We're all well aware of the legendary Punjabi singer Amar Singh Chamkila who was assassinated brutally on the 8th of March 1988. This cold-blooded murder shocked the industry and while some reasoned that he was killed for singing objectionable songs, there were others who thought that he was murdered by someone from the industry to eradicate competition.
“I got out of the car and started walking with my dhol, and behind me, this 6ft-tall man opened up on the car with his AK-47," remembers dholak player Lal Chand, who had been part of Chamkila’s troupe since 1985. Three decades have passed, but Chand remembers the scene in vivid detail—dropping his dholak to run towards the fields, looking back to see the man emptying his gun into Amarjot, Chamkila leaning out to catch her and catching a bullet in the chest instead. “They told one of the musicians, Harjit Singh Gill, to run. Said they’d shoot him if he turned around. He started crying and begging for his life so they shot him in the chest."
Chamkila had an arranged marriage with Gurmail Kaur with whom he had two daughters, Amandeep Kaur and Kamaldeep Kaur. Chamkila's second marriage was with his co-singer Amarjot Kaur, with whom he has a son Jaiman Chamkila. It was a love marriage held on 23 May 1983. Chamkila had spoken with close friends that he felt compelled to marry Amarjot as that was the only way to ensure the duet stayed together.
Chamkila is regarded as one of the best stage performers Punjab has ever produced. His music was heavily influenced by the Punjabi village life he was surrounded by growing up. He commonly wrote songs about extra-marital relationships, coming of age, drinking, drug use, and the hot tempers of Punjabi men. He earned a controversial reputation, with his detractors regarding his music obscene, and his supporters regarding it a truthful commentary on Punjabi culture and society.
Born on 21 July 1960 in the village of Dugri near Ludhiana, Punjab, Chamkila's first time in the studio was the session when he provided backing vocals alongside Kuldeep Paras for Surinder Shinda's hit song "Putt Jattan De".
It is rumored that Chamkila was happy enough writing songs, but he wasn't earning enough money to look after his family, so had to start singing. He was initially the shagird of Surinder Shinda but after he realized that he could manage on his own, he broke away and started performing separately. Chamkila's sudden rise to fame turned many green with envy and a lot of other singers worked day and night to bring the man down, but it was only death that closed his chapter, else he would have ruled for god knows how many years more.
Surprisingly, a day before the assassination of Chamkila and Amarjot, another controversial singing duo was performing at the same place on the same stage at nearly the same time of the day but just a day ahead.
Surinder Shinda and Gulshan Komal, another duet which was known for singing songs with double meanings, were there in Mehsampur at the same stage where Chamkila was killed the following day.
"No one could believe that such a thing had happened to Chamkila, especially us! We were right there on the same stage a day prior to his performance. The man had an unexpectedly sad end and it felt terrible that an artist was killed so brutally," said Gulshan Komal in a recent interview.