities remaining silent for days, and not just a few hours. What these months did to Punjab and Sikhs living in Delhi and all the other states in the country is not any hidden truth. It made everything still, from businesses to schools and offices, for months, and there was more to come in the next many years till the early 1990s.
Now, Chamkila came up with his next albums in 1985, maybe because of the pressure of his music company. The albums were picked up from the shelves, and there were Akharas, too, with people rebelling against the dictates to attend them. But that does not mean the whole Punjab and Sikhs were dancing to his songs and rejoicing just a few months post-November 1984.
The film shows as if the people of Punjab were desperate to have some fun, to dance and make merry forgetting the trauma of 84 and its aftermath, and Chamkila served them the songs and music to do the same. 
Creative liberty is fine, but putting wrong and demeaning ideas in the minds of unaware viewers of the next generation is nothing less than a crime. And Imtiaz Ali does that in just five minutes on the screen, misrepresenting how Punjab suffered and what the state of living in the region was like in those specific years.
I don’t know if Imtiaz Ali will ever get to read this. But if he does, he should realize that his film makes a grave mistake that cannot be repaired or justified by any means, wrongly interpreting and presenting those times just for the sake of a biopic.
The absurdity in the last scene of the film.
The last scene of the film was not only surprising but absurd, too, in a film directed by an otherwise thoughtful director unnecessarily and unwisely trying to establish Chamkila as some kind of inspiring figure for the youth.
It is the sequence of the father (a police officer), who incidentally catches his teenage son secretly listening to Chamkila’s songs in his room. Realizing this, he calmly walks towards him, pats him on his back, and says, “Dil Karey To Sun Liya Kar… Chamkila” (If you feel like do listen to Chamkila)
And that is a police officer father saying this to his teenage son, studying in school to listen to Chamkila if he wishes to, the songs with provocative lyrics like “He kept watching me taking a bath,” “O Drivers, pick up a Purja (girl) from the road before it vanishes,” “lick me keeping on the palm like sugar” or “forcibly embrace them touching their different body parts.”
That was a great scene between a police officer's father and his teenage kid, written and shot with an amazing display of courageous absurdity.
If Chamkila presented what people demanded in the 80s then the same is being done by Bhojpuri music in the present. 
A popular notion both in the film and among people after its release is that Chamkila made what people demanded and wanted to listen to. An old woman in the film says, “What Chamkila sings, the same is always in the minds of males, and they always think like that.” 
If that is accepted as a fact of the 1980s, then the same is true in the present new age, too, because today, the same argument is given by the Bhojpuri filmmakers, songwriters, and composers in the new millennium that they are making what sells and what is demanded by the paisa-paying public. If they do not make it, then who will serve the audience—the same words spoken by Chamkila in the film justifying his content.
So, raising a question, I could not understand "How Chamkila songs were ‘the demand of the people and what public wished to listen to in those times’...... but similar Bhojpuri songs of the present like "Tohar Lehnga Utha Deb Rimot Se" are condemned as poor, crass, cringe-worthy, corrupting the young minds?"
These are the new-age enhanced versions with more cringe visuals attached, expressing the same vision and reasoning as Chamkila gave in the 1980s. 
So, if you are celebrating one and condemning the other, then the confusion is all yours, and so is the bias. 
Here, I would like to share a quote from the National Award-winning director of Maithili-Bhojpuri films, Nitin Neera Chandra, and he says, 
“The difference between Chamkila and Bhojpuri artists today making similar content is that Chamkila did try to stop, moving on to devotional songs, but he was again forced to sing the vulgar songs by his fans, the public, and his company together. However, the Bhojpuri artists today are not stopping but getting even more exposure with these songs, eventually helping them to get a new political career.”
Chandra certainly has a solid point here, making an alarming sense.
Wisely released on OTT as such sad films do not work anymore in the theatres in both Hindi and Punjabi cinema.
Receiving mixed responses, with the praises outweighing the criticism, many believe the film should have been released in theatres, as it would have been a big hit there. 
The thought pleasantly sounds positive, but it is not a fact, considering the changing trends of movie-watching, high ticket prices, and the vast reach of OTT in the present era. 
Unfortunately, the past decade has turned cinema into an occasionally visited event instead of a weekly routine, just looked upon for entertainment and nothing else.

