चमकिला' फिल्म समीक्षा

Imtiaz Ali’s colorful biopic on the dead Punjabi singer is a celebration rather than a sophisticated deep investigation.

Singer Amar Singh Chamkila, born Dhani Ram in a Dalit Sikh family in Punjab, rose to prominence in the 1980s for his raw musicianship and provocative lyrics. His record-breaking songs were concerned with incest and illicit love, but they were also sensitive to rural class dissatisfactions in the toiling North. On March 8, 1988, while exiting his automobile for a concert, he was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Mehsampur. His wife and singing companion, Amarjot, was also killed, along with two other members of his troupe. Multiple explanations were proposed, but with the state in the midst of a violent insurrection, the case remained unresolved.

“Chamkila” movie reviewP:

This tragic story from Punjab’s murky past has previously been used for cinematic purposes, most notably in Kabir Singh Chowdhry’s absurdist documentary Mehsampur (2018). Imtiaz Ali, who co-writes with his brother Sajid, is now taking on Chamkila. Audiences who are already familiar with the basic facts — and other rumors — about the singer’s life and death will not be swayed again. Ali’s film does not solve mysteries or expel ghosts. It’s a clear reading of the Chamkila story, more of a lively celebration than a serious dig. Despite its squareness, it manages to provide a glimpse into the artist’s interiority.

This happens very late in the film. Chamkila (Diljit Dosanjh) sold out a gig in Toronto during his 1987 foreign tour. His slimy impresario is grinning from ear to ear as he tells him that when Amitabh Bachchan played at the same place a few nights before, they had to add 137 more seats. In Chamkila’s instance, he triumphantly adds, the number has surpassed one thousand. We expect Chamkila to be overjoyed with this success; he has been a lifelong Bachchan devotee. Instead, his smile dissipates like the morning mist.

No real explanation is provided for his blues: a narrator dryly notes that artists are strange creatures, and that Chamkila’s dejection resembled something like a loss, as though his childhood had suddenly ended. This moment, buried deep in the noise and tumult of Chamkila’s extraordinary life, is the best in Ali’s film, even if it’s wholly fictitious. Far from supplying answers about the slain Punjabi singer, mythologised to breaking point in popular discourse, it asks a gentle question: how comfortable was Chamkila, improbably baptized the ‘Elvis of Punjab’, with his meteoric rise?

After beginning with the tragic assassination, Ali jumbles together infancy and death, action and aftermath, and hearsay and fact in his story. Superimpositions appear, colors and forms shift throughout the visuals, and the melancholic soundtrack starts to pulse. With spoken lyrics, the wailing “Baaja” reaches an enraged crescendo that sounds like a cross between protest street theater and Broadway. Aarti Bajaj, the editor, created swirling structural designs for Rockstar (2011), or the grainy dream scenes in Tamasha (2015), are reminiscent of this start’s carousel spin.

After this dramatic introduction, a largely subdued summary of Chamkila’s life and times follows. An average mill worker, he writes lyrics for the folk sensation Jinda (modeled after Punjabi singer Surinder Shinda) and brings him tea after charming his way into his orbit. An opportunity to perform for a furious akhada reveals his vocal prowess. He gains popularity by crooning upbeat duets, but he quickly runs out of supporters and a partner. Most people get tired of his high-pitched delivery and constant appointments, but Amarjot (Parineeti Chopra), who is tickled pink by his lewd rhymes, manages to stick around. They tie the knot.

It is known that Amarjot was descended from a Jat family of higher caste, while Chamkila’s ancestors were Chamar. Not only that, but he was previously married, which he first keeps from Amarjot (and from Ali from us). Other factors were involved. Religious leaders and radicals roaming the countryside had placed severe restrictions on speech and culture; the police, who were cracking down hard in retaliation, weren’t any nicer. Chamkila was labeled as a renegade, or baagi, who corrupted young and families. He was exposed to various forms of intimidation and harassment as a result. In one chilling moment, a group of thugs show up at his door and tell him they enjoy his music before shaking him down for money.

As one might anticipate from a filmmaker of his (mostly romantic) type, Ali tears through the grim social milieu of 1980s Punjab. The pulsating original soundtrack by A.R. Rahman or the vibrant 2-D animation segments contribute to the continuous softening of the tone and mood. ‘Naram Kaalja’ is a beautifully drawn women’s folk number, lyricist Irshad Kamil having fun with the jittery imagery, riffing about “small sickles” and “snakes around thighs.” ‘Ishq Mitaye’ is pained but wonderful, with its echoing refrain of ‘Main hoon Panjab’. Though cognizant of cultural standards in its chosen time, this isn’t a particularly offensive film, despite Chamkila’s aggressive reputation.

In the Punjabi film Jodi (2023), Diljit Dosanjh portrayed a surrogate Chamkila. Ali’s film uses live recordings of Chamkila’s original songs, thus his vocal skills come in handy. Here, he presents Chamkila as a kind dreamer who is confident and upbeat. It’s possible that the act is too innocent; there’s something strangely wrong with Chamkila’s endearing slouching and the piercing fire we sometimes catch glimpses of in her eyes in old pictures. In a small role, Chopra perseveres, and the supporting cast features few noteworthy female characters, including a reimagining of Aditi Rao Hydari’s parasite journalist from Rockstar.

In supporting parts, Samuel John, Anjum Batra, and Anurag Arora stand out. In the end, this movie is more about the lives that surrounded or were impacted by Chamkila than it is about Chamkila himself. Like all great artists, he was a source of both admiration and envy. Everybody, including competitors, raconteurs, and income tax officers, had a tale about Chamkila to share. They flickered in his light, like moths.

‘चमकिला’ फिल्म समीक्षा: दिलजीत दोसांझ ने इम्तियाज अली के जीवंत संगीत की शानदार एंकरिंग की

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