On the birth anniversary of our dear Tramp, Boski Gupta asks why are we ignoring the importance of laughter in our lives
Charlie Chaplin’s once famously said, “You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.” It’s this smile we have lost today, and that’s all the more reason to remember the Tramp on his birthday. Who would believe that a young man whose personal life was full of tragedies and turmoil — he lost both his parents early in his childhood and survived by working on stage full time as early as when he’s 10 – would choose to make people laugh as his profession. Chaplin chose to fight all odds and come out a winner in a world full of indifference and cunning. With his trademark toothbrush moustache, derby hat, black coat and walking stick Charlie Chaplin had the power to induce the most powerful emotion of human mind: Humour. And it is with this emotion that the actor will always be remembered.
Actor Rakesh Bedi says he was always inspired by Chaplin. “For me Charlie Chaplin is humour. He could prompt easily what no one could do, and that was laughter,” says Bedi who accepts that he had enjoyed Chaplin right from his childhood days. “I still remember how I used to catch a Chaplin movie when I was in college. I never missed a single movie of his. Even while studying at FTII when I was doing my acting course, I used to watch Chaplin movies not just for fun but also for inspiration,” he says. It’s true that Chaplin has inspired one and many. In India, the biggest example would be Raj Kapoor whose Chaplinesque image made him stand out among his peers at that time. Kapoor was a thorough showman but his movies also conveyed a social message, and Chaplin helped him manifest his ideas to the cine-audiences. Just like the Tramp of the West, Kapoor could relate to the lower income groups of the then Hindustan. “Chaplin could convey any amount of pathos through his humour. It was a trick to convey a social message through fun, but achieving that trick is still not easy,” adds Bedi.
The comedy king
“Charlie Chaplin made me realise that language has nothing to do with comedy. Modern Times was my first Chaplin, and I think it made me understand what satire meant. Today when I go on stage, somewhere I carry my inspiration from my childhood days,” says stand-up comedian Anuvab Pal, adding that Chaplin was way ahead of his time. “He made fun of himself and made people laugh at him. And it wasn’t that his humour was baseless, it had a message. But the message was so subtle that you could laugh it out. On the other hand, you will also get the message.” City-based clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany says that she’s always associated Chaplin with humour, and it is this humour we need to relocate in our lives.
The mind game
“People have stopped smiling and laughing. I see so many clients who say they don’t laugh, surprisingly adding that they have no time to laugh!” says Hingorrany who blames our stressful lifestyle for lack of humour. “Mostly people are talking about commuting stress, job stress, relationship stress, but nobody talks about stress-free life. We are happy to have stress in our lives these days. We have programmed our minds to be unhappy, and unfortunately, we want to be sad,” she adds however, agreeing that there are still some people who have confided that watching Chaplin perked up their mood “but the number of that population is really less.” Bedi avers that watching Chaplin anytime can make you both happy and thoughtful, but in a good way. Good humour always brings positive thoughts, when we are affected by comedy it also makes us think about the cause. “It’s about being relevant. You can have a superb stress-buster in Chaplin.”
The feel-good factor
Hingorrany can’t agree more. “I suggest my clients to watch Chaplin so they can laugh. When you laugh, and watch such movies it changes your brain chemistry. It induces feel-good hormone called endocrine which helps us to combat daily stress that we deal with,” she explains. Stress has become a part of our daily lives, and that’s where Chaplin’s humour comes into picture. His manifestation of pathos remains a crux of his comedy. On the other hand, we nowadays tend to ignore what does not affect us, forgetting that it will affect us in the long run. “Chaplin made fun of Hitler in The Great Dictator but by becoming Hitler, he almost made him human. The thing about comedy is not how to take on people who will be offended. But what angle you take,” says Pal but even he agrees that it’s not easy to make people laugh.
A tough job
“It’s very difficult to make people laugh now, even comedians have such a hard time making people laugh on their jokes,” says Hingorrany. Bedi says it’s not about making somebody laugh, it’s about making people laugh without making fun of someone else. “I don’t follow a doctrine of humour but I believe that laughter should not be at the cost of someone’s respect,” he says but also adds that people nowadays have become too sensitive. “Humour is everywhere. You can tickle people with only a word, but unfortunately today when we’re going global outwardly, we’re becoming regressive inwardly. We tend to get hurt easily,” he says while Hingorranny adds that it’s because “We don’t take it in our stride.” Pal also does not believe in senseless humour. For him humour should be both classy and timely. “I am always guided by Chaplin’s line: Comedy is doing the wrong thing at the right moment,” he adds. Bedi, on the other hand, says that one can understand true humour when he starts laughing at oneself by adding, “Shelve your ego, be your first critic, laugh at self, and then you can say that Chaplin inspired you.”