Sony LIV’s ‘Chamak’ takes us into a story of revenge, delving into the complex, glamorous, and oftentimes, dangerous world of the Punjabi music industry. We follow Kaala, a rising Punjabi rapper who grew up in Canada until he learned the truth about his parents’ death. His father was the legendary singer Taara Singh, who was gunned down during a performance along with his wife. With a fire lit inside him, Kaala returns to Punjab to continue his father’s legacy and uncover his killers. Beginning his search with nothing but a faded photograph, he soon encounters allies in his father’s business partner, Pratap Deol, an aspiring musician, Jazz, and the disillusioned journalist Gurpal.
Created by Rohit Jugraj, Kaala begins to find success in his provocative music while digging deeper into his investigation, inviting the ire of conservative communities and political groups. The show features multiple Punjabi artists as actors and guest appearances, including Gippy Grewal, Mika Singh, and Malkit Singh. With its political overtones and a story firmly grounded in the Punjabi music industry, ‘Chamak’ might inspire you to contemplate the extent of its basis in reality.
Is Chamak Loosely Based on a True Story?
While ‘Chamak’ is not based on a true story, it borrows its title and premise from the legendary Punjabi folk musician, Amar Singh Chamkila. The wildly popular singer rapidly rose to fame in Punjab during the 1970s and 80s, before being shot along with his wife and two band members while performing in Mehsampur, in 1988. In the show’s opening scenes, Kaala’s father, Taara Singh, is gunned down in a similar fashion, forcing his son and relatives to flee to Canada. As per reports, Amar Singh Chamkila’s killers were never found, and no concrete evidence was discovered regarding motives and suspects, leaving police at a dead-end.
It has been reported that Rohit Jugraj takes the singer’s story and fictionalizes it, introducing a vengeful son, a conspiracy behind the shooting, and a deep network of criminal and political connections influencing the music industry. Dhanni Ram was the birth name of Amar Singh Chamkila, who grew up in a village near Ludhiana belonging to the Ravidasia Sikh Chamar community, which is considered a backward cast. He began singing at the age of 20 and caused a music revolution with his hard-hitting lyrics taking up the taboo day-to-day realities of his society. His songs contained sexual humor and an uninhibited tone while talking about drug use, extramarital affairs, alcoholism, and cast discrimination.
Though the singer’s songs were deemed obscene by many, he drew enormous crowds performing for villages, and often found himself booked for every day of the month. The character of Taara Singh in ‘Chamak,’ is also a folk musician performing for a village, who is shot for his ideas being considered disruptive for his time, and thus clearly borrows from the persona of Amar Singh Chamkila. The showrunners of ‘Chamak’ are not the only ones seemingly inspired by the life of the late artist. A biopic on Amar Singh Chamkila is in the pipeline as of writing, with Diljit Dosanjh to play the titular character, with Parineeti Chopra starring opposite him, and acclaimed director Imtiaz Ali at the helm.
Additional real-world commentary in the show is apparent as a child wearing a Sidhu Moose Wala T-shirt receives a thumbs-up from Kaala. Sidhu Moose Wala is another famous Punjabi musician who was shot near his village in 2022, with gangster Goldy Brar taking credit. Moose Wala was similarly known for his provocative songs talking about crime, politics, media, fame, and the struggles of youth. Notably, singer-turned-actor Gippy Grewal, who essays the role of Taara Singh, was targeted in an attack on his house in Canada, a little more than a week before the show’s release. Gunmen fired shots outside the property, and gangster Lawrence Bishnoi, an accused in the Sidhu Moose Wala murder case and an associate of Goldy Brar, took credit.
Per reports, Bishnoi threatened Gippy Grewal on Facebook, stating his closeness with Salman Khan and their reaction to Moose Wala’s death was the reason for the attack. He said, “Your dramatic response to Sidhu Moose Wala’s death did not go unnoticed. We all know the kind of person he was and the criminal associations he had. You hovered around Vicky when he was in Middukheda, and later, you mourned even more for Sidhu. You’ve now landed on our radar. Consider this a trailer; the full film will be released soon. Flee to any country you wish, but remember, death doesn’t require a visa; it comes uninvited.”
When asked about the relationship between the show and these real-life incidents, Rohit Jugraj, while wearing a t-shirt that read “No artist should be killed,” talked about the very real roots behind his fictional narrative in an interview. “This is the story of the whole soundscape of Punjabi music, what goes behind it,” he said, “Only now we get to hear about Sidhu Moose Wala, Amar Singh Chamkila, there have been many artists in Punjab like this, who have given up their lives for the sake of art.”
Taking the aforementioned points into consideration, it becomes clear in the showrunner’s own words that the story of ‘Chamak’ pays homage to Punjabi artists who have struggled, been outcasted, or killed for their work. The musical thriller boasts 14 artists and 28 songs throughout it, drawing inspiration from the martyrs of the industry to create a fictional narrative of revenge that seeks to convey certain realities of Punjabi soundscape.
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