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Amar Singh Chamkila: Folk music icon played by Diljit Dosanjh and the 'Curse of 27'

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Amar Singh Chamkila: Folk music icon played by Diljit Dosanjh and the 'Curse of 27'

New Delhi, March 28 (Ajit Weekly News) It is not coincidental that Netflix is releasing the Diljit Dosanjh-Parineeti Chopra-starrer ‘Chamkila’ a day after Sidhu Moose Wala’s death anniversary, for the subject of the biopic, singing sensation Amarjit Singh Chamkila, was as controversial in his lifetime as Moose Wala and he too was shot dead, but the case remains unsolved till today.

At the time of his assassination, along with his wife Amarjot and two of their band members, on March 8, 1988, the man Amit Trivedi described as the “Elvis of Punjab”, was 27 years old, at the peak of his career, and in so much demand that he was said to have been booked for “366 days in a year”.

Moose Wala was 29 when he was killed on May 29, 2022, allegedly on orders from Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar’s associate, Lawrence Bishnoi. If Moose Wala was controversial in his lifetime for his espousal of a gun culture — the same gun culture that culminated in his assassination — Chamkila was believed to have upset certain sections of Punjab because of his lyrics that talked about extra-marital affairs, coming of age, drinking and drug abuse.

Chamkila held up a mirror on Punjabi society, exposing its warts in his hugely popular albeit boyish lyrics, which upset many people, and his assassination was suspected to have been masterminded by Khalistani militants, who, ironically, is back in the news for the wrong reasons.

Born into a Dalit family in a village near Ludhiana, and named Dhani Ram by his parents, Chamkila grew up wanting to be an electrician, but ended up working in a cloth mill.

He was, however, destined for bigger things, and when he was 18, he caught the fancy of his mentor, the popular folk singer Surinder Shinda (‘Truck Billiya’, ‘Putt Jattan De’), whom he not only accompanied in concerts, but also wrote songs for.

Dhanni Ram also adopted his stage name — Amar Singh Chamkila — and went on to partner with other well-known folk artistes, such as K. Deep (Kuldeep Singh Kang) and Mohammad Sadiq. And following in their footsteps, he teamed up with a female artiste, the first of three, named Surinder Sonia.

They fell out when Chamkila went on a tour to Canada with his next female accompanist, Gulshan Komal, who was said to have encouraged him to record his first studio album, ‘Takue De Takua’, in 1980, which sealed his position as Punjab’s foremost folk singer.

It was also in 1980 that Chamkila decided to branch out on his own after falling out with Surinder Sonia’s husband, who was his manager.

And, following outings by a couple of female singers, he settled for Amarjot Kaur, about whom very little is known except that she broke her marriage to pursue her passion for singing.

From then on to their assassination in 1988, Chamkila and Amarjot ruled the quaint world of Punjabi folk music with their earthy numbers and rustic tunes. Their early LPs (long-playing records), ‘Jija Lak Minle’ (1983) and ‘Hikk Utte So Ja Ve’ (1985), became instant hits.

There was no looking back for them, as the duo surpassed their contemporaries. Were they victims of their fame? Or did they upset Khalistani militants, who were then on a rampage across Punjab, to such an extent that they silenced them forever? This was a time when organised gangs were unknown to Punjab.

Either way, their end was tragic — and their assassination continues to be an unsolved mystery.

For those interested in historical trivia, some of the world’s most loved singers passed away at the age of 27 — Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, to name a few. They call it the curse of 27.

–Ajit Weekly News

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