The Charlie’s Cult

India Chaplin Celebration

You probably don’t live in Adipur, if you missed the celebration of Charlie Chaplin’s birthday. Adipur’s only claim to fame is the annual parade – now in its 43th year – to honor the filmmaker and comic actor known for his ‘Tramp’ character. Adipur in the Indo-Pak border district of Kutch in Gujarat, India is an ordinary city with an unusual obsession: Charlie Chaplin. Every year, this city in Kutch, Gujarat comes together to celebrate the legendary cinematic pioneer’s birthday on April 16. The streets overflow with young and old people dressed as the comic, complete with suite, cane, bowler hat and his bow-legged gait. Camels carry life-sized cutouts of Chaplin, music blares from loudspeakers, and cakes are cut in honor of the silent film comedian.

Hundreds of people participate in the two-hours long parade that includes brass bands and women performing traditional Indian dances around the Chaplin impersonators. The parade winds down with club members performing skits mimicking Chaplin and the festivities end with a screening of one of his classic films. The procession is led by Ashok Aswani, an Ayurvedic doctor who believes that laughter is the best medicine. Aswani hands out DVDs of Charlie Chaplin’s films along with the rescription to his patients. Aswani started the Charlie Circle club in 1973 and a statue of Chaplin sits beside religious idols at the shrine at his home. Aswani also runs a class throughout the year where he teaches the kids of Adipur how to mime and walk like Charlie Chaplin.

Aswani, says that Chaplin’s films have a universal appeal. The Charlie Circle club has about 200 members, all living in and around Adipur, with the biggest highlight as the annual bash of Chaplin’s birthday. It makes sure that the legacy of Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin is passed on from generation to generation. They all believe that every Chaplin movie has a message for the common man and it is found to be of deep relevance even today. Adipur is principally inhabited by migrants from Pakistan, who eventually turned into traders and are settled here since the late 1940s. Their circumstances in life were similar to the situations Chaplin portrayed in his movies. Charlie Chaplin holds a special appeal for migrants. The Tramp is a mentor and a guardian angel for people around the world who have poured into cities enticed by the promise of employment.

Chaplin’s movies have a wonderful mix of tragedy and humor, they’re funny and touching at the same time. No matter how low on luck, Charlie always sees hope. Charlie thumbs his nose at authority and wins over misfortune. Adipur will always celebrate the Chaplin’s birthday every year, so why not to book the upcoming April 16th and roll an ordinary day into a trip. Dilute with hundreds of the Charlies, get inspired, have fun and make the day count.

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