Amar Singh Chamkila

wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)

quick review:

Ali injects a touch of experimentation with youthful vigor. Rehman pulsates. Dosanjh and Chopra embody innocence & liveliness. Kamil's lyrics enhance the narrative's depth. Together, they weave a compelling narrative.

Read more
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Running time: 145 minutes
More Movie Info

Intriguing, pulsating, convincing, important, Chamkila leaves you thirsty for more.

In the process, exposing the hypocrisy of society at large, and underscoring a love-hate relationship onlookers tend to form with celebrities.

14th April 2024: Two unidentified men open fire outside Salman Khan's Mumbai residence (News Headlines)

I am not a die-hard Salman Khan fan albeit I adore some of his earlier work. I am mostly numb to his news stories rife with controversies and lawsuits. But this incident gave me the chills.

Popular artists bask in public attention but are also prone to intense scrutiny by the same public that idolizes them. They are empowered and vulnerable in equal measures. In the shadow of the immense public affection, lurk unyielding hostilities. Imtiaz Ali's Chamkila, a period drama set majorly in the 1980s, is a topical and timely commentary on such susceptibility of artists.

Sidhu Moose Wala (Punjabi Rapper, 1993-2022) was shot dead a couple of years back, and actors like Deepika Padukone continue to face the brunt of prejudice since Padmavaat (2018). These are just recent cases. There could be a long list of threatened artists whose examples have not made it to prime-time news.

Chamkila is thus an important biographical film chronicling a popular artist-duo's life and career slashed by those they could have irked along the way. Their cold-blooded murder in broad daylight remains unsolved since 1988. The film gently explores several possible malevolent angles in this story about their meteoric rise eventually leading to their killing. In the process, exposing the hypocrisy of society at large, and underscoring a love-hate relationship onlookers tend to form with celebrities.

What you experience on the screen is both thought-provoking and entertaining. A. R Rehman's score creates a pulsating seamless canvas for an episodic narrative, rendering the screenplay palpable in some parts and evocative in others. Imtiaz Ali paints this canvas with fluid painterly strokes. Focusing on the spirit of the narrative rather than its form. Mild formal experimentation renders the screen with youthful verve.

What you experience on the screen is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

The treatment of the subject is done with utmost care, detail, softness, and respect. Diljit Dosanjh emerges as the epitome of innocence and vivacity. The trio is incredible together. Not to forget Irshad Kamil’s contribution whose lyrics bare the subtext unintrusively. Together, the dream team creates a throbbing narrative. However, the quietest star to shine through this resplendent galaxy of talent is Parineeti Chopra. Her Amarjot lends a truly complementary pitch, texture, and coyness to Diljit's Chamkila. Parineeti's performance in parts reminds of her poignant rendition of Meeta Solanki in the magnum opus Hasee to Phasee (2014). After a long hiatus, we get to witness her acumen again. What a comeback, if one can call it that!

So, is it all perfect then? The question demands some contemplation.

Let's travel back to the Bollywood of the early 90s. "Cholee ke peeche...." the rhythmic utterance of these words in the movie Khal Nayak (1993) stirred a major controversy. Despite turning out to be an iconic song, the song and its creators faced severe backlash for the song's lyrics. The tune was catchy but the words were suggestive and sensational. Enjoyable definitely. Perhaps also questionable. But should the creators be therefore silenced? On the other hand, should popularity be the only benchmark of their creative choices? The debate around freedom of expression and blasphemy is a perennial one. The best way to treat it is as a debate. But when a director-writer team begins to defend the creative side too much with lines like, "That's what people want," the take is rendered feeble, repetitive, and lopsided.

Chamkila’s treatment undoubtedly offers an appealing and detailed period study of the milieu but it does not allow us to dive deep into the artist's psyche. Yes, Amar Singh is an underdog who grabs chance upon chance until it becomes a habit; his burning desire for dignity is rightful; his fight for survival is real; but is there more to his creative choices--other than growing up listening to lewd language and finding an audience hungry for innuendos? Could there be more to his lyrics? The film celebrates the popularity of his performances but doesn't entirely uncover the stories that inspire their writing.

Similarly, how were women singers in his league viewed and treated by society? Why were they encouraged to partner with sleazy song-writers in the first place? Their stories though intricately intertwined with their male counterparts, seem sketchy.

Perhaps, this first biographical narrative of the duo's life will incite more research on the subject and underpinning themes, and who knows there may be at least one more thorough documentary-series already underway. I guess, there's no harm in hoping for one.

Imtiaz Ali's Chamkila is thus a charming and impactful conversation starter. It has succeeded in intriguing us and leaving us craving for more on the subject.

This article is by guest author Jeet. Jeet is a workaholic turned film addict, and vice-versa. Basically, when he is not working, he is watching films. And when he isn't watching films, he is working. The funny thing is films are also a part of his work. Go figure!

