Amar Singh Chamkila – Music Review (Bollywood Soundtrack)

Soundtrack credits at the end.

Last year, while reviewing Amit Trivedi and Kausar Munir’s outstanding work in Jubilee, the track I named as my favourite was Saare Ke Saare, a composition that seemed like a tribute to Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye and Dekhi Zamaane Ki Yaari. In Amar Singh Chamkila too, my favourite song from A R Rahman and Irshad Kamil feels like a nod to Yeh Duniya in spirit; an artist lamenting and giving up on a society that treated them unkindly. Even musically, Vida Karo is crafted as a retro Hindi melody a la the Burmans etc (shades of khamaj raaga I thought, which incidentally the Burmans have employed for some real gems), except with a mix of Punjabi words (in which Kamil appears to tip his hat to Shivkumar Batalvi, who had a poem by the same title). Rahman keeps the orchestration at a minimal level; the gentle use of flute, piano and strings immensely accentuate the poignancy of the track. But it is the main man behind the mic – Arijit Singh – who truly makes you feel that lump in your throat with his measured yet incredibly effective delivery, reminiscent of yesteryear legends. And just as you are soaking in Arijit’s vocals, the composer – as he has done multiple times in the past to fantastic effect – throws a second voice late into the mix, the incredible Jonita Gandhi who matches the former pound for pound. The harmonies involving both singers in the final iteration of the opening verse is truly one of the highlights of the song. Ishq Mitaaye is a track very much identifiable as an ARR piece from an Imtiaz Ali movie (and not least because it is fronted by Mohit Chauhan 😀)  – there’s a bit of Wat Wat Wat (Tamasha), Sheher Mein (Rockstar) etc about it. A routine Punjabi flavoured track that soars around the segments where the chorus joins Mohit (felt a bit of shivaranjani raaga flavour in these parts). The Main Hoon Panjab phrase packs quite a punch, especially with the context of the situation the song appears in the movie. It comes with a great visualisation as well. Another piece that is wonderfully choreographed in the movie is Naram Kaalja, a folk-heavy (and risqué) dance number that has the ladies of the film voicing their wildest desires – Irshad Kamil sort of flipping the narrative, as it were. Alka Yagnik, Richa Sharma, Pooja Tiwari and Yashika Sikka lead the vocals here that strike a fine balance between attitude and fun – the backing vocalists are also in great form with their little touches; loved that haaye mar jaawaan main gud khaake at the end of the second stanza! That said, I would have preferred a younger voice in place of Alka. Lovely woodwind solos by Paras Nath stand out in the instrumental passages, starting with the jodiya pava (I think) in the prelude.

The instrument that Amar Singh Chamkila is almost always seen with, the tumbi, finds its appearance in multiple songs from the album, understandably, but the best and most prominent use of the instrument happens in Tu Kya Jaane. A charming romantic melody from the composer, Tu Kya Jaane is a solo act by Yashika Sikka (is it just me or does she sound a bit like Neeti Mohan?), one that the singer knocks out of the park! So much to love about the singing here, like the multiple variations of the Tu Kya Jaane line (the movie version of the song features even more of these), especially that touch of melancholy every time she sings Tu Kya Jaane Meri Jaan instead of Tu Kya Jaane Mere Yaar. Also worth mentioning is the humming outro where the singer builds beautifully on the sarod solo (it sounds like sarod to me, but weirdly there is no sarod mentioned in credits – wonder if SM Subhani produced this sound on a banjo) from the first interlude. The dholak-led percussion brought to mind some iconic ARR compositions in a similar genre and mood, like Saawariya Saawariya and Kurukku Sirutthavale/Chalo Chale Mitwa. I have not been a big fan of ARR’s compositions in recent movies where he tries to pack multiple songs into one song. However, the composer’s paean to Amar Singh Chamkila titled Baaja is one case where those multifarious parts come together quite nicely. Although I am still bummed about how the ethereal opening segment by Suryansh gets cut off abruptly, the high energy bits that follow are entertaining as well, helped by the efforts of Mohit Chauhan, who plays the bard role very effectively, both behind the mic and – surprisingly – on-screen! Accompanying the opening credits, the song quite comprehensively sums up what Chamkila achieved with his songs, and the tumultuous period during which he did so – and therefore takes on an anthemic tone at times (a bit of sindhubhairavi raaga I think). Irshad Kamil is in incredible form here; his lines replete with colourful usages like social darinda (which he incidentally also employed in Imtiaz Ali’s previous film Love Aaj Kal, in the song Parmeshwara). Rahman’s orchestration here grows in intensity and grandness as it progresses, building up to a crescendo of sorts. It was also nice to hear a favourite of mine, Romy, debut with Rahman – his voice is quite prominent towards the frenetic closing segment. In Bol Mohabbat, the lyricist incorporates Baba Bulleh Shah’s words that perfectly encapsulate the essence of Chamkila’s quote from the preceding sequence. It isn’t the composer’s first day at the rodeo when it comes to adapting Bulleh Shah’s lines for sufi songs of course (I get a strong feeling that I have heard the mainu apni tod nibhavan de line in another ARR song, but I am unable to place it), so it comes as no surprise that the composition turns out as impactful it is. Rahman helms the vocals as well, and the instrumentation featuring the frame drum, an oud-like plucked string et al keep the sound quite rustic. Great piece to bring the fine soundtrack to a close.

