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'Chamkila wouldn't have been possible without Diljit'

April 16, 2024 16:30 IST
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IMAGE: Parineeti Chopra and Diljit Dosanjh in Amar Singh Chamkila. Photograph: Kind courtesy Diljit Dosanjh/Instagram

Imtiaz Ali is on a high.

His new film, Amar Singh Chamkila, has been received with unconditional positivity by the audience.

The director says he made sure the biopic on the slain Punjabi singer would not offend anyone.

"I have worked several times on the screenplay from the points of view of different groups and weeded out anything that could cause hurt to any party," he tells Subhash K Jha.

"But my biggest confidence is in my belief that I mean this film with love to everyone, and with malice to none."

Speaking on the genesis of the project, Imtiaz says, "Rajesh Sharma, the head of production for many of my films, including Jab We Met and Tamasha, used to say that I should make a film on the life of Chamkila."

"I have been gathering snatches of his life over years of shooting, and travelling in Punjab and thereabouts. Just before COVID hit us, a film enthusiast by the name of Harpreet came from Punjab to Mumbai with the tough-to-procure film rights of Chamkila, looking for me to make the film.

"In the middle of COVID, I visited rural Punjab and there began the process of making the film. The research was largely meeting and talking directly with people involved in Chamkila and Amarjot's lives."

"I met everyone -- Tiki, the old friend and Dholak Wala, Dhakkan, the old announcer, Kikar, the manager, Swaran Singh Silvia, the friend and lyricist, family, friends, various people who watched his shows and met him. I met people who just lived in Punjab in those years and could talk to me about the legend of Chamkila."

IMAGE: Parineeti Chopra and Diljit Dosanjh in Amar Singh Chamkila. Photograph: Kind courtesy Diljit Dosanjh/Instagram

Diljit Dosanjh was Imtiaz's first choice for the role.

"Diljit was the first name that came up for casting, but I was not sure whether he would be able to do this film. It was only after some time that I approached him and he was on from the word go. Now it is obvious to me that the film could not have been made without him.

"He is a small town Punjabi from the same parts as Chamkila, so has the same dialect. All his life, he has been listening to and sometimes even performing Chamkila songs. He understands every nuance of Chamkila's behaviour. More than anything, he is a Punjabi singer. It was his participation that helped me define the treatment of the film."

IMAGE: Imtiaz Ali, A R Rahman, Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra. Photograph: Kind courtesy AR Rahman/Instagram

Imtiaz explains that the music of Amar Singh Chamkila is divided in two sections: "One has Chamkila's original music, which we have not tampered with. They remain in the original Punjabi and have been recorded live on location during filming by Diljit and Parineeti. This was a novel experience for all of us.

"The second section is the original songs of the film composed by A R Rahman, and written by Irshad Kamil in Hindi with a touch of Punjabi. We have six songs here.

"Rahman was a guiding star in this film, which was about the life of a musician. He was a co-film-maker rather than just a music director. Chamkila had not made songs on his own life and times, his feelings and relationships etc. The film songs, which play in the background, address these."

IMAGE: Diljit Dosanjh in Amar Singh Chamkila. Photograph: Kind courtesy Diljit Dosanjh/Instagram

Shooting in Punjab was an unbelievable experience for Imtiaz.

"Filming in the back of beyond areas of Punjab, living with locals, gave me a sense of rootedness beyond the experience of the past many years. I have never met people as nice as I did in and around Sangrur in Punjab.

"Tons and tons of locals participated in the film. The 300-odd women that you see in Naram Kaalja are all local. Most of the actors that you see in the film, including Diljit, are locals. And, of course, the support staff, the research team, the art and decoration team were all local."

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