Thursday, October 27, 2011

Watching A Circus: Getting Entertained But Returning Sad

It was after a long time that I saw an advertisement in the newspaper about a circus in the town.

For years I hadn't gone to a circus and I decided to watch it. The Crown Circus advertised itself as a Chinese circus, probably, because most of the artists were either local or from Nepal and North East.

And anything from abroad, even Chinese, is apparently more chic. The tickets were priced at Rs 30, Rs 80 and Rs 120. Though it was not a holiday, the stands were almost 70% full even in the afternoon show.

Once inside, it was easy to see the difference in the circus industry today compared to the yore when Gemini, Venus, Apollo, Jumbo were popular circuses in India. Some of them still survive but mostly in smaller towns in the country.

Here there was hardly any pomp and show. There were lights but the electric atmosphere that was typical of circuses earlier was missing. The performers' dresses were not as fancy, in fact, some artists were wearing old and worn out clothes.

The chairs, the wooden bars and the iron framework all looked pale and depressing. Meagre resources and lack of money is clearly making it tough for them to run the circus on grand scale. Still, it was fun to watch the performances.

A family goes to see the Circus
Of course, scantily clad women ran around, rode tiny bicycles and balanced themselves on ropes. The show of skin perhaps is always an attraction for some people, either it's watching tennis on TV or in the circus arena.

There were acrobatics on the wire, then a troupe of girls who gave an astonishing performance of rifle shooting--hitting at things kept on joker's head while they shot from either of the hands or just by watching at the target in the mirror.

Some other performances were truly scintillating. The fact that even after 24/7 TV, if something amazes you so much, then credit must be given to artists.

I really wonder why the sports authorities don't see the talent in such people, particularly, for sports like gymnastics and shootings these artists can be groomed.

There were some strange performances. A girl who did amazing balancing act, a young man who would drink different colours of water by litres and then vomited out the colored water intermittently as if he had separate compartments in his stomach to store water.

The Babes and The Breathtaking Performances

There were youths dressed as Samurai warriors who enthralled the viewers. Holding spears they fought each other. Later one of them, blindfold, went on a mad assault with an axe in his hand. For a moment you felt that he might accidentally kill the persons lying on the ground but, nope, he did it with perfection.

That was breathtaking. There were a dozen-odd other performances including that of lasso and some 'magic tricks', which one could afford to miss. There were no lions or other big animals as one saw in the past. A girl gave a good show riding a horse and some trained dogs entertained the spectators.

Girls bring glamour to circus
A man exhibited his driving prowess, riding a motorcycle in a metal spheroid. In the meanwhile, there were jokers who cracked cheap jokes and some really vulgar gestures.

Among the last items in the show was the trapeze artists. I felt they weren't as good as in the past but I had the satisfaction of watching a circus.

Almost 2-1/2 hrs had passed by then when the show finally ended. I felt that the circus owners must be earning a good money from the sale of eatables. During the entire show, almost every five minutes, there was something the vendors would come out with, ranging from wafers to pop-corns, ice-cream, samosas, soft drinks, bottled water et al.

Falling Fortunes: The Decline of Circus in India

Still, the condition of the circus artists was depressing. They have to spend a lot of money in publicity in whichever city the go. Apart from charges for the ground where the tent is put up, the electricity and other allied expenses account for a lot of money.

Even if there are barely 25-30 artists that also include musicians, trainers & other staff, the salaries alone need lakhs every month. There is profit for the owners but this is not so much that the artists can get good salaries and save for their future.

Trapeze artists' acrobatics in the air
A large number of people who go to see circus come from lower-middle class or middle-class. With crumbling structure and lack of adequate show, the circus owners can't charge excessively either. After the ban on keeping animals, the circus-walas have to rely mostly on artists.

Though it is meant to entertain, after watching a circus, one feels sad, thinking about the lives of the artists, the short men who are made to act as clowns & make children laugh and the artists who take risks to earn their living.

Plight of Circus Artists, Fears of Exploitation

There are always fears of exploitation of artists, particularly, the women, who work in this industry. There are several other issues. But these circuses do provide employment to lot of people and they still attract the crowds.

However, there is need for a body for welfare of circus artists and their families apart from keeping a check on the circus owners, so as to redress the issues pertaining to problems of artists, allied staff and their children.

Perhaps, it's time for the circuses also to reinvent themselves, considering how people are spending much more at multiplexes compared to the old cinema halls to watch movies. Also, it's time for Government and private sector to come to their aid, if this traditional form of mass entertainment has to survive and flourish in future.