Real-Life Kesar Tikki In ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’: Who Was Jintender Jinda?


Amar Singh Chamkila, directed by Imtiaz Ali, is the story of a Punjabi singer who became a victim of a puritanical society. He wrote vulgar lyrics and created electrifying beats, and soon he became a sensation in Punjab. The irony is that certain people who took a lot of pride in calling themselves the flagbearers of civil society criticised the use of such vulgar words in his songs, but at the same time, people came in huge numbers to his concerts, and he became one of the highest-paid singers of those times. It is said that when a person achieves success, there are a lot of people who help him climb the ladder. Chamkila was no different, and he had people like Kesar Singh Tikki around him who provided him with all the support that they could. The character of Kesar Singh Tikki is inspired by a real-life person, and though Imtiaz Ali has taken some creative liberties in the portrayal of the character, the essence of the man has been kept intact. 

Amar Singh Chamkila begins with a man in an inebriated state, telling the people sitting around him how he was the one who made Chamkila. The people laughed at him and asked him sarcastically as to why he was in such a deplorable state when he made somebody so successful. Tikki didn’t have a reply to it, and he still doesn’t in real life. His life hasn’t been documented that much, and there is very little information about him online. It is true that Chamkila came to him because he wanted to work with Jintender Jinda (based on real-life Punjabi folk singer Surinder Shinda).

At first, Tikki didn’t want to entertain Chamkila, and he told him that he was not going to help him meet the famous singer. Kesar Singh Tikki said in an interview that he asked Chamkila to sing for him, basically to assess if he could actually sing or not. Tikki was moved by his performance, and that’s when he decided that he was going to take him to the famous Punjabi singer. Kesar Singh himself played the “dholak,” and after Chamkila started performing, he became a permanent member of his band. 

Tikki realized that there was something very special about Chamkila. His lyrics struck a chord with the audience, and he was a showman in the true sense. There was a time when Jinda did not arrive at a concert at the right time, and to calm down the crowd, the producer asked Chamkila to take the stage and sing something. The crowd was hostile, but very soon they started cheering for him. In fact, when Jinda arrived at the scene, the crowd no longer wanted to listen to him. It could be said that until Chamkila went to Canada, there was no rift between Tikki and him, and they both shared a very close bond. Tikki was there with Chamkila through thick and thin, and together, they made sure that the name Chamkila was registered in everybody’s minds. 

We don’t know if Tikki got angry at Chamkila because he didn’t take him to Canada, but it is a reality that there came a time when the former didn’t even want to see the face of the singer. If you look at Tikki’s interview, one thing that is clearly established is that the man believes that he had a huge role to play in Chamkila’s success. Tikki’s eyes told us the kind of frustration and hopelessness he was filled with. He knew that things could have worked for him, and he probably would have climbed the ladder of success. At least according to the film, Tikki couldn’t blame anybody but himself. He was responsible for what he did, and probably at that time he didn’t know what the consequences of severing ties with Chamkila could be. Today Tikki reminisces about the good old days, and he often thinks about where he would have been in the present time if things hadn’t turned out the way they did. 

Kesar Singh Tikki did work after that, but he could never enjoy the kind of success he had with Chamkila. According to the film, he was never able to make something out of his life, and that regret stayed with him always.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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