Saturday, 14 July 2012

An Ode to Entertainment- Charlie Chaplin and Kishore Kumar

We are inherently laid back people. By “we”, I mean the entire human race, of course. We made Einstein work as a clerk before he invented Relativity. We made Van Gough die of poverty without realizing his talent. We made Bill Gates drop out of school!! Well, the list goes on and on. Recognition to a talent, by us, is affected by many social, political, cultural, perceptual and economic surroundings. Many people raise above them, some take time to do so and some fail.
In the field of Art, Entertainment has always been held low. The question then comes “why”? Perhaps, it lacks the Aristocratic, Blue blooded legacy of its other counterparts. Delve the question, “Why do we need entertainment”? In mediaeval ages, all forms of entertainment were available to people, but for different “class”. Not all could listen to Tansen, could they? Neither could all sneak through the lanes of Umraao Jaan- for different reasons of course. With the advent of the twentieth century and the gradual diminishing stature of the rich and the poor, the World saw lots of changes. We saw Wars, we saw economic depressions, we saw hunger and we saw technology as well!! People got busier. More work and less play. To one’s surprise, Man found that there are more reasons to cry and less reasons to smile!! And still, even with the advent of Twenty First century, we don’t appreciate this amazing fact that to make people smile is one of the best things a human being can do! Entertainment is still considered as something pedestrian, although we all love to get entertained at the core of our hearts.  
The two persons we discuss here- one is a Global legend and the other an Indian subcontinent legend(confined mainly due to the Language), could do what Entertainment needed- to make it the elite. Two had many dissimilarities, but some amazing similarities also, as we would see, starting from social, personal, political and artistic parallels to the mass appeal and lack of recognition also. Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin and Kishore Kumar Ganguly had left an unending impression of their artistic genius to the coming generations, in spite of many efforts to bring their genius down by many agencies. They still stand high.


Their Versatility:  
They could act, sing, dance, compose, and produce movies and direct movies. They were multi-talented genius, who learnt all by themselves. Chaplin appeared as the Tramp character first time in 1914. The world staggered with the advent of the First World War, Chaplin gave people entertainment. His masterpiece acts in The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), The City Lights (1931), The Modern Times (1936), and The Great Dictator (1940) had comic relief along with strong socio-political messages. As the actor- producer-director, Chaplin had the audacity to challenge the conventional. His sublime scores in movies like Limelight (1952), gives Chaplin character a different shade- a shade of soothing, a shade of peace. Of course, like natural to a multi-talented artist, Chaplin is mainly remembered as a film maker and not a musician.
Kishore Kumar’s acting brilliance elated common men in India. Kishore, like Chaplin, liked to keep things simple. His natural acting and singing, first gave him a successful career as an actor in the 50s, and then, following a lean period in the mid-60s, a heavily successful singing career from 70s to late 80s- till his death. Along with that, Kishore produced and directed half a dozen movies, gave music to around 100 songs, and wrote the lyrics of some.
Their Comedy:
They were the prisoners of their own images. As Chaplin himself, made sarcasm at this genre in his classic “Limelight” with a dialogue by a character: “Comedy is not important”, nothing could testify better. Their comedy had a basic difference: While Chaplin used to combine slapsticks with a social message in the back, Kishore’s comedies were mainly jovial and light hearted with full of antics. Chaplin was politically verbose in his acts; Kishore gave a damn to politics. But, ironically, both of them suffered political roadblocks in their artistic career, which we would discuss later.
And both of them could give their acting a different dimension with a Limelight and a Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein. Coming out of their comical image, they could deliver timeless masterpieces to their fans.
Their Mass Appeal:
People never let them down. Chaplin was a craze and the only superstar during the First World War. He kept that momentum up always. People could understand Chaplin- an inherent quality an entertainer should possess. Yes, he did lose some contact with his loyal base in the 40s, but recovered it also.
Kishore Kumar was a rage in the 70s in India. What we call as a “mass hysteria” now, this guy gave a new definition to the stage performance and playback singing. He would dance on the stage, yodel behind the mike; make audience share the stage with him and all sorts of unconventional stuff one could imagine those days. A shackle free singing and performance gave Kishore the mass hysteria, continued even today, with a whole lot of present day singers keeping his legacy intact.
Their Personal Lives:
Yet another similarity- both were married four times. Considering Chaplin and Kishore both had stumbling blocks in terms of elite class acceptance, one of the major reasons which can be cited, is this. As I said, too many perceptual and personal stimuli influence our likes and dislikes, Chaplin and Kishore’s artistic achievements were more than occasionally eclipsed by their personal lives and activities.
Lack of Recognition:

