It takes all about three hours every time Rajan Kumar dons a new look for work.
With some deft touches on his face, a crisp suit and bowler hat intact, Rajan Kumar transforms into Charlie Chaplin. Every look draws instant adulation across audiences and, suddenly, there is a spring in his step and sparkle in his eyes. After that, actions speak louder than words.
His talent first made it to the pages of the Limca Book of Records in 2004. Since then, Charlie Chaplin II, as he is often called, has completed over 4,500 shows and spent over 12,000 hours at these shows- a feat unparalleled in India.
130 years after his birth on April 16, Charlie Chaplin’s aura continues to mesmerise audiences around the world. And Rajan has had a role in keeping Charlie’s memories alive.
Being Chaplin for the first time
At times, Charlie would also encourage the staff at the hotel by doing acts for them. These drew smiles from everyone, which helped him be part of everyone’s good memories.
Being Charlie Chaplin is easier said than done. It is a live art and there is no chance for a retake if there is a mistake. Making people laugh is a very difficult thing to do, even more so when it is a live show. Since Chaplin is a silent character and does not speak, it gets more challenging for the person performing the act.
At a show in Delhi’s Connaught Place, he tripped and bruised his knee badly during a performance. But since the show continued, people thought it was part of the script. Rajan was in acute pain and continued to make people laugh. “That is how Charlie Chaplin has been – people matter to him more than he himself,” Rajan says.
Chaplin’s social messaging
With more and more shows and a few Bollywood movies to boot, Rajan has been going places.
The State Election Commission in Bihar has recently asked him to help reach out to people in the state to encourage them to participate in the elections. Rajan, donning the robes of Chaplin, will take the message to the people in his own unique way. 101 panchayats across the state have been identified where he will be playing a role. As one of the icons of the election commission, he will work as an extended arm of the body to encourage people to vote.
Being Chaplin needs some serious effort. With 2-3 hours of yoga every day, practicing movements of his face, eyes and twitching of the eyebrows, there is a lot sweat and toil.
Several moons ago, a legal professional watching him in the audience suggested that she would want to marry him. The two concurred and it brought a smile on both their faces.
“Whatever I am today, it is because of Charlie Chaplin,” he says, with a smile.
The show, as they say, goes on.