29 reviewers(?) - 25 yays 3 so-so 1 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Sameer Ahire, Movie Talkies : ...The same way, Hollywood shows their hit artists having sexual and extramarital affairs, sometimes homosexual, drugs, psychological frustrations, and depression, and then gets away with rave reviews. What’s wrong with Chamkila, then? Have a look, not because Chamkila was a legend or anything like that, but because he brought out what was inside you, even if it was bad. “Karte to sab hai, but chup chupke.”... full review

Thumbs up, by Monika Rawal Kukreja, Hindustan Times : ...Watch Amar Singh Chamkila for its honesty, purity, fun, spunk and outstanding music. It's nothing short of attending a live concert, and Diljit, Imtiaz and AR Rahman is a trio that you can't get enough of.... full review

Thumbs up, by Smrity Sharma, Bollywood Life : ...Watch Amar Singh Chamkila for the firebrand performer Diljit Dosanjh. Watch it for Imtiaz Ali's flawless direction and a heartwarming story of a simple singer with big dreams who threw caution to the wind and paid a heavy price for entertaining his audience. A special shoutout and big congratulations to MAMI Year Round Programme for bringing to us a story made with so much heart, Amar Singh Chamkila.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rashmi Vasudeva, Deccan Herald : ...The songs are earworms and the only grouse is the unnecessary distraction of the Hindi supers (lyrics projected on the screen for extra measure). A must-watch... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...Ali uses animation, photos and footage of the real Chamkila and Amarjot, and a fantastic dance number which shows why women also liked his raunchy numbers, to tell the story that took too long to reach the screen. Maybe it was waiting for the right actor to bring Chamkila to life.... full review

Thumbs up, by Abhimanyu Mathur, DNA : ...To say that Chamkila is the best Imtiaz film in years is an understatement. It is also his bravest film and the most politically charged since...well...all roads lead to Rockstar. But in many departments, Amar Singh Chamkila surpasses its spiritual predecessor, giving us a film for the ages.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...That is the essence of Amar Singh Chamkila. It reclaims the words from the headline. And it grieves the death of not a person, but a place and time; it laments for a world that watched and wondered. The film isn’t a whodunit. It is a ghost story – and it haunts a culture that continues to shoot the messenger.... full review

Thumbs up, by Lachmi Deb Roy, FirstPost : ...The story of Amar Singh Chamkila’s rise to fame and then murder takes place during the time of turbulent times of 1984 of Khalistani militancy in Punjab. Many say that the Khalistani leaders didn’t like his suggestive lyrics. Many even threatened him and he had to shut their mouths with money. Towards the end, Chamkila became fearless and he stopped paying them.... full review

Thumbs up, by Baradwaj Rangan, : ...But, indirectly, at least, Imtiaz lets us see where his sympathies lie. He is for Chamkila, and against cultural censorship. The film gives us “logical” explanations – for example, that Chamkila’s caste-mentality never really went away, that he remained a “slave” of the audience, giving them what they wanted..... full review

Thumbs up, by Arushi Jain, india today : ...Amar Singh Chamkila' is worth watching simply for its music and Diljit Dosanjh performing it. That it looks deeper and gives us a sense of the man himself is what makes it special. Imtiaz Ali brings quick sympathy to Chamkila as a performer and as a man.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sakshi Verma, India TV : ...Amar Singh Chamkila is a must watch. A film that deep dives into an emerging artists life that deals with everything only to perform. The one who known that he won’t last forever and makes a choice. The one who finds a perfect age and life partner and the couple who gets to enjoy their successful and death together. Imtiaz Ali makes sure that few scene stays with you. Dialogues like, ‘Chammar hu per bhooka toh nahin marunga’ and ‘maine banaya hai Chamkile ko’ will come with a baggage for the audience.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...But to Ali’s credit, there isn’t an overt flattening, showing a pleasing confidence in the way he uses AR Rahman’s compositions to buoy the bawdy, salty lyrics. He doesn’t draw back from letting us listen to what Chamkila sang. And that is a clear win. It also helps that all the actors have performed their songs live. Through the music, and through Dosanjh’s lived-in act, we get a powerful, moving portrait of an artiste who lived and died by his beliefs.... full review

Thumbs up, by "Pooja Darade ", koimoi : ...Overall, Amar Singh Chamkila is one of Imtiaz Ali’s best movies. It helps you understand art and the artist and how it’s the people who have the power to make or break someone. Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra treat us with one of their career-best performances. The movie leaves such a wonderful impact on you and leaves you with a lingering question—why do some of the best, innovative and distinctive artists have to pay the price because of society’s hypocrisy?... full review

