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Who was Amar Singh Chamkila? 5 things to know about the legendary Punjabi singer

Amar Singh Chamkila is an upcoming biopic, based on the eponymous legendary singer. Ahead of the OTT release of Imtiaz Ali's film this summer, here are 5 things to know about the Punjabi icon.

Who was Amar Singh Chamkila? 5 things to know about the legendary Punjabi singer
Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra in Amar Singh Chamkila

Last Updated: 01.47 PM, Mar 28, 2024


Amar Singh Chamkila is Imtiaz Ali’s latest summer creation to grace our private screens, thanks to Netflix. Set to release on April 12, 2024, the biographical drama features heart-touching music, rustic struggles for stardom, and the perils of fame, resulting in the legendary Punjabi singer Amar Singh Chamkila’s untimely demise, at the tender age of 28. Before streaming the touching biopic, here are five things to know about Amar Singh Chamkila, the man.

1. Amar Singh Chamkila was born Dhanni Ram, came from humble origins

Amar Singh Chamkila was born into a Ravidasia Sikh Chamar family as Dhanni Ram on July 21, 1960. His childhood was spent in the village of Dugri near Ludhiana, Punjab, while his ambition of becoming an electrician remained unfulfilled after he went to work at a cloth mill in Ludhiana. Since he had a natural flair for music since childhood, he learned to play the dholki and harmonium before approaching the legendary Punjabi singer Surinder Shinda on a bicycle, at the age of 18, and singing to impress. There was no looking back after that.


2. Amar Singh Chamkila had once done more shows than days in a year!

Amar Singh Chamkila, which was the stage name Dhanni Ram had adopted, had a biography written on him. Titled Awaz Mardi Nahin by Gulzar Singh Shaunki, the biography’s research revealed that at the peak of his popularity, Chamkila had once performed 366 shows in a year of 365 days, a massive record few megastars today can boast of.

3. Amar Singh Chamkila was called the ‘Elvis of Punjab’ by this popular musician

Such was his influence on modern Punjabi music, irrespective of language and boundaries, that Indian music composer and singer Amit Trivedi had called Chamkila the “Elvis of Punjab” and a real “legend”. British Indian musician, rapper, producer and DJ, Panjabi MC also cited Amar Singh Chamkila as one of his influences and inspirations.

4. Amar Singh Chamkila and his wife were the epitome of a ‘modern couple’ in the ‘80s and ‘90s, sang on social issues

Amar Singh Chamkila had sung duets and recorded albums with multiple renowned female Punjabi singers like Surinder Sonia, Miss Usha Kiran, Amar Noorie, and many more, but had found his bedrock and perfect partner, both in life and music in Amarjot Kaur. She had been a female champion herself, having left her previous marriage to pursue music. 

The musical couple sang on lyrics composed by Chamkila, which were exciting and suggestive, but also open commentaries on social issues like extramarital affairs, drug abuse, and alcoholism. This catapulted them not only to national but also international acclaim, while inviting a lot of jealousy and controversy from others.

5. Amar Singh Chamkila and wife Amarjot were gunned down in broad daylight

On March 8, 1988, Amar Singh Chamkila and his wife were brutally gunned down after they exited their vehicle in Mehsampur, Punjab, at two in the afternoon. They were to perform in the village when a gang of unknown motorcyclists fatally wounded Chamkila, Amarjot, and other members of their group. Though it is alleged that Sikh militants were involved in the assassination, no arrests were ever made over their murder and the case has remained unsolved.

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