Chamak Review: Sparks Are Few And Far Between In Musical Thriller


Chamak Review: Sparks Are Few And Far Between In Musical Thriller

A still from Chamak. (courtesy: YouTube)

The gap that separates ostensible intent from actual content isn’t exactly yawning in Chamak, a SonyLIV series created, co-written and directed by Rohit Jugraj but the little that does exist takes some of the sheen off the musical thriller. Its sparks are not only few and far between, they aren’t bright enough.

Studded with a complement of songs that range from the peppy to the soulful, from the romantic to the radical, the six-episode series often gropes for the right rhythm. It attempts a deep dive into the Punjabi popular music scene and its social context but fails to break free from generic revenge saga devices.

Chamak is a concoction of love, crime, vengeance, social fissures and music that wades through superfluities. Some of its key plot points are gratuitously stretched, while other equally crucial strands of the storyline are glossed over.

The series is embellished with pop and hip-hop numbers composed/sung by a galaxy of Punjabi stars and curated and produced by the showrunner himself. Sadly, the narrative does not quite match the highs that the music achieves.

An aspiring singer flees Vancouver after an act of violence – an impetuous response to heartbreak – lands him in trouble with the law in Canada. He reaches Chandigarh and stumbles upon a secret that sends his life into another tailspin that constitutes the crux of the plot.

Chamak approximates the meandering course and wayward nature of the protagonist’s struggles. The narrative ricochets between the extremes of the realities of the industry and the tumult in the beleaguered young man’s heart as he battles to come to terms with his tragic family history.

Kaala (Paramvir Singh Cheema) grapples with the rough and tumble of the music industry even as he seeks to get to the bottom of the truth behind the assassination of popular pop singer Tara Singh (Gippy Grewal in a special appearance) nearly twenty-five years ago.

Much water has flown down the Beas since the violent incident, but Kaala, with some help from drummer and wannabe singer Jasmine “Jazz” Narula (Isha Talwar), an independent woman he meets by chance and develops a romantic relationship with, is determined to find the killers of Tara Singh.

The police have conveniently swept the case under the carpet for good but a doughty old journalist Gurpal Singh (Kuljeet Singh) hasn’t given up hope of figuring out what led to the killing of Tara Singh. Kaala makes common cause with the latter, who has heaps of newspaper clippings, recordings and concert posters related to the life and times of the slain singer.

The journo’s reportage suggests three likely scenarios – a terrorist strike, an honour killing or a betrayal by associates. Armed with the scribe’s fount of information, Kaala begins to ferret around for further clues. Predictably, powerful people do not want the truth to come out.

Kaala is a singer, not a crime investigator. The role is forced upon him by circumstances. It assumes increasing importance as he descends into a quagmire of intrigue at the centre of which is a thriving music label Teeja Sur.

The company is run by the temperamental Pratap Deol (Manoj Pahwa) with the aid of three children who he does not quite trust – Jai (Dhanveer Singh), Guru (Mohit Malik) and Naaz (Ankita Goraya). The old man’s disdain is directed particularly at Guru because the latter isn’t the kind of son that he expects the boy to be.

Kaala’s sights are set on a career in music but his investigation is repeatedly deflected from his calling. Somebody tells him that he must achieve success as a singer if he wishes to find what he is looking for – the men responsible for the elimination of Tara Singh a quarter century ago.

Singer Mika Singh, playing himself, reminds Kaala that though he has a powerful voice it is only when he becomes a powerful man will he be able to ensure that he gets way. Music takes the form of a tool of vendetta.

Earlier in the show, Kaala squares off against MC Square in an impromptu rap contest outside a bar where he is employed as a valet. The video goes viral and helps him grab the attention of the industry. But his big break is still some distance away.

Jealousy and self-interest come to the fore when Kaala teams up with Lata Brar (Akasa Singh), only daughter of a reclusive music guru, Jugal Brar (Suvinder Vicky), to deliver his first hit. The struggling Jazz does not take kindly to being left out in the cold.

Chamak explores in a frustratingly mechanical manner the quest for stardom in a demanding industry and the dynamics of power in the business of talent spotting and promotion.

Kaala is stranded in two separate terrains. One is represented by the repercussions of the assassination, the other by the obstacles he faces on the career front where vested interests can make or break fortunes.

Chamak refers tangentially to Tara Singh being a revolutionary singer who took on the establishment. The journalist who tracked his career points out to Kaala that there is no diversity or equality in the media business. Only dominant segments of the society get to tell their stories.

Neither of the two angles – an artiste’s non-conformism and the lack of representation in journalism – is explored beyond a point. That leaves many potentially significant themes untapped in a show that could definitely have done with greater depth and variety.

Paramvir Singh Cheema, last seen in a supporting role in Tabbar (also on SonyLIV), fits the role to a T but the inconsistencies of the character arc make his job that much harder. It redounds to his credit that he comes out of it largely unscathed.

Among other cast members, Isha Talwar, playing the drummer whose goals drift away from her even as she believes she has found a soulmate, conveys many shades of awareness in delineating a girl who hopes to make it on her own steam.

Manoj Pahwa as the tetchy music producer provides the show many of its zingier moments. Suvinder Vicky, in a supporting role with limited scope, makes the most of what the script offers him.

Chamak, barring the music it assembles to prop up a predictable storyline, does not shine quite as bright as the title suggests. In other words, the sounds of the series are outstanding but its sparkle is at best subdued.


Paramvir Singh Cheema, Gippy Grewa, Isha Talwar, Mukesh Chhabra, Suvinder Vicky, Siddharth Shaw


Rohit Jugraj


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