Is it curtains for circus business?

Animal ban, TV hit entertainment

S. Harpal Singh

ADILABAD: Ashok Pawar, manager of the Great Prabhath Circus, currently performing in Adilabad, said that circus is still popular with the masses, but he added rather paradoxically that the business may close down completely within the next 10 years, as it is increasingly becoming economically unviable."

While the Maharashtrians founded the circus business way back in 1880 when Vishnupant Chatre opened his New Indian Circus in Pune, the Keralites nurtured it in Tellicherry in Kannur district. The legendary gymnast Keelari Kunhikannan is still remembered as the father of the Indian circus.

The Great Prabhath employs over 200 workers, including performing artistes, gymnasts, acrobats, jugglers, etc. and a few animals including five elephants. The mention of animals spurred the dormant thoughts of Pawar. He said "The prefix `Great' denotes our grade given on employment of great number of performers and animals. The ban on the animals and the advent of cable TV has sounded the death knell for the business." Among the many interesting facts associated with the circus, there is one related to its recognition as a profession. "Only the Kerala Government gives pension to circus artistes on retirement," revealed V.N. Chandran, once a manager of the Great Prabhath.

Of some 50 circuses, which existed during the mid-80s, only a dozen survive now. The employees of these circuses too will face a crisis situation once the businesses close down.

"Though our artistes are very flexible during performances, they go stiff when faced with unemployment. I wish the Government does something for them," said Pawar.

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