Utpal Borpujari

February 8, 2010

The Tramp, animated

By Utpal Borpujari

Physically, he might have been dead and gone for long, but the Tramp lives on in the hearts of millions the world over. His oversized dresses, his always worn out shoes, his bowler hat and the twirling walking stick, and his clownish demeanour that invariably told painful stories of the downtrodden laced with humour sways our hearts even today. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of comedians from all over the world perhaps have copied his style generation after generation directly or indirectly, but even if they have achieved success and fame, nobody has been able to recreate the magic that was so unique of him. His rule of our hearts still comes out, even if crassly, through the impersonations done by poor souls who paint their faces white and wear cheap imitations of his dresses and try to evoke a laughter or two in malls, restaurants and birthday parties, trying to earn two meals a day just like his on screen avatar did.

Yes, we are talking about genius performer called Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, known more as Charlie Chaplin. The man who gave those gems called The Great Dictator, The Kid, City Lights, Modern Times and Gold Rush, and many more features and short films that carry an inimitable style so unique of him.

Now, the millions who swear by his genius can say a loud hurrah, because Charlie Chaplin is getting a rebirth. No, not in flesh, but he is coming back in an animated form. All thanks to a tie-up between an Indian animation production firm and two French entities.  The move to bring out an animated Charlie Chaplin, the actor-satirist-filmmaker extraordinaire, can only be construed as a long-felt necessity – and a much-delayed tribute – what with Laurel & Hardy and Mr Bean both having long ago found their animated avatars. Like almost all of his work, the animated series too will be ‘silent’ with only music and sound play, as the creators of the animation series say they want to retain the original format of his brand of comedy.

The rebirth of Chaplin is taking place thanks to a collaboration between Indian animation and gaming production company DQ Entertainment (DQE), and Method Animation and MK2 of France, the last mentioned holding the international rights to all films of the Tramp. The result will be 104 six-minute episodes of 3D animation, inspired by about 70 short films made by Chaplin.

The idea, according to those behind the project, is to preserve the “quirky, burlesque and comic” sense of humour and the emotional values present in all of Chaplin’s 70 films. The series has a production budget of approximately Euro eight million and will be in colour, with an approach that will seek to blend early 20th century with present times so that today’s generations can identify with the character. Special emphasis will be put on the music and sound design of the series sans any dialogue to heighten the emotional connect, says Tapaas Chakravarti, chairman and CEO of DQE which has its production facilities in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata. That the series will take its birth in the hands of Indian animators is more than appropriate, because it is here in India there exists Adipur village in Gujarat’s Kutch, where the Tramp is God. A subject of a documentary, this village has the world’s largest population of Chaplin impersonators, with businessmen, shopkeepers, teachers, engineers, students and even a three-year-old pre-schooler donning his make up regularly. There is even a doctor there who prescribes Chaplin movies for healing.

Even though DQE has handled some prestigious in the past, such as the first 3D animated TV series on Iron Man, Twisted Whiskers and Casper, and is developing a 52-episode The Jungle Book as well as an animated series on Satyajit Ray’s iconic character Feluda, this one is particularly special for the company. As Chakravarti says, “This will enable us to provide a fresh perspective to the legendary character. The animated Chaplin wont be a realistic portrayal but more like a puppet in an offbeat universe. We’ll put him in modern situations but at the same time keeping his poetic, child-like view of the world with a retro feel.” The series is targeted to come out by the summer of 2011. “The first series will be developed in color in 3D creating a unique look blending early 20th century with present times. W will also subsequently produce it in stereoscopic 3D bringing forth a fully immersed visual and emotional experience,” he says, underscoring that “large teams” in Paris and India are working on the project. “Pre-sale interest from international broadcasters has been high. We will definitely look at other platforms such as Home video and already have a few deals on the table,” he says.

Method Animation, one of Europe’s largest in the business, too is pretty excited about what is coming up. As Aton Soumache, president of Method Animation, puts it, “It is an enormous honour for us to be allowed to work with as legendary and mythical a character as Charlie Chaplin. The adaptation of the character into an animated series is an exciting challenge and an incredible adventure. Our wish is to present a series created from Chaplin’s world, ultimately allowing for children to discover one of the greatest icons of film history and at the same time enticing parents to rediscover the comic genius of Chaplin.”

Surely, this will be a tribute to a genius that is worth every paisa spent on it.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 07-02-2010)


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