If Charlie Chaplin, the comic actor best known for his silent films and biting satire, were to make his films in contemporary India, what would they be like?
When ‘The Gold Rush’ is Demonetisation
The thought of bank notes going out of use suddenly one day still gives us desis nightmares. The bank lines, the empty ATMs, and the long, long wait have become the stuff of legends.
If Chaplin were to make a movie about it, this is perhaps what it would look like.
Counting ‘em old bank notes in frustration.
Reaching the bank only to be pushed and shoved.
Finally getting your hands on the new Rs 2,000 note.
The long lines at the bank during demonetisation reminded one of the opening sequence of Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925).
The movie was inspired by the Klondike Gold Rush — a migration by an estimated 100,000 people to the Klondike region in Canada between 1896 and 1899, where gold was discovered by local miners.
It shows Chaplin’s signature ‘tramp’ figure turn a gold-digger determined to face every challenge, including sickness, hunger, loneliness, and even the possibility of being attacked by a bear.
The movie, if remade in India today, could depict the plight of the people who lined up for hours at banks and ATMs at the time of demonetisation, to get their hands on the new currency notes.
A ‘Modern Times’ for Our Digital Times
If Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) were made in our modern times — where the internet is indispensable to one’s existence and one’s privacy is no longer assured thanks to continual data theft and leaks — here’s how it would look like.
Altering phone settings for maximum privacy.
Realising that you are a slave to technology.
Modern Times is a dark comedy on the desperate economic condition of people during the Great Depression and the failures of modern industrialisation.
Modern Times is about “humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness”, which if remade for our times could very well be about “humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness in the digital world.”
‘The Kid’ in the Face of CBSE Retests
From data leaks to paper leaks, contemporary India has it all!
When the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announced retests for Class 10 Mathematics and Class 12 Economics board examinations, students and parents took to the streets and to social media to express their anger and frustration.
When you think exams are over but CBSE announces retests.
Your parents try to tell you that it will be okay.
When CBSE cancels retests for Class 10 students but not for Class 12.
If there is one Chaplin movie that CBSE students and parents must watch, it is The Kid (1921). The film explores, among other things, the relationship between parents and children.
Chaplin’s character becomes the adoptive parent of an abandoned child. Aptly subtitled, “A picture with a smile — and perhaps, a tear,” the film is a blend of comedy and tragedy.
The movie can inspire an Indian version minus the over exaggerated sentimentality of the parent-child relationship that Bollywood endorses.
Aadhaar Data Breach at ‘The Bank’
News of Aadhaar data breach now is met with a despondent, “What’s new?”. Time and again the government has failed to protect the personal information of its citizens.
The government trying to protect your Aadhar data
Citizens trying to protect their personal data
Chaplin’s The Bank (1915) is a lesser known film, where Chaplin, as a janitor in a bank, creates havoc, spreading important papers everywhere, while trying to mop the floors. The movie is also about fantasy-making.
Indian ministers, post repeated Aadhaar data breaches, also created similar havoc in an attempt to cover up, at times claiming that no breach happened at all.
Attorney General KK Venugopal also said that the Aadhaar data was safe behind a complex with 5-foot thick and 13-foot tall walls. If that isn’t fantasy-making, then what is?
Time to make an Indian version of Chaplin’s The Bank?
Finally, considering everything else that is happening in contemporary India, if there is one Chaplin movie that deserves to be remade here, it is The Great Dictator (1940).