Young Indonesians who’ve seen Chaplin & Co on Indonesian TV might be surprised to know that Charlie Chaplin was a real guy — quite famous –who once romped his way through Indonesia in 1932. Even children in Batavia (now Jakarta) knew who he was back then.
Unfazed by modern times, kids in Bali in the 1930’s thought he was just another bule gila (crazy white guy). Although you’ll see he did manage to get some laughs.
The British comic actor and filmmaker guy who caricatured himself as “the Tramp” grew up poor, already supporting himself with stage work by age nine. So maybe that’s why he got a kick out of out Balinese village life. (Probably, though, he was simply in love with the women.
Anyway, the 80-year-old footage of Chaplin and his older brother soaking up Balinese performance arts and goofing around with little kids, dogs and monkeys is at least as good as any other Bali-in-the-old-days video clip available on YT. Especially this version, with the well-fitting gamelan track that someone has added. You may even find yourself watching all 12 minutes. I know I have — several times.
Chaplin shot it in 16 mm and it shows his trip overland from Batavia to Bali.
Regardless of Chaplin’s impact on inspire isle, Bali clearly bowled the diminutive chap over. He was even going to do a movie about it.
According to information recently released by his family, Bali was going to be his first talkie and the unfinished script shows he may have been casting himself as the prince who marries the low-caste girl. What an authentic Balinese love story that would have been!
By appearances, Bali, was going to side with the Balinese, as against the crazed bule colonials. He wrote, “From these people one gleans the true meaning of life – to work and play – play being as important as work to man’s existence. That is why they are happy.” In another scene the natives are discussing why colonials amassed gold in the first place, since they never wore it. If it’s in their pockets, one sarong-wearer mused, then it’s a mercy their pants don’t fall off.
So take that, Pretty Woman. Scout around the base of all the trees in Sangeh Monkey Forest and lemme know if you can’t find one that says “Charlie was here.”
Chaplin & Co is a co-production between India’s DQ Entertainment and France-based Method Animation.