Nestled amidst the sunny landscapes of Gandhidham, in Gujarat, lies the small town of Adipur—where an extraordinary celebration unfolds every 16 April. On the day, Adipur’s townsfolk come together in a spirited commemoration of the comic actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, to celebrate his birthday. This unique tradition owes its origin to a now elderly but vibrant 73-year-old Ashok Aswani, an Ayurveda doctor, and his deep admiration for Chaplin—an affair that began in 1966, when he first watched The Gold Rush.
In 1993, on a Sunday afternoon, the photographer Kaveer Rai, a seven-year-old boy then, had stumbled upon the Charlie Circle Foundation and the eccentric Aswani in a televised coverage by the Doordarshan channel. In Aswani’s clinic was a small wall shelf, dedicated to Hindu gods. Also placed on the shelf was a small statue of Chaplin. Rai was surprised to see this image on national television. The idea of a town in Gujarat celebrating the legacy of an actor born in England, and his statuette being placed on par with revered deities, seemed to Rai both impossible and fascinating. The image stayed with him.