The ‘Elvis Presley of Punjab’

Diljit Dosanjh said that he was initially sceptical about being part of the film

The ‘Elvis Presley of Punjab’

Actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh said on Thursday that he was initially sceptical about being part of Imtiaz Ali’s Hindi film ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ as he felt that the director wouldn’t be able to do justice to the life story of the late revolutionary Punjabi singer.

The upcoming drama will narrate the untold true story of Amar Singh Chamkila, who is referred to as the ‘Elvis Presley of Punjab’. Regarded as one of the best live-stage performers to have come from Punjab, Chamkila and his wife, singing partner Amarjot, were killed in 1988.

In the ‘Netflix’ film, Dosanjh plays the title role, with Parineeti Chopra starring as Amarjot.

Dosanjh said that before Ali approached him for the movie, he had already been part of a Punjabi film titled ‘Jodi’, which revolved around the life story of Chamkila and Amarjot. The actor said that the movie unfortunately couldn’t see the light of day due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“When I got to know that in Bollywood (Hindi), there is a film being made on Chamkila, I wondered what kind of film they would make. When I got a call from Imtiaz sir, I thought he would sue us as he has the rights to Chamkila’s story and we didn’t have it. But he said, ‘I want to cast you for the film’. I said, ‘We already have the story. If you still think that you want to make a film with me, we will see’,” Dosanjh said at the ‘Next on Netflix’ event in Mumbai.

However, Dosanjh’s perception changed after he heard the script of Ali’s movie and was amazed by the director’s attention to detail.

“I thought I knew a lot about Chamkila before meeting him (Ali). When I heard his perspective, it was completely different. It was a big thing for us that his story was being told in such a big manner. When sir offered me the film, I surrendered to his vision,” he said.

Ali, best known for films such as ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Rockstar’, said that he was keen to explore the story of Chamkila, whom he referred to as a ‘superstar singer’.

“What I liked about Chamkila is that he is a grassroots superstar and his songs are still being sung. He is very popular and he was a grassroots-level artist. We felt that we should make a film on him,” the director said.

Composer AR Rahman and lyricist Irshad Kamil have contributed to the soundtrack of ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’. Dosanjh and Chopra have sung the songs in the movie.

Rahman said that it was his ‘dream’ to compose music for a film that had a connection to Punjabi music.

“It was a long dream of mine to do a Punjabi music film. When they approached me, they already had songs of Chamkila in the film and I was like, ‘The songs are already done, so what will I do?’. Both Parineeti and Diljit have sung songs. We had our take on the movie and made it like a musical. Some parts are like Broadway musicals where we have characters talking about Chamkila,” the music director added.

Rahman, who has worked with Ali on ‘Highway’, ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Tamasha’, believes the director has reinvented himself with the upcoming movie.

Dosanjh said that he is happy with the way the film’s music has turned out.

“I was wondering how they would do the music for the film, but when you have AR Rahman, Mohit Chauhan and Irshad Kamil ji, then it is a great thing. The songs of Chamkila are in Punjabi, but there are other songs being played in the background in Hindi. We have original songs of Chamkila,” he said.

Dosanjh also praised co-star Chopra for nailing her character of Amarjot.

“Then I was thinking about who would play the role of Amarjot because she would sing tougher than Chamkila. But when they said, Parineeti ji… I have heard her songs. But to sing like Amarjot is a different thing and she did very well,” he said.

Chopra said that she learnt a lot from Dosanjh while working on the film.

“When I signed this film, it was truly a dream role. Before shooting this film, I used to think I spoke Punjabi well and could sing songs well. Then I met Diljit ji. I got a reality check in both departments. I was a student in front of Diljit,” she said.

Chopra added, “I used to check my diction with Diljit to see whether I was pronouncing the word correctly or not or how I should do it. The biggest challenge for us was that we should not sing like us. We had to try to sing like Amarjot and Chamkila.”

‘Amar Singh Chamkila’ is set to premiere on April 12 on ‘Netflix’. It is produced by Mohit Choudhary, ‘Select Media Holdings LLP’, ‘Saregama’ and ‘Window Seat Fims’.

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