Rating – **** (4/5)

It’s fascinating to think that AR Rahman has not one but two releases this week where he lends his musical prowess. The discrepancy, however, in both these projects is the equivalent of a student scoring a bull’s eye score in one subject that we love and are genuinely invested in; and the other being another day at the school for the same student trying to get a score enough to just be done with it. It might not be too tough to determine which one’s which but just in case- we are talking about Imtiaz Ali’s Amar Singh Chamkila and Amit Ravindranath Sharma’s Maidaan respectively.

Before we even get to the obvious points to highlight; to have Imtiaz Ali, AR Rahman, Irshad Kamil and Mohit Chauhan work together is a symphony in itself. It’s not that they didn’t collaborate in Ali’s lesser-appreciated work like Jab Harry Met Sejal; but when a project, from day one, seems like a passion project – the brilliant minds of these collaborators get to work with true grit.

I was ceasing to not be cliche. Hell, I can’t help but say it – Imtiaz Ali is BACK and with a BANG! The director, once again reminds us why we fall in love with his creations, his world and his characterization almost always. Amar Singh Chamkila is Ali recreating his magic without the pressure of doing so. As a filmmaker, Ali has been rather vocal and out there lately in terms of giving interviews and talking about his process among other things. This is always a tricky space for a filmmaker to be in, as one can get overly indulgent, especially when you are the man responsible for works like Tamasha, Jab We Met, and Rockstar among others. Ali, however, doesn’t. He doesn’t just write and direct the actors in Amar Singh Chamkila but he is immersed in it so much and so beautifully that he wants you to feel every bit of it.

Review of 'Amar Singh Chamkila': We missed you Imtiaz Ali; Welcome Back! 890899

There are seldom instances when the art of storytelling is done most simply – one person sharing a story with a select few listeners. This is done so masterfully here that it feels nostalgic, almost. A similar tool that Ali adopted in Tamasha, now with Amar Singh Chamkila, Ali has different narrators, who were a part of the tale themselves. They explain different aspects of Chamkila’s tale to a select group of listeners. This works wonders as you feel like one from the little flock yourself, seated and listening, along with visualising Chamkila’s captivating saga. It helps that it is a real story and one that is so bewildering in its own way, that the portrayal is what matters and not the core story.

To be feeling the gravity of the situation that Chamkila found himself to be in, Ali has colorful graphic lyrics that mean Hindi but flash in English, every time Chamkila and Amarjyot Kaur sing these ‘vulgar’ songs. Apart from that, we might have found ourselves another hat for Ali to work on in future and in an area that Indian cinema lacks immensely – animation. The use of animation at key moments which ranges from watercolor strokes to comic-book styles is mesmerizing and keeps you boggled at Ali’s clarity and execution of the story.

And who else but Diljit Dosanjh would have played Amar Singh Chamkila with such finesse! Dosanjh was born to do this role and he aces it in every aspect possible. Dosanjh brings in the innocence and honesty that this character needs and the man exudes consistently. Chamkila’s innocence and honesty about making these vulgar songs not because he believes in them or practices them but because his listeners like listening to them is as simple and truthful as it can be.

Review of 'Amar Singh Chamkila': We missed you Imtiaz Ali; Welcome Back! 890900

Ali never wants you to think he is a hero and rather just puts in nuggets of information leading to what had Chamkila write and perform those songs and even the instance when he stopped singing them when he received death threats – this becomes the hook that makes you invest in him even more. A simple lowly guy just willing to make a good living through his art – but life wasn’t that simple for him.

Parineeti Chopra also puts forward a stellar act and one can see the kind of hard work and precision that she has put into aping Amarjyot Kaur but never seeming caricaturish. When landing the right director, an actor’s true potential is highlighted best. Chopra probably just needed Ali to serve as a reminder of how good she can be too.

Rahman and Ali’s magical combination with Mohit Chauhan’s splendid voice is what created brilliance in Rockstar and it happens once again in Amar Singh Chamkila too. The songs, background score, situational music and the performance of the actors are as pitch-perfect as they can be. I was pumped, I was crying, I was humming – I was transported to this world as much as anyone can be.

Amar Singh Chamkila does suffer with pacing sometimes especially because the timeline is limited to work with and a few sequences feel a bit too long but it is never much of a concern.

Amar Singh Chamkila is just Imtiaz Ali coming back to form with a bang and while it is great that it arrives on Netflix, where it will stay for posterity; it is disappointing to feel what I and so many others felt watching and experiencing it on the big screen. Do yourself a favor. Watch Amar Singh Chamkila this weekend on the largest screen you can find, with decent sound and not on your cellphones, so that you appreciate and be transfixed by Ali and his team’s masterful filmmaking and storytelling. We missed you, Imtiaz!