In Pakistan’s city of Peshawar, a man in the attire of Charlie Chaplin in a bowtie, bowler hat, and carrying a cane flamboyantly weaves through busy traffic spreading smiles. He narrowly avoids rickshaws, motorcycles, and buses in a scene reminiscent of a 1920s silent film.
Usman Khan, 28, used to sell children’s toys from a roadside stand. However, during deadly coronavirus times has transformed himself into Charlie Chaplin. The famous silent comedian was propelled to global fame with his slapstick antics.
“When the coronavirus was around. A lot of people were in real stress, some people gave up on life,” Khan told Reuters. “I was watching Charlie’s videos and thought, ‘Let me act like Charlie.’”
Khan dons the familiar costume of Chaplin’s “The Tramp” character, with a fake mustache and a little eyeliner. He takes to the streets hoping to bring a bit of cheer in dreary times. Khan is often accompanied by friends filming him.
This Chaplin visits a gym to interrupt a ping-pong match, attempting to hit the ball with his cane. Khan draws ire from shopkeepers as he upends their wares, coming close to landing himself in trouble, as his namesake often did in his films. But Khan also draws the laughter of children. They gather around him after he poses on stairs in a local neighbourhood.
“Making people smile with silent comedy, winning people’s hearts with silent comedy is a difficult task,” Khan said.
In just two months, Khan has gained more than 800,000 followers on the social media platform Tik Tok. People, he says, from around the globe who find his comedy a welcome respite from the pandemic, lockdowns, and social-distancing.
Khan hopes film and television producers will notice him as well. He says if he ever became wealthy he would share his earnings with the poor.
The act is also a brief escape for Pakistani Chaplin. Khan – like the real-life Chaplin before he shot to fame in Hollywood – comes from an impoverished family.
Hawking toys does not bring in enough to cover daily expenses, Khan says.
“When I leave my home, I shut the door on my own problems and look to bring happiness to others.”
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