PESHAWAR: Usman Khan lives in an impoverished region of Pakistan that has witnessed decades of suicide attacks, explosions and threats from hardline militant groups.
Now, the stand-up comedian wants to make people smile. Performing across Peshawar, the provincial capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Khan dons Charlie Chaplin’s trademark oversized shoes, baggy pants, cane and black bowler hat.
“The sole purpose of this art is to bring a smile to the faces of people,” Khan, 30, told Arab News while roaming the streets of Peshawar. “For the past decades, Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have faced terrible times. I know I can’t perform as well as the great Charlie Chaplin, but with limited resources, I am doing my best to spread happiness.”
He laughed and added: “I have adopted Chaplin’s character and style in such a deep way that I perform even when I am sleeping. My wife has complained about this.”
Khan said he started watching Chaplin’s films from an early age and was soon able to imitate his comic walk.
Now, when he travels through Peshawar imitating the famous actor, people crowd around him to cheer, clap and ask for selfies.
“This man has been among the few sources of smiles during the toughest times,” local shopkeeper Wali Afridi said. “Khan is now a kind of star in this area; he comes to our shops and takes what he wants and performs a few comic sketches.”
Four of Khan’s friends help him with his routine. The team is now recreating many of Chaplin’s old routines on video, hoping that technology and social media will help them reach larger audiences and turn their passion for comedy into an earning profession.
“Cheerful faces and crowds around us encourage us to do more funny videos,” Khan said, posing with a local for a selfie.
“Although the legendary Chaplin died a few decades ago, his art of spreading happiness is fresh even today,” Rizwan Ahmad, a local at a Peshawar market, told Arab News. “Khan is doing a great job. Even during this time of depression and pandemic, he brings a smile to our faces and provides entertainment.”