Review: 'Chamak' shines with sparkling original Punjabi songs against the backdrop of an engaging revenge saga
"It's easy to become a singer here in Punjab but difficult to become a star"
Published: Tuesday,Dec 05, 2023 18:30 PM GMT-07:00
"Be it Punjab within the border or the outside, the soil here is blessed. A child is born with singing qualities inside the womb. It's easy to become a singer here but difficult to become a star." A character in Chamak is rather non-chalant about these lines when he mouths them to the protagonist Kaala (Paramvir Singh Cheema) sitting at a dhaba eating food. Even though this is almost towards the end of the third episode, it sets the tone and mood for what Chamak stands for - rooted, authentic and raw.
However, beyond the overarching theme, Chamak is a quintessential revenge saga that works more often than not mainly because of the artists attached to it. From being a fugitive who has left Canada after some questionable decisions to coming in Punjab, India only to encounter a secret he is shocked to know about - Kala's (Paramvir Cheema) path changes entirely and begins his revenge saga while also making a name in the Punjabi music industry. Having had the chance to see the six episodes beforehand, here's what I thought about it-
Up and Down Graph
Chamak doesn't entirely follow a linear path in conveying what could have been a trope, we have seen a million times. Him learning about his parents, who were assassinated by unknown people right in the middle of a singing performance sets the stage for Kala to uncover the truth which lead him to some powerful juggernauts of the industry. Chamak shines best when it deals with the inner demons of multiple characters, especially the large family of Pratap Singh Deol (Manoj Pahwa) which consists of two songs and one daughter. The dysfunctionality of the family and toxicity that Pratap exhibits while his spoilt brats try to make him happy in one way or another is what forms the most intriguing parallel storyline.
Here with Kala, there are several developments that are rather convenient and that is when you are momentarily pushed out of the world. There is a consistent up and down journey you, the viewer also goes through with Kala, where you like him, dislike him, understand him and sorta question him again. The layers help Cheema portray Kala with conviction and emotion thus making sure you are thoroughly invested with him.
The other standouts are undoubtedly the likes of Manoj Pahwa as Pratap Deol, Suvinder Vicky as Jugal Brar, Gippy Grewal's special appearance as Tara Singh, Akasa Singh as Lata Brar, and Mohit Malik as Guru. Especially with Malik, he is cognizant of the fact that playing an LGBTQIA+ character is so stereotypical (so much so that his character literally even talks about it in one conversation) but there is a deliberate attempt to give nothing but purity and heart to Guru, which Malik performs with finesse. The screenplay of Chamak stumbles to perplexing developments as well - the convenience with which Isha Talwar's Jazz falls for Kala, and more so, the journalist Gurpal giving away information and helping Kala rather easily and so on.
These limitations are enough to have you wondering the next step but somehow pulls you back in owing to the actors and their performances. The biggest flaw that Chamak has with the subject matter is that for a show that is so scintillating with its original music, it doesn't entirely touch upon and explore the facets of modern Punjabi music v/s old folklore - something which would have been so much more interesting than other things.
Revenge Saga - A Garb For Scintillating Music
The one area that Chamak shines where it should have shone - is its music. I mean, a musical thriller would have been a dud if the music didn't deliver, right? But it does with flying colors. The incorporation of some of the finest Punjabi artists not only into the album but also into the show is done expertly.
The cameos by Mika Singh and MC Square standout as they become propellers to Kala's story in the best way possible. Afsana Khan, Shashwat Singh, and Bullet Paji also appear in nuggets that light up the screen visually and by their voices as well. There is a sense of understanding as to how these artists knew that they are doing this for the greater good. An attempt to showcase the true flavor of the Punjabi music industry that rise above the known stereotypes and assumptions. It is almost impossible that all of us don't have atleast one Punjabi song on their playlist. Being probably the most loved form of music globally, Chamak is here to showcase the authenticity and love with which this art form forms the lives of so many people.
You might love some songs or not, but it is rare to entirely dislike or ridicule a Punjabi song with any beat. Hence, the original album of Chamak isn't just an aid to the storyline here but, in fact, is the storyline what matters more than anything else.
Chamak might take a while to have you care about the story and the characters initially but once the setting shifts to India entirely, it sparkles with twists, turns and some mesmerising music. The innovation and originality with the creation of a show like this needs to celebrated as it also ends with a cliffhanger for Season 2, or one can say the remainder of the first season.
Rating - ***1/2 (3.5/5)