Saturday, April 20, 2013

Remembering Chaplin

Walking by the shores of Lac Léman at Vevey, I can’t help but notice a diminutive bronze statue that stands on its banks ………..of a tramp like figure in too small a bowler hat, baggy pants, bow legs, ill-fitting boots, a crooked cane in one hand and clutching a rose in the other; an endearingly quizzical look on his mustached face …………yes its Charlie Chaplin born this month (April 16th) 124 years ago.

Vevey or rather Corsier-sur-Vevey (this 3,000 people hamlet is technically a municipality in its own right) is where Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life in exile from America where he was denied a re-entry permit following the negative reactions to his movie Limelight. He died and is buried in this town least I think he is. His tombstone is here in the local cemetery but there is a story that his body was stolen soon after it was buried there and his widowed wife was hounded for a hefty ransom. Apparently the thieves were caught and the body reburied. Sounds like Chaplin was directing events from the other world as well ……….

While the Swiss Riviera is no stranger to celebrity residents (think Audrey Hepburn, Freddy Mercury), Vevey does take its love for the Little Tramp seriously. The statue on the promenade, entire buildings that have Charlie Chaplin frescoes on their walls and a local artisan chocolatier who handcrafts chocolates made in the likeness of Charlie Chaplin’s shoes.  The Manoir de Ban where he lived is being transformed into ‘The Modern Times’ museum dedicated to his life and works, it will open in 2015.  

Nothing that Vevey does though can quite match the reverence paid to Chaplin in the far away little town of Adipur in Gujarat, India. This little town close to the border with Pakistan, probably unheard of Chaplin in his lifetime, is home to a Chaplin fan club called Charlie’s Circle with over 300 members. Every year for the last 40 years without fail, on April 16th dozens of boys and men dress up like the little Tramp, bowler hat and all and parade through the town accompanied by camel carts and Indian folk dancers and musicians. The parade is followed by cutting a cake …shaped like Charlie’s shoes of course and a screening of his films. 

My thoughts wander back to the bronze statue by the lake and to the Chaplinesque juxtaposition. Just some 100 meters away in the shallow waters of the lake is a large stainless steel fork all of 8 meters tall. How this piece of modern art came to be in the lake is another story and unrelated to Chaplin but I can just imagine the hint of a smile forming on the Tramps face at this incongruity and I can just picture him taking up this giant fork and turning it into a dance à la the unforgettable fork legs and bread shoes dance in ‘The Gold Rush’

As perhaps he himself would say ‘ Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot’.


1 comment:

  1. Amazing story ... both the Swiss one and the Indian one are intriguing! Well-written.


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