Reviving circus industry

Heritage: The circus industry seeks help from the State government.

Heritage: The circus industry seeks help from the State government.  

Staff Reporter

PALAKKAD: Jumbo Circus, currently on show at the BEM School grounds here, is attracting crowds with its innovative acts using modern technology and the presence of skilled Russian artistes.

Thalassery was once considered the cradle of circus art in India where the majority of artistes hailed from. Now circuses are dominated by artistes from Nepal, Russia, etc.

Ajay Shankar, proprietor of Jumbo Circus, says the presence of Russian artistes in his circus is part of a cultural exchange programme. Jumbo Circus used to send its artistes to Russia and receive them too.

Russian artistes have contributed in a major way to Indian circus with their modern management techniques. Russian entertainers have introduced popular items, he said.

“Though Kerala’s supremacy in Indian circus is on the wane, some of the major circus troupes are still owned by people from Thalassery and Kannur,” he says.

Mr. Shankar said change was necessary to revive the art of circus in India. Hence, Jumbo Circus decided to introduce the Russian troupe on a regular basis. A 13-member ‘summer back troupe’ was introduced in Calcutta in December 1994. A 16-member troupe was introduced in 1997. These artistes are skilled in performing ‘high wire acrobatics.’

On the threat faced by the circus industry from the electronic media and films, he said: “Circus is a live mode of entertainment, where you see a rare display of courage and perfection. There is no substitute for it. Films are an illusion, but circus is a reality. However, it is necessary to revive the circus industry, as the television boom is phenomenal and viewership has grown by leaps and bounds.

He said the circus industry should receive help from the State government, as it is part of our cultural heritage. “To become and remain an artiste requires rigorous training. Initially, the training is to make the body fit. This may take three to four years. Then they are trained for select feats.

In the case of the ‘Flying Trapeze,’ after the ground exercise, they are given training on the bar. Only then are they imparted training in the ‘Flying Trapeze. There is lot of sweat that goes into the presentation of the final act before the audience.”

That may be one reason why people from far-strung places such as Attappady are coming with their families to Palakkad town to watch the circus.

The animal world of Jumbo Circus is a mobile zoo consisting of 70 animals and rare birds. Ganga, a calf elephant, is a major hit with the children. Its training has begun and it has learnt some simple items, Julman, her trainer said.

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