A product of British poverty, ‘Chaplin’s humour resonates with Pakistanis’

Nine short films of Charlie Chaplin screened at Safma.

Express January 15, 2012


The cinematic genius of Charlie Chaplin was celebrated at Safma Media Centre on Friday with the screening of “Charlie Chaplin 1915-1917 Masterpieces”.

The extensive 3-disc set contains nine classic Chaplin short films: A woman (1915), The bank (1915), The rink (1916), The pawn shop (1916), By the sea (1916), The immigrant (1916), The fireman (1916), The adventurer (1917), and A dog’s life (1917).

In classic Chaplin fashion, humour is derived from situations of poverty, misfortune, irony and sheer oppression.

Writer Ashfaq Saleem Mirza commented, “[Chaplin] created comedy out of tragedy because he himself was a product of British poverty. His performances came
from a very real place and resound with so many people to this day.”

Indeed, Chaplin’s witty and tragically funny depictions of depreciating socio-economic conditions resonate with Pakistanis. Though not directly, but even Pakistan’s youth has been inspired by and employs Chaplin’s satirical artistic disposition. Beghairat Brigade’s political satire video “Aloo Anday” and Saad Haroon’s wildly hilarious “Burqa Woman” are fitting examples.

People at the screening also discussed Chaplin’s uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler. He embodied irony not only in his performances but in his persona as well, as Chaplin’s left political orientation could not be further away from Hitler’s rigid standpoint.

Mirza, speaking of Chaplin’s influence, gave the example of Raj Kapoor in the movie Mera Naam Joker, saying “Kapoor’s performance was heavily influenced by Chaplin in not only style but content as well: like Chaplin, Kapoor never obtains the object of his affection.”

Whether the prevalent theme of “unrequited love” is a metaphor for unmet needs socially, politically or economically, or is just a comedic tale of a failed tryst is up for interpretation. However, all at the screening echoed their sheer admiration and adulation for the icon.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2012.



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