A Postal Stamp issued on Kishore

Academy Awards were installed in 1928, and since then till 1972, Chaplin received none. His movies like Circus and The Great Dictator were nominated and ignored. Blockbusters like City Lights and Modern Times were ignored. Limelight was banned in US due to political circumstances (we would discuss later), only to be re-released in 1972 and fetching the only competitive Academy Award for Chaplin (The Best Musical Score). He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the same year, a mere consolation for a constantly ignored artist. He did receive Knighthood in 1975- just a year before his death- just to make it “not too late”. Thanks to his long life, Sir Charles, could at least make something up in recognition in an illustrious career of 60 years!
Kishore Kumar won no award for acting and directing movies. As a singer, he was a sensation, but his Awards don’t speak this truth. He did receive 8 Filmfare Awards for Best Playback Singers, but then, the award itself has often been considered pedestrian due to the procedure and groupism behind it. He also received 4 BFJA (Bengal Film Journalists’ Award) awards for best singer but that is also nullified by his anti-group citing Regional flavour. Towards the fag end of his career and life, he received Madhya Pradesh Government’s prestigious Lata Mangeshkar Award, but that too after lot of hullaballoo from a member of the Jury- a music director who had never used Kishore as a singer and did not want the award to be given to him (He himself being the awarded in the previous year). – Courtesy: Original Source.
Political Roadblocks:
Chaplin spoofed Hitler, spoofed Capitalism of Modern America, showed darker sides of the Great Depression and raised vocal tone against Racism, albeit all in a Comic shade. It is quite natural for him to find roadblocks. Post World War II, Chaplin was termed as a communist in America and there were many political spying started on him. His last Hollywood movie “Limelight” was denied a release. This left Chaplin in a sour mood and he decided to leave America for good. For twenty years, Chaplin did not return to US. Only for a few days, he made a sojourn in 1972, to receive the Honorary Oscar. Chaplin died in Switzerland in 1976, far away from his Native England and his second home USA.
Kishore was never into politics. It is hardly recorded if at all he had any political acumen. He knew his art and he knew his pennies. Having seen the toughest of days of struggle, once reaching the pinnacle, Kishore wanted his accounts clear. Nothing for free, was his motto. Whereas, there have been many philanthropies he had done for the needy people, for the producers or the “affordable”, there was no mercy. So, when he was asked to perform for free by the Government, he revolted. He was banned by Government; there was a propaganda which ran against him, only to be lifted after 2 years. And remember, there was no apology given by Kishore Kumar. Along with his Art and his Commerce, Kishore Kumar maintained another thing very well- his Dignity.

Their Enigma:

Strange personalities they possessed. There have been innumerable personal stories on them which are revolving in the cloud. Their whimsical character, moody personality and humarous yet kind nature have been the topic of discussion just like their art and creation. If Peter Ustinov is to be believed, Chaplin once mentioned the Great moviemaker Ingmer Bergman as "Burger"!!

One put all his lifetime savings into one single project "The Great Dictator" and made it a hit and the other replicated the same with "Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein" and delivered the same result.
Their Legacy:

Musician Chaplin with the Fiddle

Had there been no language barrier, Kishore Kumar would have been the nearest competitor to Charlie Chaplin in terms of an Entertainer. Comedy and Entertainment never had the Blue Blood in US before Chaplin arrived and the same replicated in India with Kishore Kumar. With common people and the youth always backing up their legacy, it is impossible to ignore these two wizards as long as people continue to smile in this world.


  1. Wonderful Arghya. Great job Putting these thoughts on both the supreme legends. Bhagwan Dada in Jeevan Ek Safar, Autrobiography of Kishore Da said, Charlie and Kishore Kumar were world's two comedians.

  2. Thanks a lot, Sachin!! Bhagwan Dada himself being a top comedian in Indian Cinema, his comments carry a lot of weight.

  3. laughter is da best medecine--and kishore da and cahrly were world,s best doctors----very well written bro----maja aa gaya---Dhaansu.

    1. Thanks so much, Bobby ji!!! Indeed, the were the Doctors for us, the patients!!!

  4. Excellent write up, good comparison. I agree. Kishore was the Indian Chaplin. Keep it up!

    1. Thank you so much, sir! Coming from you, all the comments are cherishable. Keep visiting, Thanks a ton!

  5. Brilliant post,loved reading it.In fact,all your posts in this blog are wonderful.Keep writing,we are waiting for more!!!

    1. Ahh.. Here you come, I was missing you very much in my blog!! :) Thanks so very much, Kanchan! And keep visiting!

    2. Excellent writing Arghyada throwing light on these two geniuses and their uncanny similarities in their illustrous careers.But Kishoreda also won a major international award in USA in 1978,the gold disk for being the most popular artist at that time.

    3. Thanks Debu. And special thanks for the info. I still feel considering nowadays so many singers have got Padmashree and other National/Presidential Awards, Kishore Kumar being an iconic figure in our Film Industry, deserved much more recognition.

  6. Lovely article, this ! Let me tell you, you certainly have a great flair towards good writing..Keep it up, and yes, get people like us also involved.

    1. Ajay sir, it is a pleasure to hear from you, always!! Without you people, to discuss Movies and Film Music is always incomplete. Thanks so much, sir and I look forward to more of your visits here. :)

  7. I was thrilled at the ease and lucidity of the composition...and the comparative analysis which was such an integral part of this article...
    The facts which have stated in so many forums before this had been discussed with poise and maturity, without any evident bias...

    Some of us could be deemed fanatics of these two genius... They were quintessential entertainers...
    That's the job they did best....and hence politics and personal lives are something that maybe they could not handle the way we lesser mortals have done all our lives.. :).. But, when I listen to the limelight theme...or listen to the last speech of the "Great Dictator".... and at the same time try and figure out the Kishore Kumar behind the song.."Panthi Hoon Main us path ka" (Door Ka Rahi), the only phenomenon that breaks free is the SPIRIT... A cherished spirit, which we try and inculcate to provide some vitality to our lives..
    Thanks for the article Arghya..

    1. I had not created my profile before posting..
      My name is Abhijit Mukherjee.
      Thanks for giving an opportunity to write.

    2. Abhijit, the main similsrity two persons can share is the similarity in spirit. So truly said by you, Genius actually handle certain things the other way than most of the common mortals. Also, their works take a longer time to be comprehended by people. If you see, post-Tramp era of Chaplin(or rather most-silent movies of Chaplin), most of his movies took time for the people to be apprehended, barring The Great Dictator. And for Kishore, it took 20 years to come to the top in his career.

      Thanks a lot bhai. And yes, of course, I have taken your "offline" genuinely frank feedback very seriously. Won't let you down, bro! :) Thanks very much again.

    3. Most welcome.... and keep writing bro