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The Hollywood Insider Chamkila (1)

One of the highlights of each month is seeing which films and television series enter and exit Netflix. The streaming giant constantly churns out originals, as well as obtaining well-loved pieces from other distributors. One of the newest releases from Netflix, ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ is an innovative biopic that utilizes the music of the film to drive the already inspiring story of Chamkila.

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‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ tells the story of the famed Indian singer of the same name. The story is told through different timelines, starting at Amar Singh’s death and going through his rise to fame in flashbacks. His brash and bold lyrics help him stand out among the crowd of songwriters, especially that of the 1980s. Throughout the film, we see Amar Singh struggle with not getting credit for his lyrics, meeting his partner, and forging his own path to do what he loves most. 

WATCH THE TRAILER of the Film and the Revolution:

‘Can I Go Home Now?’ Composed by A. R. Rahman

What some audiences might not understand before watching this film is that Amar Singh Chamkila was the highest-selling Punjabi recording artist. He became especially popular because of these vulgar lyrics and the high-pitched vocals, inspired by his childhood in his village. His music was incredibly popular, one quote from the film coins Chamkila as ‘the Elvis of Punjab’. Amar Singh Chamkila was murdered at the height of his popularity in 1988, and it still remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of all time.

WATCH THE TRAILER of the Film and the Revolution: ‘Can I Go Home Now?’ 


One criticism that has been brought up is that this film is done in Hindi, while taking place in Punjab. While I watched the English dub of the film that is offered in American Netflix, I felt like this was an important topic to bring awareness to. Punjab is a region including eastern Pakistan and northwestern India. Hindi is the official language of India, though there are 780-19,500 languages spoken in India. For authenticity’s sake, I would have liked the film to be in Punjab, but I understand the decision made as language barriers can be a challenge on set.

As soon as the film begins, we are braced with a colorful tapestry of vibrant visuals and a distinct style, with superimposed titles that help indicate when and where the film is taking place and photographs that help bring a nostalgic element to the story on our screen. Though I am not one who would consider myself familiar with Chamkila’s music, I was immediately pulled into the story with the attention-grabbing visuals and opening scene. While the film does open with Amar Singh’s death, this opening is a strong way to tell the story of this impactful singer We, as an audience, want to know more as soon as this scene happens, and the film is able to answer our questions, without leaving too little or too much.

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The stylization of this film is particularly interesting, with the lyrics of the songs presented within the film projected onto the screen while the characters sing. It almost feels like a music video mixed with Cinema, as music is a driving force in the film and the story. Not only is music and getting a start in the industry a huge aspect of the story itself, but the actual songs within the film help audiences who may not be familiar with Amar Singh understand his impact on Southeastern music.

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Of course, it would be impossible to speak on this film without speaking on the music itself. Academy Award-winning composer, A.R. Rahman, wrote the music for ‘Chamkila’, and his music, again, helps audiences understand the impact of Amar Singh. Each of Rahman’s specific songs fit into the film and the story perfectly, as timing for music in film is vital for a song’s impact. The music in the film mixed traditional Indian music with beats and instrumentals from the 1980s, in order to cohesively stick with the world of the film. Of course, much to the style of Amar Singh, the lyrics, by Irshad Kamil, in these songs and comedic and provocative to call back to his work as a music artist. When it comes to that of ‘Chamkila’, Rahman’s composition is a job well done.

A. R. Rahman’s next Hollywood feature film is ‘Can I Go Home Now?’ with director Pritan Ambroase, which is also a movement for Children all over the world to be able to go home in peace and without war.

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The acting performances are the true hidden gem of ‘Chamkila’. A misconception for many audiences is that an acting role must be emotionally showy, rather than subtle in order for the actor’s performance to be good. In ‘Chamkila’, each of these actors is so smart in their performances and they portray these real people so seamlessly. Singer and actor, Diljit Dosanjh, plays Amar Singh Chamkila with such humility. When questioned about his controversial lyrics, Dosanjh approaches this moment with a careful tenderness, bringing humanity and kindness to a character that could be so cheeky in other moments. Parineeti Chopra portrays Amarjot Kaur, Singh’s music partner turned wife. Chopra brings an active voice to a character that could be seen as passive. She does not allow her character to become unseen, though the character isn’t as showy as others. Both actors sang the vocals for the film’s music, which helps bring the audience more into the story, as contrasting vocals can easily take us out of the film. Both of these actors have musical experience, with Dosanjh performing at Coachella in 2023. Each actor in this film portrayed their characters to authentically, it almost felt like I was watching real people onscreen, rather than a film.

Overall, ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ is a biopic that is well worth the watch. Just the music alone can transport audiences from their living rooms to Chamkila’s height of popularity and his rise to fame. Anyone who loves music would enjoy this film, as well as anyone who loves to laugh and learn about new artists. ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ is available to stream on Netflix anytime.

Cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Parineeti Chopra | Director: Imtiaz Ali | Writer: Imtiaz Ali, Sajid Ali | Music: A.R. Rahman

 | Producers: Imtiaz Ali, Mohit Choudhary | Cinematography: Sylvester Fonseca | Editing: Aarti Bajaj

By Abigail Johnson

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”

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