Thumbs up, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...we see Chamkila feel his way towards a new track, one secular, the other spiritual. He sings a line or two, stops, searches for words, goes again, a smile on his face. It’s a unique pleasure, mostly denied to us by the nature of Indian film, to see a singer play another singer coming up with a song.... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Diljit Dosanjh is at his very best as Chamkila. That, as his fans will vouch, should be enough to make the film a treat. But there is more to Amar Singh Chamkila, including Parineeti Chopra and Anuraag Arora's modulated interpretations and Imtiaz Ali's grasp on the material.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vanshika Singh, News N9ne : ...Vanshika Singh... full review

Thumbs up, by TITAS CHOWDHURY, : ...Amar Singh Chamkila might not exactly be an antidote to Jab Harry Met Sejal and Love Aaj Kal. But it deserves a watch for Imtiaz’s fervent passion, Diljit’s grit and mettle, Rahman’s extraordinary tunes and Chamkila’s dignified bravado. It’s not every day that you get to witness a delightful concert packaged in the form of a musical. It might not be wholesome but is definitely a wholehearted attempt. After all, celebration of art against all socio-political prejudices and violence is what the world has always needed and craved for.... full review

Thumbs up, by Prateek Sur, Outlook India : ...Sylvester Fonseca’s cinematography is good and helps you feel as if you’re right in the middle of everything happening. The way he has shot the musical scenes gives you a feel as if you’re one of the people standing in the crowd listening live. Also, he has kept the filming very raw which gives you a feel of how rural and rooted this story’s setting is.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Amar Singh Chamkila's social commentary comes alive in its musical elegy for a ribald rebel. Brimming in exuberant covers of his original numbers, performed in person by its leads, the biopic finds its alter ego in Irshad Kamil's kaleidoscopic song writing.... full review

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Sulekha : ...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.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pratikshya Mishra, The Quint : ...Amar Singh Chamkila is not a film looking for answers; instead it poses one question after another all while keeping its focus on one man and his story. What will we learn from Chamkila’s legacy and where will those learnings fit into an ever-changing world?... full review

Thumbs up, by Priyanka Roy, The Telegraph : ...Amar Singh Chamkila, however, may seem overlong and repetitive in parts and Parineeti’s performance, to be honest, pales in comparison to Diljit’s scenery-chewing act. Especially, when an undaunted Chamkila, his eyes blazing, sums up the spirit and soul of the man with: “Jeete ji marne se achha hain ki marr kar zinda rahein.”... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, The Week : ...All of this is set against the backdrop of rising militancy in Punjab. Its continuous presence and threat are often conveyed in the film simply through the nozzle of an AK-47 that sticks out from behind the shoulders of men covered in heavy shawls. It's menacing and it's great filmmaking.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonal Pandya, Times Now : ...More than just a biopic, Imtiaz Ali's Amar Singh Chamkila also has a message about art, why we create it and why it is so necessary, no matter what decade it is.... full review

Thumbs up, by Renuka Vyavahare, Times of India : ...Given Chamkila's questionable reputation, unapologetic approach to life, the film doesn’t glorify nor justify his actions. It merely allows him a chance to be heard. This symphonic tale of survival, shame and social standing makes for an immersive watch.... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...In other words, there is a big difference between A HIT Star, known for his incomparable sales/shows, and a legend, known for his mastery of the art, flawless renditions, soulful, gems and contribution to the world of music or art.... full review

So-So, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Free Press Journal : ...With a feel like docu-feature, Chamkila is definitely going to be in Imtiaz’s list of good films, but, away from the artful storytelling lies moral compass of the society. Imtiaz, go back and make your romance, ‘kyunki pyaar mein kuch sahi galat nahi hota.’... full review

So-So, by Rashil Jogani, Pinkvilla : ...Although Amar Singh Chamkila lacks the emotional depth of Imtiaz Ali films, it offers a very unique kind of cinema which is worth appreciating.... full review

Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...The rest of the overly hearty cast flail about in a choppy narrative that tries a bit too hard to jazz up a simple storyline. The Chamkila mystique evades Ali’s take, paving the way for a deep-dive biopic on the singing sensation.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

1 readers - 1 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Raj : Amarjyot Chamkila - New member of "Club 27"

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Murder at gunpoint, some shots of widespread commotion during communal violence, corpses of main characters
  • Language: Apart from the lyrics, mostly clean; occasional abusive slang here and there
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A few shots of women bathing and couples indulging in foreplay
  • Concept: Meteoric rise of a singer duo in Punjab (India), who became popular and notorious for writing and performing sexual lyrics
  • General Look and Feel: Period, upbeat

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Comments (1)

Click here for new comment


I was unknown of this popular Punjabi folk-artists until I watched the film. I loved the interjecting format, past-present cuts, animation, split-screen, bold-lyrics on screen etc.. Very innovative..!

Leave a Comment