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Last Updated 23.06.2024 | 10:12 PM IST
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Imtiaz Ali on allegations of vulgarity against Amar Singh Chamkila’s songs, “Other Punjabi singers also sang vulgar lyrics, but why were the not equally popular?”

en Bollywood News Imtiaz Ali on allegations of vulgarity against Amar Singh Chamkila’s songs, “Other Punjabi singers also sang vulgar lyrics, but why were the not equally popular?”

Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali’s Netflix movie Amar Singh Chamkila has struck a chord with the audience. The film is the biopic on the life of the famous musical star from Punjab, who was assassinated at a young age of just 27. The film also speaks about the alleged vulgarity associated with Chamkila’s songs. In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, Imtiaz Ali touched upon this aspect and more related to his movie and the late musical personality.

Imtiaz Ali on allegations of vulgarity against Amar Singh Chamkila's songs, "Other Punjabi singers also sang vulgar lyrics, but why were the not equally popular?"

Imtiaz Ali on allegations of vulgarity against Amar Singh Chamkila’s songs, “Other Punjabi singers also sang vulgar lyrics, but why were the not equally popular?”

One of the ongoing themes in Amar Singh Chamkila is the definition of vulgarity in popular art. A sizeable part of Punjab thought Chamkila's lyrics were objectionable even while the young (girls included) are shown enjoying Chamkila's naughty numbers. What is your take on vulgarity in the arts, and on Chamkila’s lyrics?
One of our line producers Mr Darshan Aulakh told me he was the Bhangra captain in his university days back in the 1980s and 90s. Those were tough times in Punjab. The girls’ hostel area in Punjab university was out of bounds for boys. But he being a Bhangra captain was allowed to go into the girls’ area of the hospital and practise Bhangra with the girls and the boys. He said he was startled to hear only Chamkila playing in each of the girls’ rooms in the hostel, and when he told me this during one of trips to Punjab, I was taken aback.

Was that your main impetus to explore Chamkila’s music in cinema?
Then during one of my various trips to Punjab, I got to hear of incidents where Chamkila’s songs were played at the insistence of local girls. Another friend Varuna Rana from Punjab told me how she as a young small town girl in Punjab knew her brother kept Chamkila cassettes locked in his scooter. In the afternoon she would take the key of the scooter, sneak out the tapes and listen to Chamkila with her friends. These incidents are there in my film, and all of them are real. And that led me to think about old Punjabi folk songs that women sing at weddings and other celebrations in Punjab, Bihar and all of North India. And South India, as Rahman Sir told me. So I think women found traction in the way Chamkila wrote and sang. And here is a big point that the sound recordist Charanjit Ahuja also made: that Chamkila ke haath mein kalaa hai. He knew how to present bold lyrics in the most palatable interesting funny way possible. This made him popular. Other Punjabi singers of Chamkila’s era also sang vulgar lyrics. But why were the not equally popular?

You tell me?
Chamkila knew how to communicate with his audience. The other thing that I found very interesting about Chamkila’s lyrics is that he doesn’t assume the role of male superiority. All his lyrics have men and women playacting playing different roles. Sometimes they play father-daughter, sometimes they play jija-saali. But more often than not, the woman is also an aggressor in Chamkila’s songs, and the man finds himself vulnerable in the lyrics. So it’s not as if the women were dominated in Chamkila’s songs. There is  a certain sense of liberation in the way he sang. I think women enjoyed his songs.

Should his songs have been censored?
The question of censorship has always been interesting to me. I, as a filmmaker, would be happy in a world where there is no censorship, where people have a choice to decide what they want. The question of whether someone needs to take a moral high ground to decide what someone should hear or not hear is a bit discriminatory to me. But it remains a very interesting question. I think Chamkila suffered due to this all his life.

Also Read: Imtiaz Ali on Amar Singh Chamkila being accused of vulgarity, “He knew how to present bold lyrics in the most palatable, interesting and funny way possible”

More Pages: Amar Singh Chamkila Box Office Collection , Amar Singh Chamkila Movie Review


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