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Charlie’s angels

| Updated on: May 06, 2016

Why Adipur, a nondescript town in Kutch, is obsessed with Chaplin

Adipur, close to Gandhidham in Kutch, is a regular town with an unusual obsession: Charlie Chaplin. The story behind this obsession goes back to 1973, when Dr Ashok Sukhumal Aswani was cycling to work one morning. A poster of Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush deserves the credit for the moment that changed the young typist’s life. Minutes after his eyes fell on the scrawny actor with feet turned out and bent knees, Aswani parked his bicycle at the Oslo Traffic Circle to buy a ticket to the next show. Four back-to-back shows later, Aswani went home a changed man.

Inspired by the silent-era masterpiece and its maker, Aswani joined a film school in Pune. His love for Chaplin didn’t fade even after he quit the course six months later. Although he switched to medicine — ayurveda — to earn a living, he also founded his hometown’s only club dedicated to Chaplin. On April 16 (Chaplin’s birthday) every year, Aswani leads a group of Chaplin impersonators — all similarly decked in bowler hats, black coats and trousers — through the streets of Adipur. Camels join the festivities, carrying life-size Chaplin cut-outs. Amid peals of laughter and music — compiled from various Chaplin films — Adipur residents also cut birthday cakes for the screen legend.

On this day, as well as on every other, Aswani hands out DVDs of Chaplin films to anyone who visits his clinic. He believes that laughter is the best medicine. Sharing space with Shirdi Sai Baba and Lord Vishnu at the humble altar in the Aswani residence, Chaplin continues to inspire the doctor, who also teaches Adipur youngsters the art of walking and miming.

Shantanu Das is a Mumbai-based photojournalist

Published on Jan 18, 2022

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