The director of Housefull, Hermant Hegde, faced protests from extremist Hindu groups on Friday against his plans to erect a 20m statue of Charlie Chaplin near Udupi for a scene in his movie that stars Akshay Kumar, Deepike Padukone, Riteish Deshmukh and Jiah Khan. The statue was intended to be used in an item song. The protestors complained that erecting a statue of a Christian close to a Hindu temple would hurt Hindu dignity, although it’s unlikely that Charlie Chaplin would have ever described himself as a Christian. The protestors suggested a statue of Hindu guru Swami Vivekananda instead.
Ironically, Swami Vivekananda worked tirelessly for tolerance between religions at the turn of the 20th century, being a member of the World Parliament of Religions in the US and a champion of the poor in India. His philosophy argued that no one man can be truly free until all men are free. He is also credited as being influential in introducing yoga to the west.
Local officials tried to play down the protest. “The local people have valid objections that a statue of 67 feet of a permanent nature cannot be established,” said VS Acharya, the Home Minister for Karnataka. The film-makers had planned on leaving the statue behind as a tourist attraction.
Charlie Chaplin’s image of the champion of the little man was a great influence on the acting style of Bollywood legend Raj Kapoor.