Idea was to celebrate the time and era of Chamkeela: Imtiaz Ali

Two names that need no introduction are Imtiaz Ali and Amar Singh Chamkeela. Legends in their own spaces, one is crafting a riveting biopic on the other. With a lot of excitement brewing in for the release of Chamkeela, the movie, on Netflix on 12th April, and the music streaming already on Saregama, we took some time out from the busy schedule of Imtiaz Ali to capture his thoughts and the work behind the movie and its album. With A R Rahman spearheading the album, the music is bound to create new soundscapes and benchmarks. With Diljit Dosanjh playing the protagonist, there is a natural curiosity of what the film has to offer! Let’s see what he has to say:

After Rockstar, Chamkeela is the coming from your end which has music at its core. What took so long?

Chamkeela is a biopic, which means it has to an informed, studied and researched movie. Since I am not from Punjab, I had to visit the state multiple times, meet people, develop an understanding of idioms that he used, the words that he used and why he became so popular. This research took a lot of time and then pandemic delayed the process too. But I am happy that it took the time it took, and it is now a finished product.

Musically, Chamkeels is pressing the right buttons. What were the specifics kept in mind while having the music composed?

The one thing that A R Rahman Sir shared was that we should make the music celebratory. The idea was to make music enjoyable and not something that is heavy in its treatment. Another idea was to celebrate the time and era of Chamkeela. We have kept a vintage quality in the music so that it is reflective of the time in which it was being created. It can very well be termed as a musical period film that takes place in 80’s.

Watch ‘Ishq Mitaye’ here:

How do you give music a universality in terms of its enjoyable nature?

There is no trick or formula to it. First thing is that the music should appeal to me, and I should be enjoying it to begin with. From there on, then I can make it to reach out to more people to have a good time with. If one can enjoy the process of making it and can feel the music, go with the instinct, the chances are that others will also enjoy the same. Apart from this, I don’t have any formula to make the music reach universally.

How does releasing a movie on Netflix help from a reach and creative perspective?

In terms of reach, the movie goes straight away in 190 plus countries the day it is released. People all over the world can watch this movie not just from Indian diaspora but from the communities world over. As far as creativity is concerned, it gave a chance to go completely cinematic mode. My training is from theatre, so I went in a ‘vengeance’ mode to give it a 180 degree divergent treatment, as opposed to being hardcore commercial.

Watch ‘Naram Kaalja’ here:

What do you think appeals the audience to connect with a film amongst various communities?

It is a very typical film and there is a universality in its typicality. If something is culturally consistent and authentic to one place, it will have a universal appeal as well. Most movies that are universal are the ones that are very typical to their grass roots. One of things I have found enigmatic is ‘The 27 Club’ of musicians. There are phenomenally gifted musicians who have had a violent end on or before 27 years of age. Chamkeela is possibly the only Indian in that list and that does connect him with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Tupac, Amy Winehouse, Randy Rhoads and more, in the unfortunate ‘The 27 Club’.

What was the cultural consistency of Amar Singh Chamkeela?

He was highly reflective of his time, life in a village and from the society he belonged to. In his own words he would say that he was not a very educated man so he could only write what he had seen in my life. So, there has always been a cultural context to him. His cheekiness came from what was happening around during those times and were enjoyed. He was from Malwa province of Punjab with a unique dialect, which also happens to be the geography Diljit comes from.

How relevant is Chamkeela now?

A lot has changed in Punjab and at the same time there is still a lot of that has not. Any time I think of Chamkeela, I think of marginalised society. There is a person who is trying to make it big very desperately by writing what will sell. His cheekiness made his songs popular. The hustle he had still remains relevant for the artists.

With yourself, A R Rahman and all the talents coming on board, how creatively challenging as well as stimulating was the process of putting this album together?

Two things that were kept in mind were to make it a celebratory album and an album with musical theatre kind of treatment to it. Those were challenging as well as invigorating experiences. Rahman Sir’s thought was about discovering something new with music. I just hope that people love the music and have the same experience that we have had while creating it.

Well, with such an in-depth study and understanding about the subject matter, it is sure to endear the viewers. As we look to the release of the movie, here is us streaming the music and loving it at the same time!

Article by Vishwa Deepak Dikshit

Photo Credit to the team of Saregama and Imtiaz Ali

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