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AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA Review: The Reinvention Of Storyteller Imtiaz Ali?

Amar Singh Chamkila is an immensely fascinating story, told in a way that captures audiences’ interest from the first scene. It’s the return of director Imtiaz Ali, in so many ways, but with a film that is quite a departure from his usual style. While still retaining the finer aspects of his signature storytelling style. Amar Singh Chamkila is a Netflix original movie with a bio-pic format that Ali really has a lot of fun with. It’s quite possibly one of the finer Bollywood movies of 2024. Read on for my Amar Singh Chamkila review

Please note that the following Amar Singh Chamkila review will be completely spoiler-free. 

Who Is Amar Singh Chamkila? 

Amar Singh Chamkila review couple

Image via Netflix.

Ali’s newest movie is very much based on real events, and in many ways is essentially a biopic. This is unusual from Ali, whose movies are more whimsical and ethereal, dealing with ideas of metaphysical concepts like identity, purpose, and passions— all wrapped in mainstream conventional Bollywood packaging. But here, the once-revered filmmaker tries something new, and it works wonderfully. Based on the real-life of one of India’s largest singers of his time, and the highest-selling recording artist in Punjab, Amar Singh Chamkila seemingly tells a very accurate portrait of his life. And his death. 

The movie begins at the height of Chamkila’s success, and then tells the story of his life and fame, through flashbacks, narrated by his near and dear ones. And some even, his enemies. It’s not a unique narrative device, but Ali ensures to grab your attention instantly! And for the rest of the story, you follow him on this journey of Chamkila’s life, however, he wants to tell it. Chamkila was famous for writing and composing erotic and explicit songs. While his audience was huge and he was beloved, certain people opposed his work due to their ability to ‘corrupt society’. The religious, moral police, basically. 

Amar Singh Chamkila Is Ali At His Most Restraint

Amar Singh Chamkila review married

Image via Netflix.

I know I’m spending a lot of this Amar Singh Chamkila review talking about director Ali, but it’s hard not to. So much of Ali’s filmography has a lot of himself in it, that it definitely feels like he’s writing what he knows. His protagonists are always tortured artists on a journey of self-discovery. There’s almost always a through-line. But Chamkila is a story Ali didn’t have a hand in creating, but rather he is working off of real-life events, people, stories and incidents. But even in those adaptations, Ali still weaves in this element of magical and sweet melodrama that is a lot more held back than his last few attempts. 

Amar Singh Chamkila features Diljit Dosanjh as the titular character. Dosanjh shines here in a role that is very held back and subtle. A young man who dreams to be something that no one has even understood at that time. And through determination, and some luck, he makes it big. But what he’s good at, and what society will allow him to succeed in, is a different story. Amar Singh Chamkila is very much a story of a young disrupter who goes up against the establishment. Through this journey, we track Chamkila’s success and his eventual fall. But there are no long dramatic monologues or abstractions that symbolize feelings, Dosanjh plays it very straight and does the most work through his eyes and body language. It’s a great performance from Dosanjh. 

The Movie Does Subvert The Usual Bio-Pic Tropes

Amar Singh Chamkila review sing

Image via Netflix.

Another thing Ali does really well here is some of the creative ways he executes his story. Every song performance by Chamkila on screen, sung in Punjabi, then translated into Hindi on-screen with fun little CGI text, like a sing-a-long. And if you’re someone who watches everything with subtitles— like me— then the English translations of the same performance will also be available to you. It’s the fastest way to learn Hindi and Punjabi outside of Duolingo. Maybe even better! 

Ali also does this very cool thing where at certain significant moments of Chamkila’s life, he will intercut the scene we are watching in the movie, with a real-life recording of Chamkila, or a real-life picture of the scene just we watched in the movie. It’s very cool and further enhances the feeling that the story you’re watching is real, making you further invest in these characters and their journeys. And despite some darker elements, it’s probably one of Ali’s more uplifting films. 

I’ll end this Amar Singh Chamkila review by quickly mentioning the songs. While they are pretty great, they are more enjoyable to see in the context of the movie. They further the emotions and depth of the scene that the song plays during. Although, what else can we expect from the great A. R. Rahman?

Amar Singh Chamkila is now playing on Netflix

What did you think of Imtiaz Ali’s latest? Is he back, or what? Let me know in the comments below or come follow me on X (formerly Twitter) at @theshahshahid for more Bollywood discussions. 

AMAR SINGH CHAMKILA Review: The Reinvention Of Storyteller Imtiaz Ali?
  • Acting - 7.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 7/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
  • Watchability - 7.5/10
  • Rewatchability - 6.5/10
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