Sherith Chandran and Shenil Chandran, owners of Global Circus, talk about how they juggle business and entertainment to rejuvenate the circus
For IT professionals Sherith Chandran and Shenil Chandran the pull of the ring proved to be stronger than the magic of the web. Both former employees of IBM, the brothers left their jobs to pursue a life under the big top. They are now proprietors and managers of a circus, which is currently in town.
A sister concern of Grand Circus, Global Circus is a smaller unit than the parent company. “It is not as big or as grand as Grand. We only have 90 artistes with us, a far cry from the Grand, which has more than a 100 employees. We didn’t want to experiment with an established institution like the Grand,” says Shenil.
Instead of sticking to the routine acts of a circus, the brothers are planning to create a musical with their group of lithe artistes. “We are taking baby steps as the artistes have to be trained in the new form,” says Sherith.
They describe life under the big top as a “small village without a zipcode”, where everyone knows the other. “We are with each other nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The border between family and friends is blurred in circus life because we all eat together, travel together, work together…. We are one big happy family,” they say.
A six-month-old venture, Global Circus had its big launch at Areekode, Kozhikode. After Areekode, they travelled to Tamil Nadu and performed in various cities in that region.
Circus, they say, is in their blood; M. Chandran, their father, worked as a circus manager with various circuses and their mother, Savithri, was a circus artiste.
“Our dad always dreamt of owning his own circus. When he heard that the Royal Circus was in financial trouble and would probably close down, he took over the company,” says Shenil. Thus was born the Grand Circus.
The two brothers lived in Thalassery and spent their holidays with the circus. “Our parents wanted to keep us away from the circus; they didn’t want us to follow in their footsteps. They wanted us to pursue our studies and become white collar workers,” says Shenil.
And the brothers, who are in their thirties, heeded their parents’ advice. However, they soon found the IT life robotic and monotonous.
It was a joint venture that the National School of Drama, Delhi (NSD) did in association with Grand Circus that gave the brothers the push they needed to break free. “A couple of NSD students worked with Grand’s circus artistes and came up with a show called ‘Clowns and Crowds’. The show had acrobats, jugglers, clowns and the like working with theatre actors, musicians and choreographers... The performance was an amalgamation of theatre and circus,” says Sherith.
Although their debut show in Kozhikode did not garner the response they expected, a subsequent show in Delhi garnered raving reviews.
“The show helped us realise that circus, when combined with other art forms, could pull in a crowd. At present, the circus is going through a lean period; the ban on animals in circus acts has affected our business. Moreover, audiences these days are seeking performers who not only can perform an elaborate or physically demanding trick, but also can connect with an audience by engaging the crowd. That is why we are planning to fuse a musical into our act. We might merge traditional art forms such as Kathakali next,” says Sherith.
And what did their family say about their change in career? “Our parents know the magic of the circus, so they understood our need to move back. Our wives, however, were upset, but eventually they came around. They travel with us and our kids. They help out with the costumes and make-up of the artistes,” says Shenil.
Global Circus will be in town until October 14. There are three shows every day: 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.