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The circus comes to town

MAN, ANIMAL AND MERRY MAKING At The Great Bombay Circus. Photos: K. Ananthan

MAN, ANIMAL AND MERRY MAKING At The Great Bombay Circus. Photos: K. Ananthan   | Photo Credit: K_Ananthan

The Great Bombay Circus packs in loads of fun for its guests

Elephants trundle and horses canter, camels trot about, their long necks wobbling, green-winged macaws and African grey parrots sing loud and proud. Joining this motley crew are clowns, acrobats, trapezists, hoopers, jugglers and more – sounds familiar? The Great Bombay Circus is here in town! Returning to the city after a five year gap, the big top has been pitched at Shastri Maidan, R.S Puram this time around.

If you thought television and internet have driven this travelling company of performers to extinction, think again. They only seem to be getting better and better. Though they've thrown in an act here and an act there to keep apace with the changing times, the Great Bombay Circus is traditional in every sense. The flying trapezists, the tube juggling Russians, the smiling girls with hula hoops, the jocund clown who catches your eye are all intact, so are the obedient dogs and the fluid acrobats.

Nostalgia

The show is bound to take you back in time when you walked in grasping your father's hand tight expecting a rogue lion to pounce on you any second! There are no lions here, mind you – just the cricket-loving elephant who can hit the ball higher than the Master Blaster himself! The African acrobats act is a new addition and the bouncy Safari, Joshua, Issac, Juma and Richard steal the show with their charm and agility.

The girls are not far behind – if the roller balance and Russian sari balance acts push you to the edge of the seat, the hoop dancing act and the cycle acrobats let you sit back and smile.

Subhash, the only cycle acrobat in India to have mastered the pocket cycle act, rides the midget vehicle balancing two people on his shoulders.

This man is incredible – “I rode it first at a show in 1996,” he says. “Practised for three days with the help of videos of foreign artists.”

The clowns enter the ring now and then, and when they do, it's the kids who are in splits. The tent reverberates with their laughter – how do these clowns do it?

The favourite act

But suddenly, they all disappear, leaving the ring desolate. And then it starts – at first a low rumble that rises to a deafening vroom. The gutsy bikers inside the motorcycle cage ball shoot inside it like bullets. This act still remains the favourite of young men the world over. So much so that even after the act is over and the spotlight shifts, you can see a lot of heads straining to get a load of the biker-heroes. The pyramid juggling act and the hanging acrobat act are two of my favourites. While the former elicits a lot of oohs and aahs from the crowd, the latter makes you wonder if the acrobats actually have rubber limbs! These artists never fail to impress. With practised perfection and a cool as a cucumber face, they simply glide across the ring. Are they ever afraid? “Only during the opening day” admits Subhash. “Once I get used to the ring, I'm fine.”

“Our circus is a miniature India by itself” says instructor Balachandran. We have artists from all over the country – Gujarat, Nepal, Jharkhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, you name it.”

For most of the performers who visit their families only once or twice a year, the circus is more than a mere workplace.

For clowns Pappu, Hari, Mustafa, Bagva, Brij Kishore and Tulsi Das “Circus is family.” “It's tough to make people laugh” says Hari. “But when they do, the satisfaction I get it indescribable.” Tulsi Das, the senior most clown has been with the troupe for 50 years. In broken English he says, “People happy, I am happy.”

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 7:14:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/leisure/The-circus-comes-to-town/article16201644.ece

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