Amar Singh Chamkila stands out as a remarkable musical genius amidst the vast and varied landscape of Indian cinema, intricately crafted to portray the life and influence of one of Punjab’s most iconic folk singers. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, this cinematic masterpiece transcends the boundaries of a traditional biopic. It is a tribute to the steadfast spirit of Chamkila, whose music continues to echo throughout Punjabi culture.

The story of Amar Singh Chamkila is a unique blend of legend and legacy. The tale of a Punjabi musician who met a tragic end in the 1980s, his collaborations, aspirations, and fears are depicted through the lens of public opinion. His rise to fame sheds light on the complexities of grassroots popularity. 

An architectural review of Amar Singh Chamkila-Sheet1
Amar Singh Chamkila played by Diljit Dosanj.cc_©Times of India

The Architectonic Silhouette.

The architecture of the film is multifaceted and reflects the complex nature of Chamkila himself. Moving from the vast rural landscape of Punjab to the bustling city streets, each shot is cleverly crafted to immerse the audience in the vibrant backdrop of the 1970s and 80s. The production design perfectly combines historical accuracy with artistic creativity, capturing the essence of a bygone era with a modern twist.

The director has effectively preserved cultural authenticity by subtly incorporating a key element of Punjabi rural architecture – residential courtyards and expansive terraces. These courtyards play a versatile role, serving as spaces for domestic activities, social gatherings, and agricultural tasks. Typically, they consist of a central open area, encircled by living quarters, storage rooms, and shelters for animals.

An architectural review of Amar Singh Chamkila-Sheet2
The depiction of women using terrace and courtyard for entertainment and household purposes.cc_©sylvesterfonseca.jpg

The movie portrays a scene where Chamkila is honored with the title of “kotha dhau kalakar” (the roof breaker) by the villagers, highlighting the use of terraces in Punjab that offered a private space for women to appreciate the view. The film showcases a unique architectural style known for its simplicity, functionality and seamless blend with natural surroundings. Traditional Punjabi architecture features vernacular one-story buildings with thick mud walls, often decorated with intricate brickwork around windows, doors, and corners that showcase the skills of local craftsmen. Decorative elements in the form of geometric patterns and floral motifs are usually seen in these structures.

At its core, the film’s architecture revolves around the narrative structure, which unfolds like a melodic composition. Each scene is carefully built from the previous one, creating a rhythmic cadence that reflects Chamkila’s own musical journey. From his humble beginnings in a small town to his explosive rise to fame, every turn of his life is captured with precision and nuance.

The Brief.

The story progresses with a young boy who dares to express his observations without conforming social norms. This boy grows up to become a musician who fearlessly crafts lyrics that are immodest to many. Despite facing initial challenges, his bold approach earns him widespread acclaim. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Chamkila’s success was not only immediate but also consistent. Throughout the film, Chamkila’s life is told from the perspective of people who know him closely.These individuals reveal that his lyrics were inspired by everyday occurrences, often shrouded in darkness or secrecy. Chamkila’s willingness to speak out resonated with audiences, even if it meant facing opposition from some female vocalists. However, when Amarjot Kaur joined forces with Chamkila, their voices and hearts aligned, allowing them to embark on a musical journey together without constraints.

An architectural review of Amar Singh Chamkila-Sheet3
This shots depict his fame in Punjab. cc_© sylvesterfonseca.jpg

The Climax

Nothing remains good forever; before long, the challenges started to arise. Chamkila faced opposition from many, some criticizing his seemingly vulgar lyrics while others were simply driven by jealousy. Despite the difficulties, Chamkila and Amarjot persevered with the support of their friends. Eventually, their fame spread internationally, and they began performing on theater stages. However, something changed during this time. The supposed joy of performing to a full house now transformed into a deep-rooted fear within Chamkila’s heart. This leads us to the climax of both the film and Amar Singh Chamkila’s life. From being a substitute to achieving international fame, Amar Singh experienced it all. The constant threats made him immune to fear. Just like his bold lyrics, he chose to live a bold life, even though it was tragically short-lived. Amar Singh Chamkila passed away at the young age of 27.

An architectural review of Amar Singh Chamkila-Sheet4
the scene of his international fame in spite of the threats.cc_© sylvesterfonseca.jpg

Throughout the movie, Chamkila grapples with the balance between satisfying and disappointing, between hearing and listening. His art is a product of observation, not idealization; there was no filter between head and heart. Consequently, he faces threats from both the establishment and the anti-establishment. Even when he succumbs to pressure and transforms his image from a provocateur to a devotional singer, there is no clear victory. Either the elite or the common people find fault. Chamkila’s career centers on catering to the masses, taking pride in understanding what the audience craves to hear. 

While the two bodies lie in Chamkila’s bungalow, the place that witnessed significant events of Chamkila’s life, and now his death. In the courtyard of his home, his friends paint a vivid picture of him to the police and the viewers, portraying him as a noble individual and a talented singer. The film may be set in the past, but its message speaks in the present. It exposes the hypocrisy of those who seek solace in private indulgence while projecting a facade of public virtue. It sheds light on the art world’s politics, constrained by the shackles of intolerance.


A sedulous Architect with a passion for Art, literature and creativity. She believes that words can make a great impact on the mind but even greater impact on your perspective. As a journalism enthusiast, she strives to share her perspective on architecture as a piece of art with the world.