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'Amar Singh Chamkila' movie review: Note-perfect movie on Punjab's Elvis

Netflix's new biopic on Amar Singh Chamkila, one of Punjab's most popular singers of the turbulent 80s, who had been given the moniker 'Elvis of Punjab', hits all the right notes.
Last Updated : 12 April 2024, 22:09 IST
Last Updated : 12 April 2024, 22:09 IST

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Amar Singh Chamkila
4/5
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Cast:Diljit Dosanjh, Parineeti Chopra, Apinderdeep Singh

This Elvis did not want to leave the building but was forced to. And the music played on, long after he left. Netflix's new biopic on Amar Singh Chamkila, one of Punjab's most popular singers of the turbulent 80s, who had been given the moniker 'Elvis of Punjab', hits all the right notes. Imitiaz Ali (whose return to form is such a pleasure), A R Rahman and Diljit Dosanjh work in tandem to create the kind of immersive sincerity that originally made these artistes big names.

The Dalit singer, who was shot dead at the age of 27 near a small village in Jalandhar in 1988, was a figure who inspired as much adoration as revulsion. The singer-composer, labelled 'ganda banda' (sleazy lad), unabashedly wrote lyrics choking with rampant sexual innuendos (mostly involving devar-bhabhi romps, husbands and others' wives carrying on sleazy affairs and the like). Their casual objectification of women ('will knead you like a dough' goes the translation of a popular ditty) may be distasteful for Gen Z ears but the songs broke all records and brought him extraordinary fame, which eventually led to his and his wife's gruesome killing — an unsolved murder till date. 

The narrative is poetic and layered with flashbacks, photographs and video snaps of the real Chamkila. The screenplay bravely and politically incorrectly explores the grey areas of desire and how women respond to sexual innuendo when no one's watching. Diljit brings a rare innocence and authenticity to his portrayal of Chamkila, which makes it really hard to dislike the singer, despite his many obvious faults. Parineeti Chopra, who plays his docile but stoic wife, is competent as is the supporting cast. 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.

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Published 12 April 2024, 22:09 IST

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