To give you an idea, try to recall the last Hindi or Punjabi film that became a big hit in the theatres, which was not a happy or uplifting movie. A thought-provoking, dark film with no comedy or light-hearted moments pointing towards a social evil has rarely become a success at the box office in the last two decades. Mainly because the general viewpoint is, “Why should we pay to feel sad and watch sadness on screen?”
Regarding the expenses and the high-ticket prices of the multiplexes, the reality is that even the films released at OTT are only watched partially through subscription. A significant proportion of our cinema-viewing public watches even OTT content through shared passwords and illegal downloads from the internet. So, the same people watching a non-event film in theatres buying the costly ticket is nothing more than a positive dream.
Hence, it is a big misconception that this film, if released in theatres, would have been a big hit. AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA has been wisely released on the OTT (as a Netflix venture) because, in the theatres, it would again have been the case of a critically acclaimed box office dud as Imitaz Ali’s last few films without any second thoughts.
The Conclusion
On a concluding note, one cannot deny or ignore that double-meaning songs are one of the oldest genres of Indian folk music in all languages, including Punjabi. The trend was at its peak when visuals were not associated with the songs in the form of videos, and the listeners’ imaginations could go to any extreme visualising the lyrics, giving them a private guilty pleasure (particularly the males). 
Interestingly, the moment video came in (during the mid-90s), Punjabi music makers stopped keeping any such songs in their albums, maintaining a specific image and reputation. So, you will not find any big-name singing a double-meaning song in his album released after Malkit Singh and Daler Mehndi changed the entire scenario of Punjabi music in the mid-90s.
Strangely, that wasn’t the case in Bhojpuri music, as the number of double-meaning songs increased manyfold as soon as the YouTube revolution came in, inviting sharp criticism.
So, the genre existed then, and it exists in the present, too, in a different crude form with visuals, and it is your choice to consume it or condemn it as per your thought process. The demand and market of such content can neither be denied nor banned, taking it to another extreme.
But what should essentially be avoided is to rate these songs as some great work or any legendary content, to be precise. It was not any legendary achievement then, and it is not in the present either, simply supplying what is being demanded by the audience without thinking about anything else as an artist.
In the 1980s, Chamkila-Amarjot Kaur made the most of it, satisfying the demanding market and instantly connecting with their audience. But that does not mean they were doing some exemplary and inspiring work in Punjabi music. 
On the contrary, Chamkila’s devotional songs can surely be treated as inspiring enough to be sung by the same person. But then, as the couple moved back to the stuff they were best known for, they lost the opportunity to set an example for the artists and the audiences of the next generations.
To end, first the bullets made Chamkila a bigger personality and now this film by Imtiaz Ali will revive him as an even bigger figure, projecting him as a revolutionary and great personality of the past.
But stating the brutal truth, had there been no killing of Chamkila and Amarjot together, you probably would neither know anything about them nor the reputed directors would have made these films in existence. 
Leaving you with more to explore, you now know all about Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur through these films, but you do not know anything about K. Deep and Jagmohan Kaur because neither they were killed nor anyone will ever make a film on them for that reason. 
That is why it is said, "Bullets create Martyrs, and one should be careful whom to kill or get killed."

Rating : 3 Stars (Less 1 with strong condemnation for the irresponsible depiction of the Sikh Genocide of 1984 with an upbeat song.) 

NOTE: An edited part of this write-up "Why a biopic on Chamkila" was also published in THE TELEGRAPH - the reputed National Newspaper of India on 16th April 2024.

The Article Link : https://www.telegraphindia.com/entertainment/why-punjabi-singing-star-amar-singh-chamkilas-life-story-lends-itself-well-to-a-biopic/cid/2013711


Tags : Amar Singh Chamkila Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Hindi Films Reviews by Bobby Sing, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing
20 Apr 2024 / Comment ( 0 )
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