Friday, June 08, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: A biography of Charlie Chaplin (Tamil)

Author: N.Chokkan

Price: 80 INR

Whenever I see TV advertisements, short comedies or mimicry programs I cannot stop appreciating the creative thinking that goes behind the scenes. Over the years I am able to entertain my friends circle using my amateur imitation shows and I can very well understand the challenge to entertain people. Making others laugh is one of the toughest job and requires very high amount of creativity, timing and constantly coming up with innovative ideas. Added to that, the comedy artist needs to give a peak performance in a very short period of time, failing which will lead to negative impression among the audience. This book talks about one of the all time great comedian who entertained the whole world only with his actions (without words) using his amazing creativity. He is none other than Charlie Chaplin and this book talks about his life. Even though people know him only by comedy, his personal life is one of the standing examples for ‘rags-to-riches’ success stories.

Born in a very poor family, Charlie had no formal education and begged in London’s streets. He spent most of his childhood on the roadside, hardly ate three times a day but finally made a mark in the world history. He made history only by his sheer hard work, determination, hunger for success, commitment towards his profession and never ending passion for providing quality entertainment to the worldwide audience.

Shortly after Charlie’s birth his father deserts the family and the whole family responsibility falls under his mother’s shoulders. She was an amateur stage artist and hardly made a living by performing small roles. But she always used to tell Charlie that one day he will become a great artist and her son is the smartest kid. In spite of all odds, his mother planted sowed seeds of self-confidence in him. During one of the programs, Charlie’s mother gets throat problem on the stage and she was forced out of the stage by the audience. Now in order to save his mother’s skin, the young Charlie appears on the stage and starts entertaining the audiences in an effortless way. This way Charlie’s first stage performance gets on the way and there is no full stop for him after that.

After slowly getting popular among small plays, Charlie joined the ‘Karno’ troop as a theatre artist and slowly becomes popular in London. The urge to perform better forced him to constantly re-think and re-invent his acting. Finally it resulted as the ‘tramp’ character (most of them remember Charlie only because of this character) by which he became world famous. As his plays were more of a mime, it attracted audiences irrespective of the language. Till the end Charlie was very adamant and made only one feature film. After gaining popularity in London, Charlie moves to the United States in order to achieve more in his career. Initially he joined Keystone as a movie artist and slowly moved to Essnay and Edna. Every time he moved to get more autonomy in terms of movie direction and also made sure that his pocket is growing in size. After multiple job hops Charlie understood the pain of working for others (like any other professional) and co-founded his own production firm names ‘United Artists’ along with some of his co-actors. His vision was to provide quality entertainment to his worldwide audiences at any cost and finally lived up to it.

As Charlie comes from a very poor background, he always created characters belonging to downtrodden and labor class. This was mistakenly interpreted by CIA and the ‘communist’ tag was stamped on him. By that time the success of USSR and communalism has already caused huge amount of concern among Americans and Charlie became victim of this suspicion. After giving everything for America and Hollywood he was forced to move out of the country. This made him to move to Switzerland where he spent his final days and died in 1977.

This book is the first attempt to capture Charlie Chaplin story in Tamil and it is well written. The author has written the book in a conversational, story-telling type which makes this book an interesting read. In conclusion Charlie’s life is a standing example for commitment, self-belief, innovation and sheer hard work. Reading his biography is definitely an energy booster.

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