Chaplin's print anecdote and RD Burman's music

On my Whatsapp, I am part of a group ‘Three Musketeers’. That’s my friends Wilson Joseph, PappuMakwa and I. Joseph and Makwa are my childhood friends, all three die-hard fans of RD Burman(Pancham as we fondly call him), whose 75th birth anniversary was celebrated on 27 June. We have spent numerous Sunday afternoons, discussing the genius of Pancham over a bottle of beer in a popular joint inVasai’s seafront Kinara, owned by another friend, Roman Tapali.

02 Aug 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha

Vasai, for all you paper on ink lovers, is the new print hub. Be it Classic Stripes to Grafica's factory; Spectrum Scan to Interlabels. They are all in Vasai (located 50 kms north of Mumbai. If you are planning a trip; and you must; the beer, the bhendi fry and the bombil fry is on me).

(l-r) Grafica Flextronica and Spectrum Scan

Vasai's Hotel Kinara and a view from inside the restaurant

But let me not digress.

As I was saying, last Monday, I received a ping from my friend Wilson Joseph on the group on Whatsapp. It said, today is Charlie Chaplin’s 125th birth anniversary. It was a wonderful message on the morning of the first day of the week, just for the fact that the 125th birth anniversary fell on 16 April, 2014.

But that’s not important, what is important is that Charlie Chaplin was, among other things, was a printer. “He was a news vendor, a toymaker, doctor’s boy, besides being a printer, like Dadasaheb Phalke, likeSatyajit Ray, like Premchand,” says Ramu Ramanathan, PrintWeek India’s editor and a gifted personality, who is a playwright and a city historian. Ramanathan has been busy orating. It seems he brought "the house down" with a "magical" presentation, as recounted by SN Venkatraman of ITC PSPD, who was present in Sivakasi. It seems Ramu got the entire audience from students to CEOs; from technocrats to trainees, to recite the well-known Tamil nursery rhyme, Nila Nila Odi Vaa.

But again, I am digressing. 

In between jobs, Chaplin would polish his own shoes, brush clothes and clean collar and make periodic call at a theatrical agency. That’s because in all these chores, he never lost sight of his ultimate goal in life, that of becoming an actor.

By the way, do watch Ramanathan written play, Jazz. In this piece, performed in India and Europe,Ramanathan pays an ode to Bombay’s jazz community. The character ensconces the agony and ecstasy of musicians from Goa to Bandra who found themselves at the mercy of Bollywood music directors. Jazz is groovy stuff with music, booze, banter and devilish jokes. It is akin to the Chaplinesque style.

Speaking of Chaplin, before inventing himself, he was asked by Henry Lehrman, a top director then, to play a newspaper reporter in a documentary about printing press. It was to be done with a few comedy touches. There was no story. Chaplin wore a light frock coat, a top hat, and a handlebar moustache. It is said, that Chaplin, in a scene had an interview with an editor of a newspaper, and he crammed every conceivable gag he could think of. Unfortunately, the end product broke his heart, for the editor had knocked off the performance beyond recognition. Henry Lehrman confessed years later that he had deliberately done it, because he thought Chaplin knew too much.

Chaplin’s trademark style, came a little later. Called upon to put on a comedy makeup, he dressed in a baggy pant, big shoes, a cane, and a derby hat, because he did not like the getup of the press reporter he essayed in the earlier documentary, and wanted everything a contradiction. He added a small moustache, which would add age to his role without hiding his expression. And the tramp was born.

When you do comedy show, what’s important is attitude and it not easy to find that trait. The tramp said very little, but charged the atmosphere with his antics.

That was the genius of the man. Just like the legend Pancham, whose music still rules.

 Coming back to the content of the Whatapp message Wilson sent, it said – Today is an appropriate day to recollect Chaplin’s three heart-touching statements. One, nothing is permanent in this world, not even our troubles. Second, I like walking in the rain, because nobody can see my tears. And third, the most wasted day in life, the day in which, we have not laughed.

And this is what I leave you with, on this Wonderful Sunday. Watch a Chaplin film, or listen to some RD music, if you own a super music system.

Print zindabad.