Six songs that last just over 28 minutes. This is probably the shortest Imtiaz Ali movie soundtrack ever. But it is by no means less enjoyable than those previous soundtracks. It is amazing that after extracting two great soundtracks out of Pritam in his last two projects, the man just gets back with ARR and produces another beauty like it’s no big deal! Long may these partnerships continue!

PS: I have not included Amar Singh Chamkila’s original compositions featured throughout the movie in my review, more out of lack of time than anything else. So had to make a mention of Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra’s wonderful delivery of those songs. Also I loved how the Hindi translations were presented on screen!

Music Aloud Rating: 4/5

Top recos: Vida Karo, Tu Kya Jaane, Baaja

Soundtrack Credits

Songs Composed, Produced, Arranged by A.R. Rahman

Lyrics by Irshad Kamil

Music Supervisor – Hiral Viradia

Mixed and Mastered by Nitish R Kumar

Vida Karo

Singers: Arijit Singh, Jonita Gandhi

Additional Vocals: Hiral Viradia

Flute: Nikhil Ram

Chennai Strings Orchestra conducted by: Prabhakaran

Score transcribed by: Samarth Srinivasan

Tu Kya Jaane

Singer: Yashika Sikka

Additional Vocals: Sarthak Kalyani

Percussions and Tumbi: Vijay Yamla

Mandolin and Banjo: SM Subhani

Bass: Keith Peters


Singers: Mohit Chauhan, Romy, Suryansh, Inderpreet Singh

Additional Vocals: Hriday Gattani, Dilshad Shaikh, Tajinder Singh, Devender Pal Singh, Aasa Singh, Arvinder Singh, Sarthak Kalyani, Gurtaj, Alka Yagnik, Hiral Viradia, Yashika Sikka, Divya Iyer, Aanandi Joshi, Poorvi Koutish

Live Rhythm played by: Omkar Salunkhe, Keyur Barve, Gautam Sharma, Arun Solanki, Deepak Bhatt

Live Rhythm arranged by: Parag Chhabra

Flute: Ashish Venkateswaran

Additional Orchestration by: Shubham Bhat

Sunshine Brass: Conducted by Lisa Sarasini

Chennai Strings Orchestra: Conducted by Yensone

Scores transcribed by: Samarth Srinivasan

Naram Kaalja

Singers: Alka Yagnik, Richa Sharma, Pooja Tiwari, Yashika Sikka

Additional Vocals: Pinky Maidasani, Shifa Ruby, Meenu Kale

Rhythm: Omkar Salunkhe, Hanif Aslam, Pratap Rath

Additional Rhythm Arrangement: Parag Chhabra

Flute: Paras Nath

Bass: Keith Peters

Ishq Mitaaye

Singer: Mohit Chauhan

Additional Vocals: Harshil Pathak, Sarthak Kalyani, Inderpreet Singh, Romy, Aasa Singh, Arvinder Singh

Bol Mohabbat

Singers: A R Rahman, Kailash Kher

Additional Vocals: Suryansh, Sarthak Kalyani

Frame Drums: Hamta Baghi

Additional Programming: Sarthak Kalyani

Sound Engineers :-

Panchathan Record Inn, Chennai

Senior engineers – Suresh Permal, Karthik Sekaran

Recording engineers – Sreekanth Hariharan, Sarath Santosh

Assisting engineers – Aravind Crescendo, Suryansh, Sathish V Saravanan

Panchathan Studios, Mumbai

Recording engineers – Dilshaad Shabbir Shaikh, Nitish R Kumar

Assisting Engineers- Harshil Pathak, Naval Chikhkiya

Head of Technical Services – Riyasdeen Riyan

Dolby Atmos Music – Riyasdeen Riyan

Musician Coordinators – R Samidurai, Abdul Hayum

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