ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Predicament of Humour in a Metropolis

This article takes off from the screening of episodic sequences from Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times on screens installed in railway trains in Mumbai. It contextualises the world of factory work depicted in Modern Times vis-à-vis the post-industrial status of work in Mumbai, and evaluates this juxtaposition from the lens of competing theories propounded in the philosophy of humour. The interjection of the film in the public sphere introduces an element of ridicule in public culture, an emotion that is in dire need of assessment and redress.

The Scene

Charlie is a worker in a factory where the demanding boss instructs his employees over an extensive closed-circuit television system. Charlie’s inability to keep up with the work causes chaos in the plant, and the monotonously repetitive tasks finally cause him to crack, landing him in a mental hospital and out of a job. On his release, he encounters the turmoil of the economic depression in labour strikes, political rallies, and shanty towns. He also befriends a feisty young girl, the Gamin, who lives by her wits on the streets and steals bread to survive. Helping her avoid the juvenile authorities who take her younger sisters away after their unemployed father dies, Charlie vows to get them a real home. But their adventures together prove they are not suited or destined for a normal settled life.

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Updated On : 23rd Jan, 2017

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