Born on 26th July 1960, Amar Singh or best known by his stage name Chamkila was a singer, songwriter, musician, and composer who worked in the Punjabi music industry.
Initially, he aspired to be an electrician, but this wish of his was not fulfilled. He then started working in a cotton mill. He had a knack for music and was able to play harmonium and dholki as well.
Then 18-year-old Chamkila approached Surinder Shinda, a Punjabi folk musician. After listening to him sing, Shinda had found his protégé. Chamkila then went on to work and performed alongside Surinder Shinda before going solo.
His solo career was a hit, and people had started calling him ‘the Elvis of Punjab’.
In his personal life, he was married twice and had two daughters (Kamaldeep Kaur and Amandeep Kaur) and a son (Jaiman Chamkila). His first marriage was arranged with Gurmail Kaur. While being married to Gurmail, he got married again to Amarjot Kaur.
Chamkila was a man of his word. He had gone to various extensions and trouble to perform where he said he would. He had never canceled a show. One such day was 8th March 1988 when he was going to perform in the village of Mehsampur, Punjab. He was traveling alongside his wife, Amarjot, and other members who were going to perform.
They arrived at approximately 2 PM. As soon as they stepped out of their car, a group of youths riding motorcycles started shooting at them.
The driver somehow managed to escape and ran for his life. Later he told the police about what happened at the incident. Meanwhile, the people who were present at the spot to watch the show started running behind the youths on motorcycles after the shooting. However, they were not able to catch the shooters as they fled the scene as soon as they could.
After the shooting, Chamkila was lying near a well, and shots were fired at his chest. He and his wife were declared dead on the spot. Other injured people were taken to the hospital.
Even though the next of kin of Chamkila refused to file a police complaint, there was a complaint registered. The police found no clue after their investigation, and the case is unsolved to this date.
This high-profile assassination murder raised various controversies, rumors, and theories. Some of these well-known speculations of the reason behind the killing are:
- Honor killing – Chamkila and Amarjot were from different castes. The killing could have been ordered by Amarjot’s family to save their family name from society.
- A separatists group was not satisfied with the work of Chamkila.
- Some suggest professional rivalry. With the increasing popularity of Chamkila, some other artists may have been jealous and could have been behind the killings.
- Another theory is that an angered organizer ordered the shooting because Chamkila refused to perform for his show.
Well, the real reason behind the death of Chamkila is still unknown. It’s highly unlikely that we are going to find the real reason. It could have been one of the above speculation or a whole another reason altogether; we may never know.
To this date, people listen to his song and are inspired by him. One such example is Diljit Dosanjh, who is inspired by Chamkila and has also sung his songs.
Kabir Singh Chowdhry produced and directed Mehsampur, a 2018 Indian mockumentary film based on Chamkila’s life. According to reports, Imtiaz Ali is working on a big-budget biopic on his life.
Edited by Anupama Roy