Amar Singh Chamkila (2024)

Amar Singh Chamkila (2024)

Imtiaz Ali remembers the Elvis of Punjab in this vibrant musical biopic

7.4

Movie

India
Hindi, Punjabi
Drama, Music
2024
IMTIAZ ALI
Anjum Batra, Anuraag Arora, Apindereep Singh
146 min

TLDR

Indian films are no stranger to music, but it's just much more fitting here with the subject matter, with the perfect cast, and the excellent selection for each moment.

What it's about

Punjab, 1980s. Singer Amar Singh Chamkila captivates northwestern India through his music depicting Punjabi village life, but his daring lyrics, second marriage, and brash response to criticism ignite fury with the armed insurgents in the area, leading to his eventual assassination.

The take

At times of great societal turmoil, sometimes stars are born, not just to entertain the masses but to challenge the way things are done. Amar Singh Chamkila is one such star, and his music captivated all of Punjab in part due to his brash lyrics. His assassination remains unsolved, but director and co-writer Imtiaz Ali takes the event, and uses it to frame his life– the ways Punjab remembered him after death, the ways Chamkila showed his light as well as the ways he was limited by studio oversight and state censorship. The film isn’t a perfect contemplation of artistic freedom, nor is it the most comprehensive take on the singer’s life, but Ali’s direction challenges the way we view the artist and acutely recognizes the way stardom reveals the society's conflicting desires.

What stands out

Of course, as a biopic about a musician, the music is front and center. While there’s much to be desired with the Bradley Hand ITC font lyrics, Diljit Dosanjh is able to channel Chamkila’s initial unassuming off-stage demeanor, as well as his cheeky, brash performances dissing other singers on stage.

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