Circus pioneer Gemini Shankaran passes away at 99

After working with various circus groups across the country, Shankaran purchased Vijaya Circus Company in 1951 and renamed it as Gemini Circus.

April 24, 2023 12:02 pm | Updated 12:22 pm IST - Kannur

‘Gemini’ Shankaran. File

‘Gemini’ Shankaran. File

Moorkoth Vengakandi Shankaran (M.V. Sankaran also known as Gemini Shankaran, a pioneer of Modern Indian Circus passed away at a private hospital in Kannur on Sunday night.

He was 99-years-old and was suffering from age related issues.

Born on June 13, 1924 at Kolassery near Thalassery to Kavinissery Raman Nair and Murkoth Kalyani Amma, Shankaran was prominent among those who brought the Indian circus to the world’s attention. He owned circus companies including Gemini, Jumbo and Great Royal Circus.

A performance by the members of the ‘Gemini Circus’ in Mangaluru. File photo

A performance by the members of the ‘Gemini Circus’ in Mangaluru. File photo | Photo Credit: The Hindu

After completing his 7th standard education, he studied circus for 3 years under Thalassery Keeleri Kunhikkannan. Initially, instead of pursuing circus, he tried his luck in doing business for two year. However, when he made losses, Mr. Shankar decided to join army, where he worked in the wireless section of the the army. He retired after the second World War.

By the time, he returned back to Thalassery, his master was no more and he took further training in Circus from M.K Raman.

Two years later, he joined as an artist in Boss Lion Circus in Kolkata. He joined as a trapeze player. Later he joined National Circus. Mr. Shankaran was an expert in horizontal bar and flying trapeze. He also worked in Rayman Circus for over a period of five years.

But his ambition did not stop as an artist and he decided to start his own Circus company. In 1951, he bought Vijaya Circus Company at ₹6,000 in Maharshtra and named it Gemini, which was his birth sign.

Journey with the circus world

The first exhibition was held on August 15, 1951 in Billimora, Gujarat. On October 2, 1977, and the company grew rapidly to become the largest circus company. Soon he started his second circus company, Jumbo Circus. and later Great Royal.

He took the Indian Circus to the world’s attention and for his comprehensive contribution to circus, the Central government gave him a lifetime achievement award

He was survived by his children Ajay Shankar, Ashok Shankar (both managing partners of Gemini Grand and Jumbo Circus), Renu Shankar (Australia).

The body, which will be kept for public to pay their homage will be cremated at Payyambalam crematorium

CM expresses condolence

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed his condolence over the demise of Mr Shankaran.

Mr. Vijayan said that he was personally very close to him and his inclination was towards progressive politics..

Mr Shankaran is the person who played a major role in making Indian circus world famous. At once a noted circus performer and then owner of various circuses, he has traveled with his circus to various places outside India. He focused on developing the circus by incorporating foreign artists and their circus arts into the Indian circus.

He maintained friendship with various Prime Ministers, Presidents, world leaders and eminent personalities of India. His demise is a great loss to world circus, he added.

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