Some of the most profound aspects of life such as hunger, freedom, desire, love, defeat, sorrow and wisdom were handled with a great sense of humour by Charles Chaplin in his films. The legendary actor had the ability to laugh at life’s caprices and portrayed these effectively in his silent movies with his brilliant facial expressions and telling body language. He came up in life through hard work, facing challenges with equanimity and never forgetting his past even when he had gained fame and fortune.
T. Kulashekar brings out all these characteristics of Chaplin in his book with a sense of reverence. Every chapter deals with one film, and offers reader the storyline and details about how Chaplin acted in certain significant sequences.
The author also tells us how the problems the actor faced in his personal life inspired many of his stories. For instance, Chaplin’s father had a drinking problem, which was one of the reasons his mother and his siblings had to go poor. And Chaplin played a drunk in many of his films to drive home the fact that alcohol addiction can ruin one’s life. Similarly, he dealt with the evils of war; and in films such as ‘The Tramp,’ he indicated how life without possessions can prove to be the happiest. His escapades in ‘Gold Rush,’ ‘The Kid, ‘Modern Times,’ ‘The Dictator’ and so on were lessons on life.
Kulashekar has touched upon Chaplin’s personal life -- his affection for his mother, his abiding love for his first love, the beautiful Ms Kelly who died young, his success in films leading to his establishing a production company and a studio, how he was honoured by the U.K. and the U.S. and even India, where a postage stamp was released in his honour.
The book discusses the story of ‘Paesum Padam,’ a silent movie with Kamal Hassan, which paid homage to Chaplin, and the Oscar winner ‘The Artist.’ The book is easy to read but the language is often pedestrian.